TOPEKA, Kan. – The Topeka RoadRunners announced Wednesday that Finnish forward Sami Tavernier has verbally committed to attend Merrimack College for the upcoming Hockey East season.
Tavernier, a 1997-born winger, is in his first season of North American hockey. He currently has 8 goals and 7 assists in 23 games for the RoadRunners, and is considered one of the top prospects in the North American Hockey League.
Tavernier holds duel citizenship in Finland and France. He was born in France but played in Finland for his junior hockey years. He has represented Finland at the U17, U18 and U20 levels, and has over 60 international games under his belt.
This season is his first playing in North America. He originally played in 15 games for Sioux City of the USHL before coming to Topeka.
"Making all of the adjustments hasn't been easy this year, but it's coming," said Tavernier. "I'm glad I had the opportunity to come to Topeka and have my game develop. The coaching staff and my teammates have given me the confidence to figure things out."
Topeka Head Coach Josh Kamrass said that he isn't surprised Tavernier landed a Division I spot.
"When he first arrived in Topeka, we immediately saw that he had elite skill," said Kamrass. "He's strong over the puck and has a good shot. He stands out. He just needed time. We think he will be an elite NCAA player."
Tavernier said Merrimack is a good fit because he felt comfortable with the conversations he had with the staff, and the league he is headed to.
"Coach Dennehy has been at Merrimack for a long time, and their team is always competitive," said Tavernier. "I like the fact that I'm going to be playing in Hockey East, and like the fact that I'll be located on the East Coast. It's a great league with a lot of exposure."
The 6-0, 180-pound forward had a busy month in February. In addition to playing his games in a RoadRunners uniform, he was selected to play for Finland's U20 team at the Five Nations tournament in Germany where he was the tourney's third-leading scorer. Less than 48 hours after returning from Europe, Tavernier competed in the NAHL Top Prospects event, competing for the NAHL South Team.
“On behalf of the RoadRunner’s organization we are very happy and proud for Sami,” said RoadRunner’s Owner Don Stone.
“This means a lot to us and it is why we are in this business. We want to help these young men develop on and off the ice, while trying to advance in their hockey careers.”
"Sami's performance in Europe for Team Finland, and then his performance at the Top Prospects really opened some eyes," said Kamrass. "He has only recently started to put everything together. During that stretch, I think he played 7 games in 10 days, including trans-Atlantic travel. But his best hockey is ahead of him, for sure."
Tavernier joins a list of current RoadRunners committed to NCAA Division 1 schools, which includes goaltender Tyler Johnson (Maine), captain Cam Strong (Dartmouth) and forward Johnny Walker (Arizona State).