2021 NHL Draft: 5 under-the-radar Finnish players to watch
In a year that Finland could make NHL Draft history, the country also has some hidden gems throughout this class.
While Aatu Raty will likely be atop the Finns draft class, they’ll be sprinkled throughout the first few rounds in this class.
FCHockey’s scouts have started diving into the 2021 NHL Draft class and players are already standing out. Some of these players haven’t garnered the attention that they deserve as of yet, but – they will.
Here are FCHockey’s five under-the-radar Finnish prospects to watch this season:
Ville Koivunen, C/W, Karpat
The Ville Koivunen hype train is already starting to leave the station. The Karpat forward has been a standout for years in Finland, yet his name doesn’t get brought up nearly as much as possible. It will, though.
In 2018-19, the young forward played with Karpat’s U16 squad in the U16 SM-sarja. In 18 games, the forward collected 13 goals, 27 assists, and 40 points in 18 games. Then in seven playoff games, he racked up another six goals, 12 assists, and 18 points. He helped his team to the championship by leading the league in points and being named to the All-Star Team.
Last season, he kept his offensive ways going, this time in the U18 SM-sarja. He played 37 games, scoring a league-leading 27 goals, 44 assists, and 71 points – which also led the league. For his impressive season, he was named the Best Forward, Best Player, and was named to the First All-Star Team.
And yet, Koivunen still flies a bit under-the-radar in this class. Now in the U20 SM-sarja, the prospect is already playing at over a point-per-game pace and will be commanding your attention.
Atte Lehikoinen, D, KalPa
Moving to the backend of the lineup, Atte Lehikoinen is a defenseman that plays a very mature game, proven by receiving the “A” on the KalPa U20 team at just 17 years old. If he’s not on your radar to start the 2020-21 season, he needs to be there.
Last season, the defender played the entire season in the Jr. A SM-liiga for KalPa U20. In 49 games, he scored five goals, 11 assists, and 16 points. Considering he was just 16 years old through the season, that’s an extremely respectable campaign. He also played in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, collecting a goal and an assist in five games.
The season prior, Lehikoinen spent the majority of the season as the alternate captain for Jokipojat U16 in both the U16 SM-sarja and U16 SM-sarja Q – putting up 31 points in each league. He was named the best defender of the U16 SM-sarja.
There’s a very good chance that Lehikoinen could see some time in the Liiga this season, further securing his impressive pre-draft resume.
Eetu Liukas, RW, TPS
If you haven’t heard of Eetu Liukas, you will. The forward has started the 2020-21 season in the Liiga for TPS. He could be sent down to the U20 SM-sarja, but starting the season in Finland’s top league is very promising.
He actually first got a taste of the Liiga last year, with three games under his belt. The rest of the season he played in the Jr. A SM-liiga, collecting 12 goals, 14 assists, and 26 points in 47 games. He also played in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
In 2018-19, Liukas was a point-per-game player in the U18 SM-sarja. Playing with TPS U18, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound forward potted 12 goals, 21 assists, and 33 points in 33 games.
Liukas has the size and knows how to use it, evident by his move up to the Liiga. Especially if he can improve his skating, this is a very intriguing prospect.
Aleksi Malinen, D, JYP
Another prospect that has started the 2020-21 season in the Liiga, Aleksi Malinen is already catching the eyes of scouts with his feet. From his acceleration to his speed, this is a player you won’t want to miss.
He spent the 2019-20 season with JYP U20 of the Jr. A SM-liiga, playing 49 games and scoring once, adding nine assists and 10 points. He also dressed for Team Finland in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, playing five games.
The year prior he played with the U18 squad in the U18 SM-sarja, putting up two goals, 12 assists, and 14 points in 41 games. His hands will need to learn to keep up with his feet, but there’s a lot to like in think young Finn.
Jimi Suomi, D, Jokerit
Finally, we come to Jimi Suomi, or “Jimi Finland.” What this prospect lacks in size (he’s five-foot-nine, 152 pounds), he makes up for it with his skating and his abilities in transition.
Last season, Suomi played for Kiekko-Espoo U20 in the Jr. A SM-liiga. He played 37 games, racking up a goal and 11 assists for 12 points. He also dressed for Team Finland in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, collecting two assists in four games.
In 2018-19, he played with the Blues U16 team, splitting time in the U16 SM-sarja and U16 SM-sarja Q. He had three goals, 11 assists, and 14 points in each league.
The size may see him not rise too high in the draft, but the skill that Suomi possesses will be enough to keep him on a number of team’s radars.