By Dan Stewart

DraftPro evaluators were excited to see the World U17 Hockey Challenge back on the schedule this season after a two-year absence on the hockey calendar due to the pandemic. This U17 event has traditionally been the best place to see all the worlds future talent compete head to head and get a baseline idea of the next couple of NHL drafts potential and depth.

Our Director of Scouting Jared Brown, Head Scout Matt Hnatiuk, and regional evaluators Joely Stockl, Tyler Karoway and Matthew Tucker all took in the games and made evaluations on the next wave of talent that will be in the spotlight for the 2024 and 2025 NHL Drafts.

In the fifth part of this seven-part series we highlight the Bronze medal winning Finnish team and its players, many of whom stood out as potential solid NHLers down the road. 

#1 G, Petteri Rimpinen, Finland U17, 5’11”, 176, L, DOB 04.25.2006

“Petteri is a nice hybrid goaltender who has some excellent traits, and some areas he can work on. He tracks the puck very well and he is able to find pucks that seem to be impossible to see. He follows it really well when it moves side to side and in the first period his tracking and side to side movement really saved the day. He pushes hard to get side to side and occasionally will over commit to the slide and if the puck changes direction, he quickly showed he was able to get back and recover. His rebound control was higher than average but seemed to fade slightly as the game went on. His butterfly is tight to the ice and he seals off the lower portion of the net really well. His arms are a little wider from his body, but he seems able to get them tight just in time. His hands were strong and he could snag pucks with his catcher and deflect them away to safety. One of his greater strengths is his ability to get around to behind the net and set up pucks for his defense. He did this the entire time and was very effecient at playing the puck when he needed to. I feel that Petteri has a chance to be a potential B rated player next season and he has many traits and skills that when developed can be NHL calibre. He needs to continue to be more consistent and stronger through the games he gets to play. I feel he could potentially be a later round pick, if he develops well.” – MH

#7 D, Veeti Vaisanen, Finland U17, 6’0”, 161 L, DOB 02.15.06

“Vaisanen best comparable is Sami Vatanen, a smaller offensive minded defenseman with limited defensive upside. He has moderate skating skills with moderate inline speed and acceleration. As I said his defensive game is his weak point which is because of his smaller stature and strength. He’s unable to knock bigger players off the puck or out of the front of the net. He has gotten good with stick work as he will rely on a poke check or stick lift to cause takeaways. His board work isn’t terrible, but his size will prevent him from being able to win against bigger bodies. His offensive abilities generally make up for his defensive shortcomings as he has great vision and is an excellent passer. He sees the ice clearly; his decision making is fairly solid and he tends to make the smart play. His shot is quicker as he tends to throw it on net more than tee it up, but when he connects on a one-timer it has power behind it. His puck control isn’t the strongest as he is easily knocked off the puck against larger opponents, but will fight for it back immediately instead of back off. His hustle is what is going to get him far, if he is willing to block shots and attempt at defense he’ll get somewhere. His ceiling is a PP2 quarterback, top 4 defense man with offensive upside.” – TK

#8 D, Sebastian Soini, Finland U17, 6’1”, 174, R, DOB 06.10.2006

“Soini had an up and down tournament. He’s got good size and brings a competitive defensive approach to the game. His most stand-out asset appeared to be his physicality and playing rough-and-tough on the opposition. Physically abrasive and was strong at knocking players off balance. His defensive awareness and in-zone coverage was good and would glue himself to his man at times. A concerning spot I noticed was seeing him get walked around off the rush a few times. His skating is average but it didn’t seem like he had any weaknesses in it. Solid active scanning before retrieving pucks. He delivered good first passes to his forwards in his own end or up into the neutral zone for controlled exits. He displayed good breakout ability utilizing his hands to dish the puck off, rarely using his feet to skate the puck out. Under pressure his decision making and play with the puck were shaky. Did not show much offensive creativity. Soini brings more of a defensive presence to the game with strong physical play.” – JB

#3 D, Mitja Jokinen, Finland U17, 5’10”, 152, L, DOB 03.01.2006

“Jokinen struggled to deal with the physicality of the forecheck, but moved the puck well on his breakouts and worked the offensive blueline very well on the PP. He’s a small defenseman but utilizes his feet and passing to move the puck out of his end. Showcased excellent top speed on a rush attempt before driving the net hard off the wing. He’s not afraid of contact. He skates with quick feet and quick strides that get him up to top speed. Good offensive instincts and looking to join the rush with his forwards. His passes were distributed with good accuracy and weight to them. Found his passing got better as the game went on and as he avoided contact more when starting the breakout. Displayed good lateral mobility and handling the puck moving east-west along the blueline while quarterbacking the PP. Effective job at dragging penalty killers to him to open up passing lanes toward his teammates in the faceoff circles. Didn’t impose as an active shooter from the point. A few times he let a slapshot or one-timer go from the point but struggled to get the puck through traffic. Defended the rush well with an active stick and his skating. He gets outmatched in physical battles, in the corners, along the boards, and in front of his net but that’s expected due to his size. Jokinen is an offensive defenseman with good puck moving capabilities.” – JB

#22 RW, Roope Vesterinen, Finland U17, 5’9”, 172, L, DOB 01.12.06

“Vesterinen is Connor Garland type, shorter winger with great hustle, offensive upside, but will be held back by his size. His work ethic is great, he’s not going to let being smaller stop him as he is just like a little Pitbull, running into everything, fighting for pucks and playing to every whistle. His skating is very sharp, he explodes out of his stops, he crosses over with ease and can accelerate quickly. He can get knocked down easier, but jumps right back up and gets back into the play. He might not be the biggest, but he is still going to lay the body on you and get into board battles, being able to win most and absorb hits. He is very skilled with his stick as it’s his best weapon on defense, his poke checking is great and he can steal the puck away and quickly transition. His shot is fairly solid, he’s able to pick corners and can rip home one-timers with power, but accuracy and lacking the ability to hold off longer reaches, bigger bodies will limit his chances. His passing is crisp and is moderately accurate, he can elevate the puck sometimes, but it’s not always going to be on target. His work ethic will be the determining factor in his career, if he doesn’t empty the tank every shift and work on his shot, he won’t go anywhere. Otherwise, his ceiling Is 50 points middle 6 with potential for PP2 and PK2 time.” – TK

#12, RW, Konsta Helenius, Finland U17, 5’11”, 168, R, DOB 05.11.2006

“Helenius is able to use his body effectively to separate himself, and others from the puck. He threw several big hits, despite his smaller frame. He has a body-first attack mindset, and he’s able to generate turnovers with his physicality. He plays a fairly mature game overall, opts to make the safe play, but displays tremendous skill when he is given space with the puck. He has the ability to make moves with the puck around defenders and generate scoring chances. He doesn’t rush the play in transition, and isn’t afraid to turn back and slow down the play off the rush. An area in his game when he can begin to rush his decision making, is when his team has a couple consecutive shifts in the offensive zone. He can get frustrated when his team isn’t able to score. He possesses confidence and patience with the puck most times, and this is when he is most dangerous. The most unique part of his game is his mix of physicality and skill, but he is also a quick skater. Helenius possesses a quick stride and he is able to shelter the puck and keep his feet moving. He isn’t knocked off the puck easily and he always finishes his checks. Helenius is a very mature player for his age, and a lot of his current skills are translatable to the NHL, like his physicality and hard-nosed play. His play style is hard to find at this age, and because of that, I think he can be a reliable pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.” – JS

#20 C, Tuomas Suoniemi, Finland U17, 5’10”, 159, L, DOB 04.16.2006

“Tuomas is a face-off specialist. He seemed to take all of the important draws at both ends of the ice. He seems to be an average skater as far as speed and ability go. He wasn’t lacking in speed and could keep pace, but he definitely didn’t push the pace of the game. He seemed to see the ice well and was able to find himself some space when he needed to. He would get to open ice and move the puck cleanly to a teammate or he would slide into an area where he was able to receive the puck and move play forward. He didn’t seem to shoot much, but he was always around the front of the net when he needed to be. I don’t think Tuomas will be a shooter/scoring forward, but he can be effective when placed in the right area. He wasn’t really physical in his play, but when he took draws against bigger players, he would do a good job at tying them up and not letting them get to the puck cleanly. His strongest area is his faceoff ability. He was able to use his strong/fast hands to quickly whip pucks back to his defenders and set up plays, and he did this in every situation. Defensively Tuomas wasn’t super noticeable, but he did a good job the few times I saw him in his zone. He would help his defenders, primarily in front of his net, and eliminate the opponent’s stick from play if he could. Given his smaller size at 159, Tuomas could use some size to his game. Should he get some weight/height put on him, he will be a force, especially in the faceoff circle. I think Tuomas is going to be a C rated prospect next season. He shows skill sets in certain areas, but not enough to make him really jump out to you otherwise. He seems like a bottom six player who is more of a specialty team’s player.” – MH

#13, RW, Emil Hemming, Finland U17, 6’1, 187, R, DOB 06.27.2006

“This was a standout event for Hemming, he confirmed his potential as a crafty playmaker here. His stick handling ability is what primarily stood out to me, he is able to manipulate defenders with ease. There was one shooting opportunity Hemming had where it did not look like he was going to shoot, and then he quickly made a toe drag to the middle around the defenseman for a curl and drag shot. He possesses great patience with the puck but when he has a clear lane, he doesn’t overthink, he makes the decision quickly. On the power play, he is able to zip the puck around the zone with ease with his offensive zone awareness being at a high level. He sees the ice so well and he makes the players around him better because of this. On the lineup sheet, he is placed on the third line, but he plays 1st power play, and he plays a lot of minutes. Hemming plays with a lot of confidence normally, but he needs to keep a level head, even when the game seems over. Hemming has the potential to be a 1st round draft pick in 2024 as he has been very impressive in the first two games.” – JS

#14 LW, Joonas Paqvalin, Finland U17, 6’1”, 187, L, DOB 08.07.2006

“Paqvalin is a hard working smart left winger with great offensive and defensive upside. He excels in the offensive zone. His great positioning and hockey IQ enable him to always be a passing option for his teammates. He’s also got great silky hands which he uses to confuse defenders and is able to set up his teammates with accurate passing. Though, what really impressed me was his physical play on the forecheck. He is great at using his 6’1” frame to lay a hit and regain possession for his team; he’s a hard working winger that never gives up on the play. Defensively I liked Paqvalin’s game. He’s got a good defensive sense to stay along the boards to cover his point and is always ready to receive a pass and transition the play out of the defensive zone to create a rush. Paqvalin isn’t the best and fastest skater but I feel all of these assets in his game overshadow his weaknesses. I see him being a great resource to NHL teams looking to solidify their winger position as he does provide so many tools.” – MT

#27 RW, Julius Miettinen, Finland U17, 6’3”, 203, L, DOB 01.20.2006

“Miettinen is a kid with excellent size and strength on his skates already. Uses his big frame to protect the puck and is hard to knock off the puck. His speed and ability to move with the play when it gets fast is an area to improve. His footspeed is slow and noticeable when he tries bringing the puck up through the neutral zone. Needs to improve his first few steps and quicken his acceleration. Did a good job at recognizing he was going to get caught through the neutral zone and used his vision to locate a teammate to hit a pass with before a potential turnover. Looked to be a pass-first type of player. Displayed his net front presence and ability to collect rebounds or loose pucks and bury them in tight. Good puck facilitation inside the offensive zone. Worked the goal line with great patience on the PP. His patience helped him slow the game down from the perimeter and find passing lanes to the middle of the ice. Miettinen played his off-wing and did a great job at pivoting and facing the pass on zone exits. He was utilized on both the PP and PK. Miettinen has the size, strength, and passing combo that can make him a playmaking threat from the outside.” – JB

#24 C, Joona Sarrelainen, Finland U17, 5’9″, 172, L, DOB 04.04.2006

“Joona is the type of player who seems to compliment the better players that are on his line. He works his butt off and uses his smooth skating to apply pressure and get pucks into the offensive zone. He doesn’t waste energy with excessive movement, and he seems to have that little extra jump in his step when he needs it. He looked light on his feet and was able to use his edges very well to change direction while maintaining speed. His puck skill I thought was average, but his ability to move the puck to where his teammates were going to be seemed to be what he did best. He would poke, chip or pass the puck with an excellent touch that his linemates could step into and he would follow up and make sure that if they lost it, he would gather it up and get it back to them. One thing he needs to work on is when he goes towards the net, he needs to keep his stick on the ice. He missed out on a few chances at the net front when the puck came to him quickly but his stick was at his waist and it went right by him. His awareness otherwise seems to be high when it comes to play and player movement in the offensive zone. He was able to read where everyone and everything was moving and he would adjust his play to be the guy that was right there to add help or quickly create turnovers and regain possession. He was very competitive and always wanted to gather the puck up and he showed he wasn’t afraid to use his body to get it. A guy who is 5’9″ who isn’t afraid to throw his weight around is nice to see. He carries that chip on his shoulder and just seems to do what is needed to help his team win. Defensively it was hard to really get a lock on him. He was able to help, but often his line was in the offensive zone doing their thing. He did get into passing lanes but there wasn’t a lot of time spend in the d-zone. I feel Joona’s biggest setback will be his size for the type of player he is. He would fit into a bottom six role well with the ability to get pucks to the more skilled players on his line. He uses his body and his skating to get the job done and shows no fear. I think he would be a C rated player next year unless he starts to really put points up. But that doesn’t seem to be his game.” – MH