Thursday

Petri Skriko

Petri Skriko was a very paradoxical hockey player.

Nicknamed "The Streak" because of his streaky scoring exploits, Skriko was a consistent 30 goal threat in the NHL. Though most of his goals came in bunches followed by long dry spells, Skriko scored 38, 33, 30 and 30 goals in 4 years with the Vancouver Canucks. He possessed a tremendous wrist shot which made him quite a power play specialist.

When Skriko was on a torrid scoring streak, often a 4 or 5 game stint where he'd score as many goals if not more, he was a dominating force, often scoring at will. An electrifying player when hot, Skriko was down right unstoppable at times. By contrast however, when he wasn't scoring in bunches, he was, to put it bluntly, below average. A suspect defensive player with little muscle to work the boards, Skriko accomplished little when he wasn't scoring.

Like most Finnish players in the early to mid 1980s, Petri was labelled as a soft European when he entered the league in 1984. In truth however, Skriko was an admirable little player. He wouldn't back down when he did get hit. He was a hustler on the ice, using his speed and shiftiness to outsmart his check to get open near the net. However at 5'10" and 175lbs, he was small, and had little upper body strength, making him easy to knock around.

Drafted 15th overall in 1981 by the Canucks, Skriko went on to achieve great things in Finland in the following 3 years before he joined the NHL. The 1981 Finnish Rookie of the Year was a standout at the 1982 World Junior Championships. He was named to the WJC First All Star team and was named the best forward at the tournament. He also tore up the Finnish league with his hometown SaPa Lappeenranta team, scoring 67 goals in 101 games over 3 years. He represented Finland in the 1984 Olympics before finally joining the Canucks for the 1984-85 season. He was the country's best player in those Olympic games, scoring 6 goals and 10 points in 6 games.

Skriko, who served 10 months in the Finnish army and worked for 2 years as a fireman in Finland, had a decent rookie season on a weak Vancouver team. Scoring 21 goals and 14 assists in 72 games, Skriko brought speed and hard work to the Canucks left wing, injecting some badly needed enthusiasm on the left wing, a chronic weak spot for the team throughout its history.

Petri, who was the first Finnish player in Canucks history, took his game to the next level in year two, scoring 38 goals and 78 points in 1985-86, establishing himself as the team's top left winger. However he was never able to better this performance, despite his streaky moments of brilliance. He went on to scored 33, 30 and 30 goals in the next three seasons.

Skriko slumped in 1989-90, scoring just 15 goals while adding his usual 33 assists. After another slow start in 1990-91 (just 4 goals in the Canucks first 20 games) Skriko was trade to Boston for the Bruins second round draft choice, which turned out to be Michael Peca.

Petri quickly dropped off the NHL scene once he left Vancouver. His short stint in Boston was followed by brief appearances in Winnipeg and San Jose. Ultimately, he returned home to Finland, where he represented the country once again at the 1992 Olympics and in the Finnish Elite League.

Perhaps Skriko benefited from playing with the weak Canucks. In Vancouver he was given lots of ice time as he was the team's only true scoring presence on left wing until Greg Adams showed up. It is debateable that Skriko wouldn't have received as much ice time and power play time with a stronger team, and quite likely wouldn't have been able to play on deeper teams since he had little to contribute when he wasn't snapping home goals in bunches. On the other hand, one would have to wonder how good Skriko could have been if he had played on a better team and with better players.

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