By Samuel Dummer (@Dummer_Coleman)


“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” said Wayne Gretzky in 1983. It was during a season he was on a pace to put up 400 shots on goal. Unfortunately he didn’t quite get there.

Joakim Kemell of JYP Jyväskylä, in the Elite Finnish “Liiga”, sure seems to be trying to milk that quote for all its worth.

The JYP team has seen a bit of a surge of youth in the past year with Brad Lambert joining the squad last year and Joakim Kemell this season. They seem to be accepting youthful players with open arms. Looking at their squad, it appears that about 30% of their roster is under the age of 21. They really don’t seem to mind letting the young guns take a run with the puck.

“We hang out also outside the rink,” said Kemell of his relationship with his other teenage teammates on the Sr. team.

Marko Tuomainen, part of the coaching staff of JYP, is more than aware of some of the challenges that can come along with trying to run with so many younger guys on a Sr. team. A coach’s end goal and strategy may not change too much, but the road it takes to get there can sure be a little different. On the bright side, the young players all seem to get along and mix well together and are learning the pro game at a young age.

“We started rebuilding this year since we got rid of a lot of veterans, maybe the strategy hasn’t changed but the amount of work, on and off, the ice increased.” Said Tuomainen, adding what it is they work on with the young kids entering the league. “Getting their strength levels up and learning how to skate with the puck.”

“Everybody gets along great with each other.”

Kemell is a 17-year-old kid that has taken his opportunity on the Sr. club and hasn’t looked back. He is already further than most fans coming into the season would have expected. Kemell scored three goals in his first two games of the season. This was followed by a game in which he took 10 shots and smoked a player with a clean hip-check you don’t see used effectively much anymore. It is astounding to see the combination of skill and grit in such a small, young package. Kemell is making waves in Finnish hockey, and it won’t be long before you hear his name rolling off the tongues of our more local fanbases.

Following his strong start, Kemell continued his offensive dominance in the league. Leading the “Liiga” scoring race and showing that even a teenager can show the old boys a thing or two when it comes to the sport. In the first 11 games, Kemell would explode onto the scene with nine goals and four assists, totaling 13 points. At that pace, it would place him at about 1.18 points per game in a professional Sr league; again, Kemell is only 17.

Tuomainen is hopeful that Kemell can keep up producing the way he has. His offensive abilities were no shock to the coaching staff; however, the whole package deal they seemed to have gotten has caught them a little off guard.

“He has been our top scorer at the start of the season and will play in that role if he keeps producing. His offensive abilities were not a surprise but his all around game was, and how quick he adapted to playing against men.” When asked if the team had been keeping tabs on Kemell for quite a while Tuomainen and if he was expected to be starting the season on the roster, “We were counting on him to take a roster spot before the season, but not this way…”

From my short exchange with Kemell, he appears to be a man of few words. At least for now.
It may change as he develops into a more mature player and continues to have more interactions with people outside of his social circle. However, even with the short responses of the young man, there was nothing but confidence behind his words.

When asked whether he thought his strong showing at the Hlinka helped to lock in his current roster position with JYP, his answer was short and simple, “No.” He did make sure to clarify though, “It was a great experience and it went well.” If that doesn’t tell you he knew he was good enough, regardless of his performance at the tournament, I don’t know what would.

While Tuomainen didn’t say that the Hlinka was a dominant proving point for Kemell, he wasn’t so quick to shrug off the importance of the tournament. Call it age and maturity, or simply the difference between what a coach and player may find important, but every detail can count.

One strong showing, or even a weak one, can have the potential to make or break your hockey career.

“It gave him a lot of confidence to realize that he can play his game against the best in the world.”

Kemell’s confident attitude continued when asked about what his plans are in the game. “The NHL.” Once again, it was short and left little room for deviance. Hopefully, this confidence can carry him through for the rest of the season and continue throughout his career.

The coaching staff of JYP like what they’ve seen from the young Kemell on the ice so far on the ice, without question. Off the ice, he is beginning to show his worth as well. In the room and on the bench, it appears Kemell may be finding his voice in the room. It’s still early, but Tuomainen seems to be watching the player closely and happy with his growth.

“He is being himself. He is not the loudest guy in the room but will speak up when needed.”
“He works hard, he is a quick learner, receptive, and interested in his own development.”

With his performance so far, watching his name slide up the rankings list is an almost certainty as we move closer to the 2022 NHL Draft. His performance in the Hlinka, at least having a helping hand in cementing his place on the Sr. JYP roster, was followed by an extremely hot start to the season. With the nine goals in his first eleven games, and a shot stat that could give Ovechkin a run for his money (50+ shots in only his first 11 games). His desire to shoot the puck is eminent in his play, and he can’t seem to help himself as he consistently calls for passes – even if it may not always be the best play available. But, if Kemell keeps up with what he has done so far and is able to keep even a half-decent shooting percentage, he may just make it a battle for the top Finnish prospect with his own current teammate Lambert.
“His biggest strength is his shot, which is hard with a quick release. His weakness could be defensive zone positioning, once in a while” says Tuomainen about the game he’s seen from Kemell so far this season.

At only 5’11” and 176lbs, Kemell isn’t considered a very large guy. In the National Hockey League, it’s a size that historically could go either way. Lately, the size issue is becoming more of a distant past thing, with players like Brayden Point, Mitch Marner, and Nathan Gerbe carving out respectable careers while being considered “undersized”. Kemell is still young, at 17 he has plenty of time to develop and grow a larger frame. If Kemell can keep his handles as he grows, add weight, and continue to develop his edgework as he glides through the opposition, he will easily skate his way into a top 10 position.

Kemell looks up to Alexander Ovechkin, as a hockey player, more than anyone else. When scouting his play and comparing it to the shot-loving “Great 8”, the similarities become more apparent. It quickly becomes clear where he is modeling his game from and what he is looking to accomplish.

His confidence spills over into his abilities on the ice as well. A quick overview of his response to a question about his strengths and weaknesses on the ice left little to try to decipher.

“Strengths: Skating, shot, and skills with the puck. Weakness: Physical Training.”

When talking to Kemell, he was given an option of goal possibilities and was asked to pick which one he would prefer to score. His response was not only a confident one but one that made this writer almost cover his laptop with the beverage he was drinking. Instead of picking just one of the two options; a) great individual effort finished with a smooth move around the goalie, or b) tic tac toe snipe from the slot. Kemell simply replied, “Both.”

His quick-feet skating style, “Jergens”-would-approve soft hands, and lethal shot make him a deadly force whenever he’s on the ice. He has so much confidence for such a young age that it can almost come across as too much at times. But, when you can follow up the talk with the type of play he has brought to the table, naysayers tend to start falling behind. DraftPro Scouts rave about his stellar play. His ability to both put points on the board and drop bodies to the ice has become a bit of a talking point around our scouting world.

“Kid literally only has one thing on his mind… and that’s shooting his shot.” Kai Farenholtz, a DraftPro scout, had to say about Kemell, “But for real, his shooting prowess and tendencies makes him a force to be reckoned with. Tangle that up with his ferocity that he’s shown while playing in his age group, and down the line you have a pretty unique high-octane sniper in your midst.”

DraftPro Head Scout, Jared Brown, felt similarly to Farenholtz. Anytime I’ve spoken with Brown he has always been pretty high on the player. He likes what he has seen so far and has even slid him up his own ranking list to have Kemell battling it out for a top 10, possibly top 5, position.

“His confidence with the puck has been pretty amazing for a 17-year-old playing in a men’s league. Everything we’ve seen from him at the junior level and international tournaments has carried over into league play for JYP and is now making opposing teams circle his number in their pre-planning. He’s just a fearless skater out there and up against men is no different. I think at this rate he could definitely contend for a top-five selection for the draft. I have him at #6 in my latest rankings.”

Obviously, all this talent didn’t just happen to find its way into Kemell’s DNA. While he may be a naturally born athlete, Kemell still must put in the work to make sure he improves constantly.

Hockey is a sport that is always evolving, and talent focuses can change or cycle over a player’s career. Kemell uses his training time to ensure that the game doesn’t pass him by and he’s both physically and mentally prepared for whatever the game throws at him.

Kemell seems to focus on the “On-Ice training” part of his game. He pointed out himself that he needed to work on his physical training and when asked about his regular training routine, he said only the three words in quotations above. It can only be assumed that Kemell will work on his game as much as he can and let the physical size and training come as they will down the road. Whatever the mindset, it seems to be working for him for now.

Growing up in Finland, Kemell has been playing hockey for quite a while now. Born in 04’ he was barely the age of a Canadian Kindergartner when he started playing hockey.

“I grew up in Palokka, which is a suburb of Jyväskylä. I started playing in 2008 in a local hockey club, Jyki.”

“My dad.” Kemell responded when asked who his biggest mentor was early on in his hockey career.

Growing up playing in Finland must have been a fun experience for Kemell as he continued to keep playing through the years. He s beginning to develop into quite the player to watch and is a source of entertainment now for thousands of fans in his local area and beyond. What he has been able to accomplish is even more impressive when you see standings of recent years and realize that he is doing it all on a team that is only mid-tier and not packed full of offensive powerhouse players.

While the game can be fun and an obsession for many, at some point players need to turn their minds off of it for a little while and focus on something else; a break for when things can get to be too much.

“I like playing Golf, video games, or just hanging out with friends” is how Kemell explained what he does in his free time. What he fills his time with outside of the game shows a player, not unlike a lot of teenagers on this side of the Atlantic.

When he mentioned his like of video games, the inner child in me had to ask him about his Call of Duty abilities, as it is a very important piece of information for the generation of today.

“I would say I’m average 😉” Kemell said, making sure to add the wink in his response.

Something tells me he may snipe on the screen, just as much as he does on the ice…

Photo Credit: Jiri Halttunen