Philip McRae from when he got a chance in St Louis Blues. Source: ESPN.

Tappara played the finals last season and lost against Pori Ässät. Some good players have left the team for new challenges after the season.

New players have replaced them and will for sure try to make it even better this year. I have no doubt really that Tappara will be one of the teams that have a true chance to reach the finals again and win this time.

One of the new arrivers is a young fellow from Minneapolis, Philip McRae. Some of you might remember him from the US national team U-17, U-18 and U-20 also from the time when he was an even younger gun in London Knights? Well, 2010-11 St Louis Blues believed in him and his skills for about 15 games. Sent him down to Peoria Rivermen where he stayed until Tappara signed him over from there.

I have to admit that I haven’t seen him that much really so that I can tell 100% what kind of player he is. The name has though flashed by my eyes a few times since the past, from the US national team. But that’s it. It is said according the stats that he’s a hardworking two-way center.  Also that he can be used in many situations on the ice.

From the statistics one can read that he seems to be a quite equal goal scorer and assist player.  It was a while ago since he had his “best” season in London Knights, 2008-09 when he played 59 games, scored 29 times and hit on the comrades blade 31 times.

By tracking down his history from the last years in Peoria he seems to look for new challenges in his career by coming to Tampere in Finland and join Tappara.  He might have to step up a bit and get into the box front of the net. Tappara is such a team that has the idea to skate a lot overall the ice and need players who can keep the speed and physics in good standard.

The team is expecting that McRae shall fill the teams desire to strengthen the center position, that’s what  they’re saying to SM-liiga home page. Mostly I use to think, “It’s going to be alright” when I see player that I haven’t seen that much or is totally unknown to me. This time I hold my horses and say “let’s see” and wish for a really nice surprise.

He has one countryman in the team that can be a good help during the first weeks in the city of Tampere: Chris Connolly from Duluth. He comes from Boston University and NCAA where he played between 2008-11 before he came to Tappara.

Connolly did a good season last in Tappara: 41 points in 57 games: 19+22.  Those are good numbers indeed. So there are high expectations that Connolly shall reach at least the same level. Compare between these guys: if Connolly who never got a opportunity in NHL or AHL so far can do more than well in SM-liiga, so one could for sure say that McRae can do it as well.

The question is in the air: what can McRae do in Tappara the coming season?

For the note: Chris has his brother Jack Connolly in the SHL-team Färjestad BK, Karlstad.

/Arto Palovaara, from Arena Kalevala, Betsafe 

Connecting the worldwide hockey family closer to each other by telling stories from SM-liiga and national teams. 


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