Brothers Topias Vilén and Elias Vilén could be selected in the NHL Draft later this week. Topias, a 2003 born defenseman, played well for Pelicans as a rookie in the Liiga last season and showed considerable progress. He appeared in 35 games and recorded three goals and five assists. Very much the same can be said about Elias, a 2001 born forward who can play both center and wing. He had a strong second half for Pelicans and will look to build on that in the Liiga next season. He put up seven goals and 14 points in 25 Liiga games.
Topias Vilén is a mobile defenseman with a long and compact stride. Although he could be more explosive and quicker in straight lines, his movements are fluid in each direction and he can make surprisingly shifty moves to evade pressure. In the offensive zone, he can move well laterally to open up shooting lanes on the blueline. He has a good, hard wrist shot, can get it through bodies and aims for blades. He is calculated with his choices and prefers to move the puck high-to-low or D to D in the offensive zone, rather than shooting from low angles and farther distances. Doesn’t shoot the puck at a very high rate. He is an accurate passer, he snaps the puck well and is a decent stickhandler capable of occasionally carrying the puck up the ice. He defends effectively with his body and his stick-on-puck defense is very good. A smart defender, he shows head for the game. He protects the defensive blueline well and his gap control on zone entries is superb. In the defensive zone, he is alert in front of the net and frequently well-positioned in order to collect loose pucks. He consistently scans his surroundings and uses shoulder checks when retrieving pucks. He is most often calm under duress, but against pros he has made quite a few errors on breakout passes, leading to unnecessary turnovers. He has a strong work ethic and does not give up an inch in puck battles. Overall, Topias is a mature defenseman with good skating and hockey sense. His offensive skills are not high end, but he plays within himself and has leadership attributes.
Elias Vilén is a skilled forward who can play both center and wing, however, I feel that his attributes are best suited for playing in the middle. He’s a smooth skater with good edges and quick feet. Will need to add explosiveness to be able to gain more separational speed in space. He has a smooth set of hands and can receive tough passes with relative ease. He has a scorer’s touch around the net. He demonstrates puck poise and can make plays in small spaces. He’s a competent puck carrier, attacks with his eyes up and can create offense in the final third. He has good passing skills and can set up his teammates in scoring areas. At 5’9″ and 172 pounds, he is on the smaller side and has certain limitations when it comes to physical play. I also think he needs to improve his defensive game, as he could be a bit more active away from the puck in his own end. He is a third-time draft eligible, but played very well in 2020-21 and showed that he can translate his game from the juniors to the next level. He definitely belongs in the Liiga based on his late-season performances. I believe that of all the young players on the Pelicans roster, he may be the strongest candidate to break out next season.
NHL Draft Projection
In Bob McKenzie’s 2021 final draft rankings, Topias Vilén was ranked in the third round at 84. Whereas Elias Vilén was the 47th ranked prospect among international skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He hasn’t been ranked for the draft by most independent scouting services, however, I do think Elias would be a good pick in the later rounds, given how well he has played at the Liiga level. Although he is an older player for the draft, I think there would be less risk with drafting him, as opposed to some first-time draft eligibles who haven’t played in the Liiga yet.
Cover photo: Leijonat.fi