I have been following the 2000 born age-group in Finland for the past two seasons, with the current season being the third. I think there are many good prospects and the age-group is even, at least as far as Finns are considered. There’s still lots of time until the 2018 NHL Draft and I think that there will be Finnish prospects that will set themselves apart from the others.
Here are three intriguing 2000 born Finnish prospects whose development will be noteworthy for next two seasons before the 2018 draft.
C Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Ässät U20
Kotkaniemi was really good at U20 tournament in Espoo last season. All in all, he scored 15 points in 23 games which was great production, especially when considered that he turned 16 in July. He has very good size and offensive instincts. The 6’2 center makes a lot of smart decisions, both with and without the puck, and has the work ethic to match up his skills. He has good vision and passing ability. He’s been good at face-offs in my viewings. Additionally, he has a good, quick shot. However, I think Kotkaniemi is even more impressive as a playmaker that creates time and space for the others before making smart passes in a decisive manner.
D Santeri Salmela, KooKoo U20
Salmela has excellent poise with the puck and he makes crisp, accurate passes, whether it be a long or short one. He finds good ways to move the puck under pressure. He’s difficult to get around because of his stick positioning and assertive gap control. A consistent defender who can be used in key situations, I think he has more offensive upside than his numbers show. Salmela is a good skater considering his 6’1 frame with a fluid stride and strong overall mobility. He’s already playing with KooKoo U20 and he’s a good leader, as he has been the captain on Finnish national teams.
C/W Otto Kivenmäki, Ässät U20
I think Kivenmäki is probably the most interesting 2000 born Finnish prospect among those who haven’t yet played for the U16/U17 national team. He’s a skill player who can create a lot offensively. He is highly intelligent with the puck, making impressive passes in the offensive zone. He has has nice first step quickness and acceleration which allows him to enter the offensive zone easily. Kivenmäki also has the hands to to handle the puck and make plays at high speeds. I think he has a lot of offensive potential and he’s been also elevating his defensive game.
In addition to these three prospects, I think forwards like Matias Maccelli (TPS U18) and Konsta Hirvonen (HIFK U18) are players to keep an eye on, among many others. Maccelli and Hirvonen have late birthdays, thus they are eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft.