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DRAFTPRO – 2024 IIHF U18 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP REVIEW – FINLAND

By DraftPro Staff

The IIHF World U18 Hockey Championships just wrapped up last week in Espoo and Vantaa Finland, and was a scouting hotspot as a last big event for NHL staffs who are charged with evaluating the next wave of NHL talent.

There were some bright spots for the upcoming 2024 NHL draft that stood out and some future draft eligibles that really grabbed the spotlight. In this ten-part series we will look at each team entry and provide some review of prospects, how they performed and how their performance might have affected their draft stock. We will start with the last place team, Kazakhstan, and work our way through to the gold medal winning Canadian squad.

The host Finns finished in fifth place and had some strong performances from its roster with more than a few names making jumps up NHL team draft lists in our estimation.

Here are some player reports from our Andy Miller on the Finnish U18 players that stood out.

#12 Aron Kiviharju, D, Finland U18, 5’10”, 172, L, DOB 1.26.2006

He is a dynamic defenseman who can push the play with confidence in the tournament. Despite missing much of the season due to surgery and seems to have recovered his game well.  He was a great passer in the tournament and could initiate a breakout with a single pass, put the puck in an area or find a seam and thread the needle consistently. His shot could still use some more power or speed behind it.. His smaller size could be an issue at the NHL defensively but he will certainly bulk up by then.  He defended well particularly by using his body positioning to box out and protect the net front.   His play at the tournament locked him in as a first round defender in the upcoming draft.

#19 Konsta Helenius, F, Finland U18, 5’11”, 181, R, DOB 5.11.2006

Heleinius is a dynamic playmaker and could dictate the pace of the game.  His  slick skating game was on display throughout the tournament. who plays a 200 foot game.  His high end offensive skills were often visible.  He is usually a good decision maker but at times can be risky in the neutral zone or around the bluelines. He showed off his shooting skills at times but that skill could have been used a bit more in the tournament as zero goals stood out a bit. His tournament play solidified his ranking as a top puck distributor but may have dropped his overall ranking a bit due to his inability to elevate to a high level against other elite players. Helenius is definitely a top ten option in the upcoming draft and has a great shot at going in the top five.

#32 Emil Hemming, F, Finland U18, 6’2”, 194, L, DOB 1.27.2006

Hemming is a bigger forward who has good vision on the ice and he used that throughout the tournament. He was able to put the puck on the tape and made it easy to receive. He is a shooter first though and he has a good release that is hard to read for goaltenders and by scoring 4 goals in 5 games he had this skill set on display. He has exceptional hands and works the puck well. At times he was able to gain separation from plates on the ice with some quick acceleration.  He wants to be involved in the game and is not afraid to go to the dirty areas on the ice.  Hemming locked himself in as a quality shooter and finisher in this tournament and while he didn’t elevate his status he likely maintained it. He is a player who could be a top line player in the next few years and become a difference maker for a team that selects him in the top twenty in the upcoming draft.

#33 Tuomas Suoniemi, F, Finland U18, 5’10”, 161, L, DOB 4.16.2006

Suoniemi went to the net consistently and even though he isn’t very big he took up position and was hard to handle.  He was well balanced on his edges and surprisingly led Finland in points. In his points he registered goals and assists showing he can distribute the puck as well as finish. He went to the hard areas on the ice and often came out with the puck.  He showed he has an edge to his game and this is what will help him to become a better player than his skillset should allow. He has some good skill and could become a solid third line player with some offensive capabilities after a few years of development. He was a quality player in the tournament and likely ensured himself a middle round option in 2024.  He is likely a fifth round option in the upcoming draft. 

#36 Heiki Ruohonen, F, Finland U18, L, 6’1”, 196, DOB 6.19.2006

Ruohonen is a strong player on the wall and can protect the puck often. He demonstrated good offensive instincts throughout the tournament. He is a player who at times makes risky plays and can  turn over the puck multiple times in a game. He has an ability to receive the puck through traffic and get the puck on the net.  When he gets going he plays all 200 feet of the rink and can dictate the pace of the game, but the issue is that this doesn’t happen enough and he leaves onlookers wanting more. Ruohonen works the wall well and is a solid two way prayer.  In the tournament he was a quality forward who supported his teammates and got on the scoreboard a bit. Has the ability to finish and could become a middle six forward and is a third round option in the upcoming draft.

#24 Joona Saarelainen, F, Finland U18, L, 5’9”, 176, DOB 5.5.2006

Saarelainen is a very strong skater who can effectively drive the puck through the neutral zone. He is a player who can dictate the pace of the game and change it mid shift. He is a game breaker who can change the dynamics of the game when he steps on the ice. The puck finds Saarelainen on the ice and sticks to him, particularly in the offensive zone. He has an excellent shot with a very deceptive release that is hard to read.  He found the back of the net three times and was just under a point a game.  He is a very good passer and can find the lanes and pass quickly or delay to open it up. More consistency would help elevate his selection status. He could become a second line player with a few years of development and be a third round option at the draft.  His play at the tournament was good but he didn’t consistently stand out which matches what has been seen up until now, inconsistent play.

#27 Aatos Koivu , F, Finland U18,  R, 6’1”, 163, DOB 6.22.2006

Koivu won key faceoffs  in the tournament or didn’t lose cleanly. He is a player with good hands and good offensive instincts. He worked the low area in the offensive zone well throughout the tournament.  He is a smart player but at times can hesitate or not make a decision and run into trouble. Koivu has a good shot and has a quick release as well.  He is responsible in his zone and typically has good body position.  Koivu gets in the passing lanes and blocks or deters passes well.  At times he can be a bit soft on his stick though and needs to protect the puck against high end players along the wall. He is likely a third round option in the upcoming draft and is likely a solid middle six forward with some offensive capabilities. In the tournament he was effective without the puck and that was good to see as he was not very noticeable offensively. 

#4  Mitja Jokinen,D, Finland U18.L, 5’10”, 161, L DOB 3.1.2006

Jokinen has offensive instincts and protected the offensive blueline effectively in the tournament.  He is a quality skater who moves up the ice well and reads the play that is given to him. Jokinen shoots the puck well and is able to get it on the net more often than not. He is a hard worker at the net front but he must use his skating ability to box players out which could be an issue as he moves up levels. He deferred to his teammates often in the tournament and one would like to see him exhibit more confidence in his game. He has the ability to carry the puck up the ice and rush the full ice and protect the puck at times. He needs to be more consistent with his effort. Jokinen is not a very physical player and can be out muscled in the corner. He is a quality defender who has some capabilities and could be a second pairing defender or may not crack the NHL too.  His stats jump off the sheet in this tournament at a point a game, but the eye test left me wanting more from him. He is likely a fourth or fifth round option.  He was a quality defender in the tournament who had almost a point a game and there is a chance he could round out his game and be a gem for a team in the draft.

#1 Petteri Rimpinen, G, FInland U18, 6’0”, 176, L, DOB 4.25.2006

Rimpinen was a strong goaltender and excellent stats in the majority of the tournament. He is a goaltender who went down when the puck is at or near the goal line area. He was able to recover to his feet quickly and makes good reads.He doesn’t appear to read the play before it is going to happen but rather reacts to the play that happens. Rimpinen moves quickly and stays deep in his net more often than most other goaltenders who is more of a blocking style goaltender.  He is able to get out of the net and send up the puck or play it for his teammates.  He played well in the tournament but needs to improve his consistency against high end players, like Team USA.  Likely a later round option in the upcoming draft.

Photos courtesy IIHF.com

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