Santtu Kinnunen didn’t start his sophomore season on the right foot - at least to his lofty standards.

“It didn’t go as I wanted to at first,” said Kinnunen. “I had some tough times.”

The 25-year-old persevered, though, and it ultimately paid off.

“I think I built up my game towards the end of the season - especially playoffs,” he said. “I think I showed what I can do and I think I got my game back.”

Part of Kinnunen finding his game was rounding out his skillset and embracing new roles on a blue line that boasted a bounty of firepower.

“We had some good offensive d-men this year so it was a tough battle between all of us,” said Kinnunen. “I think the role I got this year helped me as an all-around defenseman more. I used to think more offensive minded but now I think better all-around with the defensive side. I think it’s helped me for the future.”

As Kinnunen grew on the defensive side of the puck, he earned more responsibility from the coaching staff and played a big role in the team’s hot run to finish the regular season.

“It’s a good feeling that the coach trusts me,” said Kinnunen. “I want to get on the ice as much as possible and make an impact on the game. I want to help my team win. I also want all of my teammates to do good - it doesn’t always have to be me. So I just cheer them up and hope everyone does their best.”

After pushing to get back on track throughout the season, the work isn’t done for Kinnunen - who is heading into the offseason as a restricted free agent.

“I’m going to have a good summer,” he said. “It’s a longer summer than last year. I’m going to improve my skating, get some strength on me so maybe I’ll battle with some guys and throw them down on the ice this time. I hope I get stronger, faster and better next year. There’s a lot of things I can get better at and I will do it.”