This week’s USHL Draft had 13 Finnish prospects taken in the Phase 2, four more than last year. Chicago Steel and Omaha Lancers both selected three Finnish prospects, whereas Sioux Falls Stampede, Sioux City Musketeers and Dubuque Fighting Saints all had two Finns. In addition, Bloomington Thunder drafted 2000 born Arttu Nevasaari in the 10th round of the Phase 1 Draft.
98 C Mikael Hakkarainen (Chicago Steel)
98 LW Emil Oksanen (Sioux Falls Stampede)
Hakkarainen had a really good year in the NAHL as he was named to the second All Star team. When he played for Blues U18 back in Finland in 2014-15 season, he displayed strong puck skills, flashes of creativity and ability to generate puck possession. Oksanen is an offensive-minded forward with a quick release, fine hands and ability to set up chances. However, he will need to get physically stronger and improve his skating (speed and stride in particular) to be selected high in next year’s NHL Draft.
98 D Kasper Kotkansalo (Sioux Falls Stampede)
Kotkansalo could be a really good get for Sioux Falls for next season, a steady two-way defenseman from Blues U20 who started to produce more points as the season progressed. He’s not flashy in any way, but he can do plenty of things well. His first pass and positioning is good, he gets shots on net through traffic and he can push forwards to the outside. His stride isn’t the prettiest, but he’s got adequate mobility and good balance on his skates.
99 C Santeri Virtanen (Dubuque Fighting Saints)
98 C Aapeli Räsänen (Sioux City Musketeers)
Virtanen centered the first line for TPS U18 this past season. Excellent at face-offs along with good work ethic and play away from the puck. Good wrist shot with fairly good velocity. It will be interesting to see how much his offensive game and skating come along next season. Räsänen is a sturdy-built forward who played well for the U18 national team. Committed defensively, Räsänen often excels away from the puck and has some finishing ability. He played on the same line with Sioux City’s top rookie Eeli Tolvanen at the U18 World Championship.
98 LW Aleksi Peltonen (Omaha Lancers)
98 C Joona Koppanen (Omaha Lancers)
97 D Veli-Matti Tiuraniemi (Dubuque Fighting Saints)
98 G Severi Isokangas (Omaha Lancers)
99 LW Aleksi Halme (Muskegon Lumberjacks)
98 D Jesper Kokkila (Chicago Steel)
99 D Saku Vesterinen (Chicago Steel)
00 RW Samuel Salonen (Sioux City Musketeers)
From the eight round on, there were eight more Finnish prospects drafted. I’ve already written an extensive post about Joona Koppanen here.
Ässät U18 left wing Aleksi Halme is a nice pick in the 11th round. He’s an above-average skater with very good scoring touch and hands around the net. I’d like to see a little more consistency but when he’s on his game, he also plays with a strong energy level and displays grit. Halme is arguably some years away from playing in the USHL, however.
Samuel Salonen is a big and talented 6’3 forward who can fight through checks to the net and has an above-average wrist shot. He has the physical tools and offensive skills to be a force at higher levels. His skating and endurance could improve, even though he does move quite well for his size. Salonen played well for Jokerit U18 once called up from their U16 team.