Teemu Kivihalme is taking the next step in his hockey career.
The former defenseman for the Burnsville boys hockey team has withdrawn from school at Colorado College to pursue his professional hockey dream. Kivihalme played three seasons for the Tigers, a Division I program in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
In the summer of 2013, following his junior season at Burnsville, Kivihalme was selected in the fifth round (140th pick overall) in the NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators. He was draft eligible as a junior because he turned 18 a few weeks before the draft.
Kivihalme skipped his senior year with the Blaze, playing in the United State Hockey League for the Fargo Force, before joining Colorado College at the start of the 2014-15 season.
Since Kivihalme is now four years removed from being drafted in the NHL, he is eligible to become a free agent. Kivihalme gave his 30-day letter of notice to the NHL in early June, meaning he becomes unrestricted free agent July 1.
Last season, the 6-foot, 175-pound Kivihalme was the only NHL draft pick on Colorado College as the team struggled to an 8-24-4 campaign. Kivihalme was the team's top-scoring defenseman, finishing with two goals and eight assists in 36 games.
In his three-year Tigers' career, Kivihalme had 10 goals and 26 assists.
"[Kivihalme] improved defensively from year to year," Colorado College coach Mike Haviland told The Gazette in Colorado Springs. "He came in with offensive skills and skating, but he needed to become better defensively to be trustworthy at the next level."
For whatever NHL team Kivihalme signs with, he will likely start his career in the minors before getting his NHL shot.
Kivihalme is the son of Burnsville varsity coach Janne Kivihalme, who has coached the Blaze for the past 11 seasons.
In high school, Kivihalme made the Blaze varsity as a ninth-grader, scoring three goals and adding 11 assists in his first season. As a sophomore, he had nine goals and 22 assists in 28 games and also finished with those exact same numbers in his junior season.