OKC Barons: Toni Rajala has been a pleasant surprise for Barons

Although small by AHL standards, the rookie forward has produced 48 points in 48 games with OKC.
by Michael Baldwin Published: April 30, 2013
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photo - HOCKEY / AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE / PLAYOFFS / OKLAHOMA CITY BARONS / CHARLOTTE CHECKERS / COX CONVENTION CENTER: Baron's Toni Rajala comes from behind the net with Rob Madore in goal in the first period during Game 2 of the AHL hockey playoff series between the Oklahoma City Barons and the Charlotte Checkers at the Cox Center in Oklahoma City, on Saturday, April 27, 2013.  Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
HOCKEY / AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE / PLAYOFFS / OKLAHOMA CITY BARONS / CHARLOTTE CHECKERS / COX CONVENTION CENTER: Baron's Toni Rajala comes from behind the net with Rob Madore in goal in the first period during Game 2 of the AHL hockey playoff series between the Oklahoma City Barons and the Charlotte Checkers at the Cox Center in Oklahoma City, on Saturday, April 27, 2013. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

Playing on the No. 1 line with former NHL All-Star Jonathan Cheechoo and AHL All-Star Mark Arcobello, Rajala is the Barons' second-leading scorer despite playing nearly half the season in Double-A.

“He's a really good player,” Arcobello said. “He's smart and is extremely skilled. He can find open guys and has a knack for finding the back of the net. Plus, he's a lot of fun to play with.”

Combine his OKC and Stockton stats and Rajala has scored 86 points in 77 games, including 35 goals. His production has continued in the playoffs with three assists the first two games.

“Getting points is my job, but I've been playing with really good players. That, of course, helps,” Rajala said. “But now it's a whole new season. I have to really be focused and help us win in the playoffs.”

The playoffs are a relatively new experience for Rajala, although he had some postseason experience back home in Finland.

“You see the same team every game, so there's more battling, more yelling,” Rajala said. “It can get (chippy). I just have to be focused on my play and do what I can do.”

Rajala's plan is to add some muscle/weight this offseason. He could spend most of next season in Oklahoma City, but his rookie season has put him on the Edmonton Oilers radar.

“We knew Toni had good offensive skills, but we didn't know if it would translate to the North America game,” Nelson said. “At Stockton he produced. We called him up briefly once but put him on the third and fourth lines. He chipped in a bit.

“Since he's been back, he's been of our top offensive players. The only knock on Toni is he's not a very big guy. He's still young. Once he puts on some muscle, who knows how good he might be in the future?”

by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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