Aleksi Heponiemi‘s first season in the Western Hockey League was excellent. After scoring 15 points in preseason to lead all WHL players in scoring, he didn’t miss a beat in the regular season. The 5’10 center put up 28 goals and 58 assists to finish second on his team in scoring. In 14 playoff games, he added eight assists but went without a goal in the postseason. At the beginning of May, Heponiemi was named the WHL Rookie of The Year, becoming the first Finnish player to win the Jim Piggott Trophy.
Heponiemi has dazzling puck handling skills and the ability to make high-end plays in the offensive zone. A crafty playmaker who is very unselfish with the puck, he can find openings in the final third. He can also receive difficult passes with ease. A quick skater with great speed and agility, he is extremely mobile and can handle the puck well at top speed. The center really thrives on the power play, as evidenced by scoring 30 assists on the man advantage, tied for second most among all WHL players. An interesting statistic to notice is that 51.72% of his assists were scored on power play in the regular season. He also recorded three shootout goals.
In an interview with DUBNetwork, Heponiemi mentioned that “because of my size I need to get bigger. On the ice my shot has to get better and so does my work in the defensive zone”. From what I have seen during the past few seasons, I think he will need to get stronger in board and corner battles. He is not the type of player that will punish opponents physically, nor does he separate opponents away from the puck with heavy, effective hits. In addition, he doesn’t seem to have heaviest shot, however, it does feature good accurate nonetheless. Heponiemi does display smarts around the net and can score in more ways than just one. Overall, adding more strength would be beneficial so that he can become a more well-rounded player, one who can make an even stronger impact on both sides of the puck.