Devils Executive Vice President/General Manager Ray Shero, yesterday, announced that the team had come to terms on a one-year, two-way entry-level contract with defenseman Yohann Auvitu of HIFK Helsinki of the top professional Finnish league SM-Liiga.
The 26-year-old native of Ivry-sur-Seine, France spent most of the last six seasons playing in SM-Liiga, which is Finland’s highest level of competition. He competed with HIFK Helsinki and JYP Jyvaskyla between 2010-11 and 2015-16.
The press release put out by the Devils says that he is a 6-foot, 200-pound defenseman who was named the winner of the Pekka Rautakallio Award as the SM-Liiga’s best defenseman this past season. He was also named to the SM-Liiga’s First All-Star Team. He helped lead HIFK Helsinki to the league finals in the playoffs and was tops in plus/minus (plus-8), goals among defensemen (six) and points among defensemen (13) in 18 playoff games.
The press release talks about his career in SM-Liiga, where he played 216 career games. In those games, he tallied 19 goals and 38 assists for a total of 57 points. He had 50 penalty minutes in the regular season. In playoff competition, he played in 53 games, notched 13 goals and 11 assists for 24 points and had 32 penalty minutes.
This past regular season, according to the Devils’ website, he had six goals and 15 assists (21 points) while playing in 48 games en route to his being named the top defenseman in SM-Liiga.
The Devils site goes into his background in his native France, as well. He played for the Mont-Blanc team in the French League before joining JYP Jyvaskyla’s developmental system in Finland in 2008-09.
He has competed internationally for France in the last seven World Championships, has played in three under-20 World Junior Championships (Division 1), two under-18 World Junior Championships (Division 1) and a Winter Olympic Qualifying Round in 2013.
As commenters “Gil Shoemake” and “Mike Schiappacasse” allude to in the comment section on the article on the Devils website, the last time the Devils signed a 26-year-old defenseman playing in SM-Liiga, it was Brian Rafalski. A lot to live up to, for sure, but we will see if Auvitu can enjoy the same level of success in the NHL that Rafalski did.