The first time I saw Miro Heiskanen play in juniors was in 2013-14 season when he played one year up with HIFK U16. You could see that he was very talented, albeit a bit small. But his puck handling skills, offensive instincts and smooth skating were some of the qualities that already stood out back then. Now Heiskanen is one of the best draft eligible prospects and will be a very good NHLer for years to come.
Having seen his games a lot both at the junior and Liiga level, I think a big reason Heiskanen has become a highly touted prospect is his consistent development over the past three seasons. In 2014-15, he was able to make a smooth transition to the U18 league, and was without doubt one of the best players on his team. The following season, he was named the top rookie in the Finnish U20 league. This season, to simply put it, Heiskanen has been great in the Liiga. He was also among the better Finns at the World Juniors in Canada. Usually the player development isn’t linear. However, Heiskanen has been able to get better each season.
I wrote a scouting report on Heiskanen for Over The Boards in February last season. Here are some quotes from that article.
“Heiskanen has all the potential to be an excellent puck-moving defenseman at the pro level. He’s noticeably calm and confident with the puck in all situations, whether it be in the defensive zone under pressure or playing the point on power play. He has very good puck skills, keeps his head up and makes the right decisions on when to pass and when to carry the puck. Long range passes are consistently tape-to-tape. Heiskanen has both a good wrist and slap shot, especially when it comes to accuracy. He will take his chances and makes well-placed, smart shots.
He is also an elite skater who uses his edges extremely well. His transition skating from forward to backwards is very smooth. Certain times he will skate end-to-end with the puck thanks to his strong acceleration, top-end speed and ability to handle the puck at high speed. He has showed more of this in the U18 league thus far, however. His lateral movement on the blueline in the offensive zone is very good. This, along with his calm passing game, makes him a very solid player on power play. Skating has always been one of Heiskanen’s biggest assets along with his skill and smarts.
Heiskanen is not a particularly physical defenseman, but he reads the developing play well and therefore doesn’t get into trouble in the defensive zone too often. His strong gap control and stick positioning allow him to take away passing lanes and options from the oncoming forwards.”
Heiskanen has been able to use his above-mentioned strengths in the Liiga. He is an exceptional skater with excellent puck skills and smarts. His ability to process the game with the puck is at a very high level. Also, a positive thing to notice is that he has got bigger since last season, now being listed at 6’0. Gaining additional muscle will help him to be more effective in board battles and in front of the net. I consider him a Top 10 pick and the best Finnish prospect for this year’s draft. The fact that he is excelling in a men’s league – at the age of 17 – is remarkable.