2020 NHL Draft prospect Eemil Viro has made big strides over the last two seasons. He was one of the standout defensemen in the U18 league in 2018-19. After starting the 2019-20 season with TPS U20, he was promoted to the Liiga squad in late October, and recorded three assists in 29 games. The Liiga team did not make the playoffs, thus he rejoined the U20 team for the playoffs and was playing very well until the postseason was cut short. A mobile, athletic defenseman with strong puck skills, improving defensive game and decision making, the 6’0″, 168-pound blueliner offers an interesting package for NHL teams.
Viro is a powerful skater with strong edge work. He uses his agility and shifty moves to escape from pressure in his own end and shake off the forecheck. He has the quickness to win foot races to pucks. He moves well with the puck, can carry up the ice and has started to pick those spots more wisely. His high-end mobility and intelligence enables him to generate a lot of offense.
Viro can carry the puck from his own end and is adept at it. But he also has strong passing skills. He makes a crisp, accurate first pass and uses his teammates well for outlets on the breakout. In the clip below, he finds Lauri Pajuniemi with an excellent pass for a primary assist against Sport in the Liiga. He has shown increasing potential as a distributor which will serve him well in the future.
His puck management has greatly improved in the last two seasons. In the past, I had noticed an occasional tendency to force the game and make risky plays with the puck, resulting in turnovers in vital areas of the ice. The puck skills and skating have always been there, but now he makes the correct reads and uses his strengths to his advantage more effectively. Viro gets shots past the first defender with regularity and on net, but more power would definitely boost his wrist shot. At the moment I wouldn’t call him as a significant shooting threat from the point.
Furthermore, Viro plays a dependable, assertive defensive game as he uses good angling and tight gap control. He can take away the time and space from opposing forwards and quickly move the play the other way. At the junior level, he has a competitive edge in the defensive zone. He isn’t the biggest defenseman in stature, but he looks rather strong and well built given his age. He will play the body when needed and doesn’t avoid contact or shy away from playing in greasy areas.
Viro recently signed a two-year contract extension with TPS in March and I think he is on the path to becoming a really good two-way defenseman. He is one of the strongest breakout candidates for the next Liiga season in my book. As for the NHL Draft, I could see him being picked in the early stages on Day 2. A second round selection does not seem far-fetched at all. I see the potential of a middle-pairing NHL defenseman who can be an asset on the power play and in offensive transitions.