Welcome to our first edition of the 2019 NHL Draft Rankings, featuring the Top 20 Finnish prospects. We have decided not to include prospects playing in North America and thus some of the top Finnish names such as Matias Maccelli, Lassi Thomson and Kari Piiroinen are not listed here.
At this point, there are two Finnish prospects who have set themselves apart from the rest of the draft eligible players – TPS forward Kaapo Kakko and JYP defenseman Anttoni Honka. Kakko already looked good with the U20 national team against Czech Republic in July as his smarts, skating and puck skills stood out. Honka had a very good preseason with JYP’s Liiga team. The highly skilled, swift-skating puck mover is slick and crafty with the puck and can create a lot of offense. Honka is the other first rounder in our book right now.
Rounding our the Top 5 are Lukko center Antti Saarela, Tappara left wing Patrik Puistola and KalPa left wing Leevi Aaltonen. Saarela is a smooth-skating, instinctive center with great offensive tools and consistent effort. Puistola’s offensive skill set is strong and he’s also highly competitive. He’s a fairly strong skater with good agility and acceleration; with some improvement he could develop into an above-average skater. Aaltonen is a top notch skater who can absolutely fly on the ice. He possesses good puck skills and offensive vision. Aaltonen is on the smaller side right now but we like his potential in the long term.
Here are the entire rankings for September. A couple of players to notice as potential sleepers are Ilves defenseman Elias Laitamäki (#15) and Kärpät right wing Tuukka Tieksola (#14). Laitamäki is a poised, good-sized blueliner with a solid point shot and puck moving game. His overall defensive game and awareness in the defensive end require work, but he’s an interesting name to keep an eye on. Tieksola is a finesse forward with excellent stickhandling skills and impressive puck poise. He makes smart plays with the puck and he’s quick with good edge work.