2022 NHL DRAFT: Finnish Players to Watch
It’s been a couple years since we’ve seen multiple Finnish-born players selected within the first round of the NHL Draft.
It was the 2019 NHL Draft that saw Kaapo Kakko nabbed with the No. 2 pick, quickly joined by defensemen Lassi Thomson and Ville Heinola selected 19th and 20th overall respectively.
The 2022 NHL Draft class could be the correction, with the Finnish contingent — headed by Brad Lambert — looking very strong already.
Here are five OHL prospects to watch this season (in alphabetical order):
Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Liiga)
Joakim Kemell spent most of his DY-1 in JYP’s U20 program, putting up 36 points (22 goals, 14 assists) in 38 games. Kemell even earned a one game call up to play in Liiga for JYP, scoring in that appearance. Already on the radar of scouts headed into the 2022 scouting season, Kemell continued to impress at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he was always trying to make something happen with the puck.
Kemell possesses one of the best shots in this draft class already and is not afraid to use it. He’s got traits of a versatile goal scorer who can find the back of the net in many ways.
“Using his speed, he is able to catch defenders flat footed and cut to the middle of the ice for shot attempts in the high danger area,” FCHockey scout Curtis Schwartzkopf said. “Kemell also has very soft hands and can put a fine touch on his passes, oftentimes using a saucer pass to open a passing lane that has already been taken away.”
Kemell was given the opportunity early on to start out in Liiga for JYP, scoring in his 1st game. While getting sent back down for U20 action is a possibility and would by no means hurt his development, Kemell has the skill set to stay up in Liiga all year.
Kasper Kulonummi, D, Jokerit U20 (U20 SM-sarja)
Kasper Kulonummi is a right-shot defenseman who relies on his confidence with the puck and high end skating ability to make plays. Netting five assists in 19 games for Jokerit U20 in 2020-21, Kulonummi earned a spot on Finland’s roster for the Hlinka tournament where he appeared in six games.
Already showing signs of being a two-way defenseman, Kulonummi can raise his draft stock if he continues to drive play from his own end, a trait that is coveted by NHL teams.
“His comfort with the puck on his stick and ability to create space for himself using his legs and his puckhandling make him dangerous in the offensive zone,” FCHockey scout Austin Broad said. “He has the ability to be a top-four defender if he hits his ceiling.”
Earning an assistant captain role on Jokerit’s U20 squad entering the year, Kulonummi is likely to lead by example and be a key factor in his team’s success this season.
Brad Lambert, C, JYP (Liiga)
Lambert has been billed as a top-three pick in the 2022 draft for a few years, and his dynamic offensive ability continues to keep him in that conversation. In his DY-1 Lambert played a full season in Liiga for JYP, compiling 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 46 games.
Lambert also represented Finland at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship last spring, as well as the World Juniors where he showed off his high-end offensive skills as one of the youngest players for Finland in the winter tournament.
“He has good hands in tight and uses his edgework to create space for others,” FCHockey scout Mat Sheridan said. “In transition, he is able to pick up speed using his crossovers and is not afraid to attack lanes as he heads up the ice.”
Having the ability to control the game with the puck on his stick is what makes Lambert such a special talent, and he figures to remain near the top of draft rankings as the season goes on. Lambert is just getting his season started, once again playing for JYP in Liiga.
Jani Nyman, LW, Ilves U20 (U20 SM-sarja)
A huge winger, Jani Nyman is a strong skater who generates a lot of power in his stride. Nyman scored 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) in 36 games for Ilves U20 team in his DY-1. With a July birthday, Nyman will be one of the younger draft eligibles in 2022, but has the physical maturity of an NHL player, standing 6-foot-3 and 207 pounds.
“His powerful stride and decent straight-line speed work in conjunction with his size to make him an effective forward,” FCHockey scout Joshua Frojelin said. “He is able to forcibly drive to the net from a variety of areas on the ice, as well as jostle for positioning in front of the net to look for a deflection.”
It’s hard not to like a player who is already so physically developed and it certainly gives Nyman an edge at the U20 level.
Starting the season with Ilves U20 program, Nyman already has three points (one goal, two assists) in two games. It will not be surprising to see Nyman get the call up for Liiga action if he continues to produce early on.
Otto Salin, D, HIFK U20 (U20 SM-sarja)
Another right shot defenseman, Otto Salin has the offensive instincts to be an impact player who can drive play on his own. The smooth skating Salin is very mobile and generates speed very easily. When carrying the puck, Salin is very composed and maintains a sense of calmness, rarely forcing a play that isn’t available to him.
Salin represented Finland at the Hlinka this past summer, and scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 19 games for HIFK U20 in 2020-21.
“His wrist shots from the blue line on the second power play unit found their way through most of the time, and his wrist shot is definitely above average for his age,” FCHockey scout Rasmus Tornqvist said. “He was also smart about picking when to join the rush and when to hang back.”
Salin figures to start the season with HIFK U20 where he can contribute at both even strength and the power play. Being on the radar for Finland’s international eyes, it’s not unreasonable for him to get a crack at the World Juniors coming up in a few months.