Player: Kristian Vesalainen
Team: HPK (Liiga)
Position: Left Wing
Weight: 209 lbs
Having seen Vesalainen’s games since he played two years up with HIFK U16, his skating has definitely come a long way and can be considered a strength now. He has really good speed for a big kid and his edge work is another asset. His physical play is also at a strong level. Vesalainen is extremely strong in the corners and along the boards while battling for loose pucks. He protects the puck nicely and displays solid body positioning in the offensive zone. He is extremely tough to stop when he gains the inside position. A player with lots of finesse, athleticism and high end puck skills, he is a rather creative player and has improved his scoring touch. He can fire wrist shots with great accuracy and power.
Although I consider him a versatile player, Vesalainen doesn’t seem to have elite level hockey sense. Certain times his decision making can be fairly poor, trying to do too much on his own instead of anticipating the play and seeing an opening for a pass. He could simplify his game at times. He has shown some playmaking skill from time to time, but he isn’t always at his best when setting up chances. Additionally, I would like to see more consistency from him, especially without the puck.
Overall, Vesalainen had a rough season but he finished strongly by dominating at the U18 World Championships in Slovakia. His stat line wasn’t great when he was loaned to HPK from Frölunda in November, but I thought that he was better than one goal in nine games would suggest. His game at the U20 World Championhships left a lot to be desired, however. Despite all of this, I would be surprised if he fell out of Top 20 of the draft. His game has already gotten so much better over the past few seasons. Vesalainen has the potential to be a solid second line winger in the NHL if he can put all the pieces of his game together.