By my unofficial count, 53 Finnish prospects have attended NHL development camps this summer. There will be three more players next week when the Chicago Blackhawks’ camp begins on Monday. Defensemen Henri Jokiharju (2017, 1st round), Roope Laavainen (2017, 4th round) and Joni Tuulola (2015, 6th round) are listed on the roster. In this article I will post some notes, videos and links to other publications regarding a few of the Finnish players.
Buffalo Sabres – Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Erik Autio, Oskari Laaksonen
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, the Sabres’ second round pick from June, looked very solid in scrimmage. He moves really well and has good patience in the crease. He made several impressive saves. Defenseman Erik Autio was a camp invite but made his presence felt in the 3-on-3 tournament. He controls pucks well, has great vision and likes to join the attack if the opportunity presents itself. He scored several goals. Oskari Laaksonen sees the ice extremely well, has good mobility and poise with the puck. The 2017 3rd round pick could already play in the Liiga this season. If not, he’ll have a lot of responsibility on Ilves U20 defense.
Montreal Canadiens – Joni Ikonen
Joni Ikonen was a standout player in Montreal’s development camp at the begin of July. I had projected Ikonen as a possible late first rounder in this year’s draft. Considering this, I think Montreal got an excellent prospect with the 58th overall pick. Ikonen has terrific stickhandling skills, vision and shot. He has gotten quicker and is a strong competitor on the ice, winning a lot of battles because of his competitiveness. He has had a tendency to make too complicated plays at times but Ikonen’s upside is very high.
Florida Panthers – Henrik Haapala, Juho Lammikko, Sebastian Repo, Henrik Borgström, Aleksi Heponiemi
Five Finns, including this year’s draft selections Sebastian Repo and Aleksi Heponiemi, attended the Florida Panthers’ development camp. Repo had a very strong camp according to many reports and signed a three-year entry-level contract with the club in July.
For me, his strong performance didn’t come as a surprise, I really liked Repo’s game with Tappara last season. The sharp-shooting right wing has a lightning quick release and the awareness to get into good scoring positions in the offensive zone. He can use his size to his advantage and will get involved in the physical game. For information regarding Repo and other prospects in the development camp, I highly recommend this excellent recap by Cats On The Prowl.
St. Louis Blues – Niko Mikkola
In May, Niko Mikkola signed a two-year contract with Tappara in the Liiga. For a 5th round pick from two years ago, the physical two-way defenseman has been developing very well in Finland. Here are some quick observations from the prospect camp via St. Louis Game Time:
- Speaking of Mikkola, for a guy who does not score a lot of points, he’s pretty darn good at carrying the puck into the offensive zone and setting up the play, and he was going to the front of the net in the 4-on-3 drills.
According to a recent tweet by Fox Sports Midwest reporter Andy Strickland, Mikkola will play in Traverse City Prospect tournament in September. That will be another opportunity for Blues fans to see Mikkola before the Liiga season in Finland begins.