This article is a part of a series where Finnish Junior Hockey will aim to bring in-depth articles on drafted prospects. The idea is to give readers a close look at the players’ strengths, weaknesses, and how they are progressing since being drafted. For now, we are aiming to publish at least one article each week.
Kärpät U20 forward Eetu Päkkilä capped off an excellent season with the Finnish U20 league championship. The New Jersey Devils seventh round pick won the scoring title with 38 goals, only two shy of the record. He started to become a more complete player towards the end of the season. His offensive game also evolved which helped him improve the production.
A lack of shift-to-shift consistency was one concern that I had about Päkkilä in his draft year. There were some shifts where he was a passenger and too often outside of the play. I saw more of the same in the early stages of the 2018-19 season, however, during the last months I thought he started to be more involved in the play. Another positive is that he was also deployed to kill penalties.
Päkkilä’s skating and scoring ability are definitely his calling cards. A tall, athletic winger that looks bigger than listed at (6’0″), he uses long and fluid strides to hit very good top speed. He can separate from defenders and his speed sets him apart. Päkkilä clearly outclasses most U20 players with his skating. His lateral mobility lags behind a bit, but not so much that it would hurt his skating significantly.
Päkkilä loves to shoot the puck. He has a goal-scorer’s touch and a great wrist shot, but he can score with a slap shot or one-timer, too. He’s a dangerous shooter from the circle on the power play. This past season, I thought he became more direct and straightforward offensively, using his speed to outskate defensemen and take pucks on net.
It’ll be very interesting to keep tracking Päkkilä’s development. He had expressed interest in playing college hockey prior the 2018-19 season. If Päkkilä ends up joining an NCAA program, he could step into a key role and contribute right away. I think the NCAA would be a great choice for him, as he definitely needs to gain strength. His board and corner play could be much improved with added strength. He could also stay in Finland and compete for a roster spot in Kärpät’s strong Liiga team.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next part of the series.
Cover Photo: NHL.com