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DRAFTPRO – IIHF U18 WORLDS – FINLAND U18 REVIEW

By DraftPro Staff

The U18 World Hockey Championships just wrapped up last week in Frisco, Texas, and was a scouting hotspot in a year that was anything but the norm for NHL staffs who are charged with evaluating the next wave of NHL talent.

It is a ‘must see’ event any season holding considerable weight as a last look event, but this year in particular, it might be the only hockey some of these guys would play under the watchful eyes of NHL teams. And it was an opportunity for the players to make an impression with plenty doing just that over the two-week event.

Draft Prospects Hockey was not able to be in attendance for the event due to pandemic/logistic issues but had scheduled multiple evaluators to view each minute of play and give us a breakdown of what transpired via their video viewing.

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.

Finland had an up and down tournament as they were able to play some solid hockey despite the losses. They were eventually eliminated in a tough game against the Russians falling behind in the semifinal game due to penalty trouble and the Russians lethal power play.

They had some solid offensive players but lacked the team defense needed to excel at the tournament. They had some solid flashes on defense with offensive puck movers driving the play up ice, but they lacked a clamp down defensive pairing.

Goal scoring winger Tuomalla was great all tournament for them especially on the power play. And he made us believers that he will score more than his share of powerplay goals at the next level. Koivunen was one of the best players, creating offensive opportunities five-on-five while still playing sold defense. Salminen was another stand out as the captain as he produced on the power play and while providing solid defensive responsibility.

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

30 G, AKU KOSKENVUO, 6’4, 181, LG, DOB 02.27.2003

Koskenvuo is a hulking presence in goal with an athletic ability to boot. He provides a calming presence in the net and not really from his play. He is side to side and battling all over the ice but the calmness comes from what he provides his teammates when he is in goal. He was making such big saves he stole the starters role in this tournament and really allowed Finland to play an offensive game at times. He cuts down angles well because of his size. But despite his size he will still come out to challenge you knowing he has the quickness to get side to side in case a pass is made. His pad work is especially impressive he has such quick footwork from the butterfly he takes up basically the whole lower half of the net. Once he feels the shooter has him beat, he battles hard to cover the net and it resulted in multiple high light reel saves. He has also a great sense of timing and made some huge saves to keep things close. He has a quick glove but does have a tendency to reach across his body with his with shots from distance. Nothing wrong with that as he made the saves but will have to use his blocker more to control rebounds at the next level. He does leave some pucks sitting right in front of him forcing him to make a second save if he or his defense can’t get to the puck. As he gets better with his positioning, he could become a solid goaltending prospect for the NHL due to his mix of size and athletic ability. He will play the puck when he has too but certainly has room to improve in that area as well. This tournament has cemented him as a prospect to watch. We have him as a late round pick, a big mobile goalie with tons of effort and battle between the posts. Could end up a diamond unearthed late in the draft.

2 D, JIMI SUOMI, 5’10, 154, L, DOB 3.1.2003

First off… not enough talk about his name…imagine if there was a Corey Canada or a Sami Sweden. Suomi is a small mobile puck mover with excellent wheels. He was on the second pair where I thought he really controlled play for his unit. He was a leader on his team and relied a ton on playing big minutes. He eats those minutes against top competition but really excels when he gets a mismatch offensively. He is able to use his excellent skating to wind up ice and break the puck out of his own end with ease. Whether it’s a one touch pass to the middle or a stretch pass he shows excellent first pass abilities. He gets his head up right away and is always thinking one play ahead. He has a high IQ but is risky with the puck at times. Can make just one too many moves or hold onto it too long at times. If he keeps things simple he is at his best due to his offensive ability and skating. Strong edge work that helps him float across the ice without really breaking a sweat. Nothing he does seems explosive or fast but boy can he create speed. One thing he will need to change is his propensity to attacks mostly on the outside. For a perimeter player he sees the ice well but will need to be able to drive the middle to create offense at the pro level. He will pick up assists because of his up ice passing but can also join in and score if given the chance. He has a pretty weak shot which is understandable when you see him and will need to add a lot of muscle to compete at the next level. Defensively he uses his brain and skating to think one step ahead. He will cut you off and use great angles to ride you into the boards. He will need to get more comfortable taking hits as he is clearly shy right now at times. Suomi ran the top power play unit and was an excellent puck move from the top of the umbrella. He doesn’t block many shots and gets pushed around in front. Despite being undersized he has a good compete level and motor shift to shift. He clearly loves the game and brings it every time. He is a few years out due to his size but he does have the IQ and skating if he can clean up the risk.

7 D, ALEKSI MALINEN, 6’0, 185, L, DOB 5.26.2003

This smooth skating defender uses a long fluent stride and real strong edge work to really work his way around the ice. Stands out because of his poise with the puck. An element of Malinen’s game that really stood out was his composure under pressure. He was able to calmly and cleanly skate the puck from end to end on more than one occasion this tournament. He has a confident presence with the puck and is a calming factor along the line. Defensively, he was sound, maintaining a close gap at all times and not allowing any soft passes to get past him. His transitional ability is truly something to marvel at though, the way he effortlessly glides up the ice with full control of the puck. Even if there’s not high-end offensive upside to his game, he still looks to be a solid defenseman prospect for the professional level.

21 D, ALEKSI HEIMOSALMI, 5’11, 170, R, DOB 05.08.2003

Did his best Bobby Orr impression a couple times in Texas going on solo end-to-end rushes and sniping it. He’s the type of defender that makes other defenders better playing alongside him. His poise is close to an elite level. Attacks players straight on as he has the edgework and ability rapidly change directions to get around them. Effective in transition using his agile skating ability. His exit passes were a bit too forced, and he made more controlled zone exits skating the puck out then passing it. He can play both the PP and PK due to his hockey sense. Loved his awareness entering the zone on the PP, pulling up near the line and creating open ice for his teammates to get a clean set up going. Played the body efficiently and timing his hits appropriately in the corners defending the rush. His active stick kept the rush towards the outside and showed improvement in timing his gaps. Played a little soft in front of his own net as you may expect from a defender his size, despite his playing of the body elsewhere on the ice. Defensively could have been better but offensively used his above average puck handling abilities to pitch in on the attack. Was voted by media to the tournaments all-star team and received the directorate award for best defenseman of the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.

10 D, TOPIAS VILEN, 6’0, 194, L, DOB 04.01.2003

Vilen plays a very sound positional game but is just an okay skater hurting his effectiveness in certain areas. Makes sure to take care of defensive assignments first before thinking about offense. First thing I notice is Vilen playing incredibly smart with his body and ability to absorb contact below his goal line. Does not look like a big kid but is physically mature with a strong base to his build. Executes bear hug tie ups beautifully like a momma bear holding onto her cubs. Deploys an active pesky stick that defends the rush and cycle effectively. Excellent understanding of pressure and reversing pucks to his defense partner safely. Soft touch on his first pass. Offensively really did not offer up much as he keeps his plays simple. Low creativity. Skating isn’t explosive enough to push the pace by carrying pucks in transition. Possesses a solid foundation but needs to improve a few areas before he gets a serious look.

33 RW, BRAD LAMBERT, 6’0, 179, R, DOB 12.19.2003

Lambert is a speedy winger with a wicked release. The 2022 top draft eligible prospect was a top line player for the Finnish team and played his off wing. He played a strong game despite clearly battling through an injury. He was visibly frustrated and can’t provide that type of body language at the next level. What he does bring is a ton of offensive talent and it all comes off of his speed. He creates most of his offense in transition due to his skating. He has super quick footwork and can generate pull away speed with ease. He uses compact movements to generate a ton of power in each stride. He can also build speed with crossovers as he winds up. He does tend to get quiet in half ice situations as his speed is eliminated. Once he is coming in on the rush, he can either beat you wide or drag to the middle and rip a shot. He can shoot of both feet and although his shot isn’t elite he certainly can score from distance. He played on the top power play on his strong side where he was mainly skating into let shots go. Not a regular physical player but he laid a couple big hits in this tournament. He was engaged shift to shift and really tried his best to contribute offense. He can also kill penalties because of his speed and IQ. He will translate the offensive game to the NHL real easy but his defensive game will need some work. NHL ready coming out of his draft because of his speed, size and game style.

25 RW, JOAKIM KEMELL, 5’11, 176, R, DOB 4.27.2004

A super skilled player but is also able to play a grinder role at the same time, forechecking hard and digging on the boards. He drew penalties through pure effort and helped create some solid chances on the powerplay. This kid’s creativity is through the roof. His edgework along the boards to brush off on coming forecheck and simply reset was skillful beyond his years. I do not know if these would work in higher competition either… but his saucer passes went to the moon on some instances, but they were connecting. His hands are dirty navigating through defender’s sticks to put himself in scoring position before polishing off the goal top cheddar. Many things to like in his offensive and grit game. Sky is the limit for Kemell, very exciting winger that should go high with Lambert in next year’s draft.

24 LW, VILLE KOIVUNEN, 5’11, 161, L, DOB 06.13.2003

Koivunen is a skilled winger that played on the top line wing where he is relied upon to create offense. He can drive play or play off the puck and is a dual threat shooting vs passing wise. His forecheck was on point creating havoc for defenders with his quick stick. For a smaller player he is quite strong on his stick and wins a lot of loose puck battles because of it. He was on the top power play unit in the slot where he did a great job crashing the net and creating screens. Some real nice scoring touch in tight due to his quickness. He makes such crisp passes and sees the ice so well he can be an equal dual threat from anywhere. Defensively he is great on the wall as his favorite move is to pull it back and wind up. He is a smooth skater with a deep compact stride. He skates fairly bent over and could improve his stance as he isn’t tall to begin with. But he generates speed at a smooth rate with quick feet. His foot work allows him to deke in one on one situations and evade hits. The way he attacks open ice is perfect for a goal scorer as he hides until the perfect time. He really picks up a lot of energy for the line and does some gritty work as well. Real worker be in the cycle and half wall game. Plays the penalty kill as well because of his IQ and gritty motor. Shift to shift you know what you’re going to get from him. We like him as a skilled future NHL winger that can provide offense without liability. He projects as a top six winger that can play with your top players or down the line up and create offense for others. He might not be far off either, maybe just two seasons, as he seems to play a pro style of game and just needs to add strength.

29 RW, NIKO HUUHTONEN, 6’1, 204, R, DOB 06.26.2003

Huuhtonen is a big bulky right-winger with some nice offensive touch. Niko was in a depth role in Texas and played it well. He is an ugly skater to put it bluntly. He was late on plays due to his skating and it really keeps us from ranking him to high. Offensively he brings a ton to the table which is what may make an NHL team think they could select him and fix his stride. Goes to the net and looks for rebounds. He showed quick hands and some quick mitts to finish in tight. The big right shot winger can play with physicality or skill up and down the line up. He was throwing his weight around and made some nice hits. He is strong on his feet despite the ugly stride. He battles hard in the corners and protects the puck well on the half wall. He excels in half ice situations where the play is slowed down. Off the rush he is dangerous as the high man but very rarely leads the rush in down low. He has a nice shot for a big guy and can pick corners. He does love to shoot it off both feet and has a delayed delivery that seems to fool goalies. He was active on the back check showing his work ethic and grit. He has a quick stick that can intercept passes or break up plays. He was on the second power play unit net front where he was trying to screen the goalie and tip pucks. Defensively he was sound and responsible which was also nice to see. He played a lot less risky than normal and seemed to bear down on his chances to clear the puck. He could be a few years away still as the skating will be a big hurdle for him to overcome. If he does though he could be a steal due to his release and IQ with the puck.

35 LW KALLE VAISANEN, 6’4, 181, R, DOB 01.28.2003

Vaisanen is a spiked cocktail of physicality, unorthodox yet effective stickhandling, and clunky yet somehow effective skating. His speed was not tragic, but he is not going to pull away from most defenders. He’s a man on a mission to get pucks to the net, often lurking in the slot and tossing pucks on goal from almost anywhere. He can pull off some magical dangles to get through some 1-v-1’s, or get by along the boards. His speed was not tragic, but he is not going to pull away from most defenders. We like his creativity and flashy style, and I think he could be a solid project pick taken a little later in the NHL draft.

18 LC, SAMU SALMINEN, 6’2, 186, L, DOB 04.09.2003

Salminen is a reliable two-way center that can provide some offense around the net. He centered the second line in Texas and stood out with his game in both ends. He showed some nice hand eye and net front presence. Smart. Plays the game with a lot of poise and patience. The way he reads the play before jumping into action shows his smart thinking without the puck. He has some solid hands and can stick handle at top speed with ease. A transition threat as he gains speed through the neutral zone but rarely ever attacks one on one. We love the team approach and awareness to wait for line mates but sometimes we would love to see him hold onto the puck and take it himself. Equal parts passing and shooting ability makes him dangerous. He played on the second power play unit net front. He does a good job of getting in front of the goalie and really battling for position to create a screen. Also plays on the penalty kill where he is excellent with his stick. His defensive game is strong, and he can perform under pressure. Plays a two way game NHL teams would love. Could only be a year away due to his commitment to his own end and playing on the right side of the puck.

22 RW, OLIVER KAPANEN, 5’11, 166, R, DOB 07.29.2003

Kapanen is an energetic forward that packs an offensive punch. Started centering the top line and made his impact felt right away. He generated much of the energy this team ran on as his teammates seemed to follow his lead. He has a quick release on his wrist shot and generated had some nice scoring chances. He made most of his impact without the puck on the forecheck as he is a puck hound. Has a quick and long stride that is real pretty to the eye. He can generate a ton of speed once he gets going and it doesn’t take him long, just a few steps. Played on the top power play unit in the slot and net front where he makes his impact battling and creating havoc net front. He has a decent IQ and looks like he is just a bit rambunctious at times. Also played on the penalty kill where he is a pest to deal with and creates offense even down a man. High motor shift to shift and a coaches want in their lineup. Unfortunately, he had a scary fall in an earlier game was taken off on a stretcher. A scary incident as he caught an edge at top speed close to the boards. He was not seriously injured but his tournament was cut short. A skilled offensive center that can play any role you need from him. His offense translates and he is in the NHL in just two or three years due to his compete and motor.

27 RW SAMU TUOMAALA, 5’10, 176, R, DOB 01.08.2003

Tuomaala is a skilled right winger that makes his money playing the off wing. He played on the top line and was excellent all tournament long. Such a lethal shooter with the ability to beat goalies from any distance. No doubt one of the best shots in the draft. Stands out right away for his goal scoring ability but has more to like than his goal scoring prowess. Obviously, the way he rips the one timer on the power play is a huge bonus, but he shows he can dish it as well. Has a decent amount of creativity for a winger. He is a bit undersized in battles and will need to get stronger on his stick. But he enters the battles with speed and brings an effort to the tough areas that help him play bigger than his size may indicate. He is an efficient skater with no wasted movements, and he can carry his speed with the puck. Has the ability to trigger offense off the rush and can transition the puck alone. He has decent food speed but will need to lengthen his stride a little bit. His edge work is much improved from even earlier this season as he is way harder to hit at this point due to his shiftiness. Love how he hides in the weeds until the puck is available but he needs to be more on top of his positioning away from the puck. He did a lot of good things defensively as well which was an area we thought he struggled with in previous views. He is a high IQ player and will need to play a more aggressive role on the forecheck and bring his intensity more consistently. He is a pure goal scorer that NHL teams might jump at drafting earlier than his ranking indicates. He could be a few years out as he will need to learn the defensive responsibility of the NHL as well as improve his strength. Was voted by media to the tournaments all-star team. Tuomaala finished with eleven points in seven games to lead the Finns in scoring.

Contributors to this report included Dan Stewart, Matt Morrison, Alex Taxman, Kai Farenholtz and Jared Brown.
Photo credit IIHF.com

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