After seeing plenty of Finnish U18 and U16 hockey this past season, I have done a little summary on the next NHL Drafts. Many of these prospects have already been mentioned in the blog, but here I will take a closer look at their skills. At the end, I have also a few of prospects with quick descriptions. The players’ clubs are from the past season.
2016 NHL Draft
Jesse Puljujärvi, Patrik Laine and Olli Juolevi are clearly the top Finns as of now. Laine was recently drafted in the CHL Import Draft by the Sarnia Sting; however, he already has a pro contract with Tappara. Juolevi, who got drafted by London Knights, I believe would more likely leave for the OHL. He was a top defenseman with Jokerit U20, logging a ton of minutes and playing at a high level, whether it was at even strength or on special teams. Markus Niemeläinen is a tall, reliable defenseman who signed a pro contract with HIFK.
Oliver Felixson – D – HIFK U18 – 6’6 – 214 lbs
Big defenseman posted 37 points for HIFK U18…starts the attack with accurate passes that are more often than not tape-to-tape…has quick hands, uses his long reach in order to keep plays alive in the offensive zone…has good skating mechanics considering his imposing frame, moves smoothly backwards, fairly powerful stride and first steps…isn’t a pure power play quarterback, though he did receive ice-time on PP…possesses an accurate point shot which is also pretty heavy…defensively prefers to use his positioning and stick rather than throwing his weight around…took major improvements in his defensive zone coverage, very assertive in most viewings…Saint John Sea Dogs pick in this year’s CHL Import Draft…
Otto Koivula – W – Ilves U18/U20 – Big forward with soft hands and scoring instincts; skating is a tad heavy, however.
Niko Kuiri – C – Kärpät U18 – Center wins a lof of face-offs, plays consistently at both ends, but doesn’t have the highest offensive upside.
Mikko Juusola – LW – Kärpät U18 – Fast skater is strong on the boards and pretty sharp passer, had a good season for the U18 league winning team.
Niclas Almari – D – Blues U18 – Has some interesting upside, can definitely skate but could be more reliable in the defensive zone.
Janne Kuokkanen – C – Kärpät U18 – Another Kärpät prospect, Kuokkanen is creative and smart center, a prospect who could rise a lot in his draft season.
Severi Isokangas – G – Kärpät U18 – Really liked the potential and consistency of the goaltender, albeit in limited viewings.
2017 NHL Draft
Eeli Tolvanen and Joni Ikonen, two of my top five 2017 eligible forwards, have left Blues U18. Tolvanen will continue his career in the USHL with Sioux City Musketeers. Tolvanen is a goal-scorer who has a tremendous wrist shot. He’s a fairly quick skater with skill to distribute the puck, too. Ikonen is also an impressive prospect with vision and versatile offensive game. The center also brings a good compete level. Ikonen will play for Frölunda juniors in Sweden next season. A top defenseman Juuso Välimäki (late ’98) has confirmed on Twitter he’ll play for Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League.
Miro Heiskanen – D – HIFK U18 – 5’10 – 154 lbs
Defenseman with great skill level, vision and skating…played as an underager for HIFK U18 and scored 20 points…able to escape from the defensive zone by skating with the puck…very smooth in turning pivots, allowing him to come back to his defensive position…effortless skater, able to gain a lot of speed with the puck…puck handling is very smooth all the time…loves to carry the puck into the offensive zone and does so incredibly well…able to throw good low shots from the point, but wouldn’t consider his shot above-average…shows smarts in his defensive game by being in the right position…effective stick positioning without the puck, able to break up a lot of plays…will likely never be a physical force in the corners or in front of the net, though he’s growing and will likely add more strength…
Kasper Kotkansalo – D – Blues U18 – 6’1 – 185 lbs
Really like the upside in this defenseman…moves the puck with efficient and quick decisions…has good hands and coordination, allowing him to jump into the play…able to unleash surprisingly quick wrist shots from the point, even when there’s not much space… fairly versatile shot selection…mobile, smooth skater with decent acceleration…doesn’t play a noticeably physical game in the defensive zone; however, has shown clever stick positioning to get into passing lanes…already played well for Blues U20 at Junior Club World Cup in previous August…
Sami Moilanen – RW – Jokerit U18 – 5’9 – 165 lbs
A true speed machine who can beat defensemen on the outside thanks to his excellent acceleration…smooth edge work and skates also well backwards…quite efficient on the fore check, causes occasionally havoc for the opponents…a dangerous shooter with a good wrist shot…doesn’t completely stand out as a playmaker, although he’s got pretty good puck control in the slot area…put up 20 goals and 39 points in 25 games for Jokerit U18…also played well when called up to U20 league…
Urho Vaakanainen – D – Blues U20 – 6’0 – 176 lbs
The defenseman has been considered the best prospect in his age-group for quite some time…a smooth skater in all directions, didn’t have a whole lot of trouble with the speed of U20 level…poised with the puck at both ends of the ice…accurate first pass, especially on the break out, sees the opening passing lanes extremely well…really good at getting shots through traffic, which is a big plus…could be sharper in the defensive zone and show more intensity at times…
Henri Jokiharju – D – Jokerit U18 – I was very impressed by his poise in all situations and intelligent playing with the puck.
Santeri Virtanen – C – TPS U18 – Center with size, hockey sense, strong at face offs, will likely play U20 hockey this season.
Juho Korhonen D – Kärpät U16 – Skilled defenseman is smooth with the puck, excellent first pass and gets shots to the net.
Lassi Lehtinen – G – Lukko U16 – Excellent in the U16 playoffs, a smaller goalie with quick side-to-side movement and good compete level to build on.
Eemeli Räsänen D – Jokipojat U20/U18 – Big defenseman with a heavy shot can throw solid checks, skating is an area to improve.
Teemu Engberg – LW – HIFK U16/U18 – Skilled, flashy forward had some noticeably strong games at the U16 level.
2018 NHL Draft
2018 selection is three years away, so obviously it’s really early to name players who have the potential to be drafted. However, at this point, sharp-shooting forward Arttu Nevasaari and defenseman Uula Ruikka (both Kärpät) are two I consider strong prospects among 2000’s. Center Eppu Karuvaara (Jokerit), defenseman Noel Pietilä (Blues) and winger Niklas Nordgren (HIFK) are a few others from ’00 age-group that showed promise in my viewings. A late ’99, Aleksi Halme (Ässät) is a skilled, sharp forward who could certainly be on the radar based on last season.