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Prospect Reports from U20 Tournament in Espoo, Finland

Here are player reports from Finnish U20 league tournament which had 10 teams participating. I took in the action on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Espoo. There were a few solid first time NHL Draft eligible prospects who showed promise in my viewings, as well as some older players and even one 15-year-old forward.

98 F Markus Nurmi – TPS U20

Nurmi is a big 6’3 right wing who made his debut in the Finnish Elite League just a few days before the tournament. He has very good puck protection skills that allow him to gain offensive zone time. He made several good plays against Ilves on the second day, including one goal in which he showed nice offensive rhythm to start the attack and an accurate shot to finish. Handles the puck quite well for a big forward, showed confidence in attacks and tight spaces. His skating is adequate at this point, I thought he could in particular improve his speed and balance. Definitely has some intriguing tools.

98 F Juha Jääskä – HIFK U20

Jääskä had a rough game against Ilves, taking two penalties for holding and just not being able to play his best hockey. However, the 6’0 center improved greatly in the third game against SaiPa. Jääskä made several high-end passes and eventually finished the game with two assists. Strong at face-offs and solid on penalty-killing, he showed lots of versatility while having a presence in the offensive zone. He was quite strong on the forecheck. Jääskä is an agile, technically sound skater who plays with high pace. I think he has a chance to be drafted this year in late rounds, he has developed into a pretty complete player since I first saw him in the U16 league.

98 F Joona Koppanen – Ilves U20

Koppanen scored only once during the weekend, but the 6’5 forward showed potential of a very good shutdown center. Displayed really good awareness of his position – managed the center line well and made strong defensive plays using his long reach. Aggressive on the puck carrier and capable of throwing his weight around. Skates fairly effectively for his size, has good balance and decent agility. Mostly didn’t handle the puck for too long but played rather simple, north-south hockey.

00 F Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Ässät U20

The youngest prospect at the tournament, Kotkaniemi didn’t receive a ton of ice-time but nevertheless had some good moments. He was able to get his name on score sheet with one goal and two assists. I really liked his ability to make himself available to defensemen for passes. His passes were regularly on the tape and he was noticeably strong in his decision making. Not an explosive skater, even though pretty mobile and technically smooth with good edge work. Gap control was solid for a winger. Kotkaniemi showed very good hockey sense, work ethic and overall game for his age.

 

Notes on a few other prospects:

98 F Otto Koivula (Ilves) was slightly inconsistent, but he has great size, above-average offensive skills and solid net drive; skating could improve… 96 D Tomi Hiekkavirta (HIFK) is smallish but active offensively, able to rush the puck up the ice and unleash decent shots from the point… 99 F Linus Nyman (Jokerit) was very good in the only game I saw from Jokerit – the skilled, smooth skating left wing showed creativity in attacks… 96 F Mika Huhtasalo (Ässät) showed puck skills, strong speed and had good chemistry with above-mentioned Kotkaniemi… 97 F Julius Mattila (Ilves) is a speedy, skilled center with talent and also some tenacity, plus the late 97 won most of his face-offs… 97 Ville Järvinen (Ilves) is an imposing 6’4 defenseman with excellent physical tools and can move the puck decently well… 97 F Henrik Borgström (HIFK) made some nice plays in the offensive zone by using his quick hands, above-average vision and puck protection skills… 98 F Janne Hämäläinen (HIFK) scored a pair of goals with quick wrist shots and played a gritty game for his size (5’9)…

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Prospect Notes from 2016 World Juniors

97 G Adam Huska (NY Rangers, 2015) – Slovakia

Huska carried plenty of workload in the goal for Slovakia and performed extremely well by making timely saves to keep his team in some of the games. Showed terrific reflexes and lots of competitiveness in the crease, as well as very good quickness to make some terrific secondary saves. At times he had trouble with his rebound control; however, it’s fair to say that Huska was the best player on the Slovakian team.

98 D Olli Juolevi (2016 NHL Draft Eligible) – Finland

Juolevi has already broken the record for most points by a 17-year-old defenseman at the World Juniors, having nine assists through five games. He’s such a strong two-way defenseman that impacts the game in multiple ways. Really excels in the transition game because of his ability to find an opening and move the puck forward. He’s involved offensively and runs the power play with poise, passes are constantly tape-to-tape. Excellent skater with above-average speed and balance. Good stick and gap control. Having seen Juolevi quite a bit last season, his strong tournament is definitely not a surprise, he’s a defenseman that does so many things at a high level. Plays for London of the OHL.

98 F Patrik Laine (2016 NHL Draft Eligible) – Finland

Laine has improved his skating drastically this season, his stride looks more clean and his first steps are much better than last season. Has built excellent chemistry with two other standout forwards Sebastian Aho and Jesse Puljujärvi. Laine’s shot is absolutely deadly, especially wrist shot as he can put a ton of velocity on it. He’s physically strong, very tough to knock off the puck. Laine has some deft hands as well, exhibits plenty of confidence with the puck.

97 F Auston Matthews (2016 NHL Draft Eligible) – USA

Matthews has been improving throughout the tournament and scored three goals in the quarterfinals against the Czech Republic. One of the hardest working players on the ice with high compete level. Has excellent hands in tight, processes the game quickly. Powerful skater who gets around very easily, especially for his age. Displays confident shooting abilities. Very responsible defensively, doesn’t take any shortcuts and brings consistently a strong effort. Plays for Zurich in the Swiss NLA.

98 F Jesse Puljujärvi (2016 NHL Draft Eligible) – Finland

Puljujärvi has had an outstanding tournament. He’s an extremely dynamic player with above-average skating in straight line. He’s got excellent speed when entering the offensive zone and attacks straight-forward to the net. Makes others around him better, plays a very complete game. Dangerous shooter with excellent accuracy, currently having 29.41 shooting percentage. Puljujärvi has been slightly ineffective in the Finnish Elite League this season but I think he’s making a strong case for the first overall pick with his playing at the World Juniors.

Some other prospects who have been notable at the tournament:

98 F Alexander Nylander – The Swedish forward has all kinds of skill and has looked like a TOP-10 prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft, if not TOP-5.

96 G Linus Söderström – Fourth round pick of the New York Islanders has been stellar for Sweden, made 46 saves against Team USA in the second game.

97 D Zach Werenski – The entire defense has been good for Team USA, though Werenski is clearly the leader and provides an offensive element from the back end.

97 F Michael Spacek – The Jets prospect had 19 shots in the tournament, consistently had a positive impact in the three games I saw from Czechs.

96 F Pius Suter – Undrafted Swiss forward scored three goals in their last game against Belarus, is a strong skater. Has a chance to be drafted next June.

97 F Denis Malgin – The Panthers prospect is small but a nice playmaker. Not overly fast but smart and strong on his skates. Scored nine points for the Swiss team.

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Thoughts from Day 1 of the 2016 World Juniors

Here are some of my thoughts on the first day of the World Juniors. I was covering Group B games Switzerland – Sweden and USA – Canada at the Helsinki Ice Hall. Sweden beat Switzerland 8-3 and the Swiss were really undisciplined. William Nylander and Adrian Kempe were injured in the game but fortunately at least Kempe appears to be fine and is expected to play against the USA. USA took a 4-2 win over Canada with two goals late in the third period scored by Louis Belpedio and Auston Matthews.

  • Dmytro Timashov played extremely well for Sweden. He scored two power play goals and the first one was an accurate shot after he kept the play alive in the offensive zone. Alexander Nylander was around the puck a lot and showed very good awareness on the ice. He finished the game with three primary assists. Also, defenseman Adam Ollas Mattsson played very physically and moved the puck with pretty good passes.
  • There were not many players that stood out from the Swiss team. Undrafted forward Tino Kessler did score two goals and also had a breakaway in the early moments of the game. Denis Malgin made a terrific move after entering the offensive zone and eventually Kessler scored on the rebound in the first period. Kessler showed great moves in his second goal on a shorthanded breakaway. Kessler did accidentally tip in Ollas Mattsson’s centering pass late in third period. I thought Kessler and Malgin were the best Swiss forwards. Malgin, a Florida Panthers draft pick, is a center with quickness, vision and solid compete level.
  • Louis Belpedio and Will Borgen played really well on the second pairing for Team USA. Both were rock solid defensively and moved the puck with sound decision making. Belpedio also scored the game-winning goal after the shot got deflected by Canadian defenseman Joe Hicketts. Other than this play, Hicketts was steady, particularly in the defensive zone. The USA forwards who stood out to me most were Auston Matthews, who improved as the game went on, as well as Matthew Tkachuk and Brock BoeserDylan Strome was constantly noticeable and dangerous for Canada and scored the tying goal with a quick wrister in the third period. Ottawa Senators prospect Thomas Chabot moved the puck well on the defense, while forward Mitch Marner started to generate more offense in the third period.
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Player reports from the Finnish U18 league

Here is a look at the Finnish U18 league with reports on players who have impressed at this point of the season. Many of the top players have already been mentioned in previous articles, so I decided to include some ‘new’ names who have emerged the more I’ve watched the U18 level.

99 F Teemu Engberg – HIFK U18

Possesses very good acceleration and quickness. Engberg can handle the puck at high speed and is able to cut to the net after entering the offensive zone. Displays great hands and puck handling ability, plus has started to shoot the puck more. Could be more aggressive and improve his positioning without the puck to become a more complete player. One of my personal favorites at the U18’s with a lot of potential.

99 F Joel Kerkkänen – HIFK U18

Played on the wing last season but has now been playing regularly at center. Kerkkänen is a responsible two-way player who contributes in multiple ways. Makes calculated and smart decisions in the offensive zone. Has made a few very good passes in the final third resulting in goals. He’s more of a set-up man than goal-scorer. Provides puck support all over the ice. Doesn’t posses high-end speed but has a fairly efficient stride considering his 6’0 frame.

99 F Lauri Kulmala – HIFK U18

Tall, fairly skilled left wing could be a very solid prospect with some polishing to his game. Skating has clearly improved since the first viewings of the season, particularly acceleration, turns and stops. Kulmala has some vision and smarts, shows flashes of skill. Could use his 6’2 frame to his advantage more regularly. Scored twice in shootout in one regular season game against Lukko.

00 F Jesse Moilanen – Jokerit U18

A 5’7 forward who can play both wing and center, Moilanen has picked up his game after some adjustment to the U18 league. His quickness allows him to maintain puck possession in the offensive zone as he keeps his feet moving and makes smart decisions. Makes crisp passes that advance the play and is dangerous below the hash marks. He has consistently been the most noticeable player on Jokerit U18 second line and has also received ice-time on penalty killing, so the 2000 is already playing key minutes.

98 F Ville-Valtteri Mustonen – Jokerit U18

Mustonen has been productive on the first line, playing mostly with Jesse Ylönen and Oliver Kiljunen. Plays in all situations and competes hard, plays a gritty game. Drives to the net both with and without the puck and has some finishing touch. The captain of Jokerit U18 is not a flashy player, but he’s fairly quick and plays consistently from game to game. Projects to be a strong U20 player going forward.

98 D Tobias Winberg – Jokerit U18

Winberg is one of the most consistent and reliable defensemen I’ve seen in the league this season. He has good size and reach and looks taller than he’s listed at (6’0). He’s consistent in his own zone and makes a solid first pass showing strong vision. He skates well laterally and does a good job on keeping opponents on the outside. Winberg is extremely effective and can be counted on in key situations. His offensive skills aren’t high-end but he did score two nice goals against KalPa, so it’s possible that there will be some interesting development.

99 F Aleksi Klemetti – KalPa U18

A smaller 5’7 forward, Klemetti showed great separation speed and acceleration in the U16 league last season, simply skating around defensemen through the wing and driving to the net. He has continued to produce and develop at U18’s this season. Has quick hands and passes the puck really well in all three zones. Considering the amount of chances he creates with his speed, he’s also a pretty good finisher. Some additional strength would help him to thrive at the next level.

99 F Oskari Levänen – KooKoo U18

Levänen already played last season in the U18 league as a 15-year-old, posting 27 points in 35 games. He’s been the best forward for KooKoo in the games I’ve been able to see this season. He’s creative and crafty in the offensive zone along with good lateral quickness. He often attempts to put the puck to the net, rather than just cycle the game down low. His four goals this season aren’t exactly mind-boggling, but he’s been active offensively in my viewings.

99 F Ville Heikkala – Kärpät U18

A late 99 who has been a top forward for Kärpät U18 this season, Heikkala is an intelligent center with skill. He’s only 5’5 but he’s always in the right position and in the middle of the action. He’s not afraid to go into corners for puck battles. He is an excellent passer and also very good on the cycle game. Skates very well with the puck and shows a high compete level without it.

99 D Juho Korhonen – Kärpät U18

One of the best puck-moving defensemen in the 1999 age-group in Finland. Korhonen is very good in the transition game, moving the puck with accurate passes. He’s poised with the puck and doesn’t force plays. He has a good first pivot, speed and moves smoothly laterally. Defensively, he displays solid anticipation and positioning, taking away time and space from the opponents before moving the puck quickly forward.

99 D Valtteri Meisaari – Kärpät U18

Meisaari is a big 6’1 defenseman with potential to become a solid player at both ends of the rink. He makes simple, yet effective plays in the defensive zone and has good awareness on the ice. He also possesses a pretty heavy point shot and he’s a good, mobile skater. Could work on his puck skills a little bit, but I really like his steady game.

98 F Jesse Leppikoski – Lukko U18

Leppikoski is a quick skater with offensive skill. Handles the puck well at high speed and is able to make things happen in the offensive zone. Has a deceptive shot with a quick release. Brings decent positioning and anticipation without the puck. Another prospect who has performed well for Lukko is 98 Erkki Laiho. He’s a strong, honest two-way forward who can shoot the puck and has a strong work ethic.

98 F Mark Viitanen – TPS U18

Viitanen has very good size and uses his frame effectively to protect the puck. He’s not the most skilled forward but his work rate is strong, making him consistently involved in the play. Some additional agility and speed would be nice to see, even though he’s a pretty strong skater in straight line. Has an accurate, heavy shot, utilizes his reach and strength to get into scoring areas. Projects to be more of a complementary winger going forward.

As for the goalies, there are a few who have impressed thus far at the U18’s. 99 Lassi Lehtinen (Lukko) has quick reflexes and glove hand along with strong lateral quickness and post to post movement. Another 99 that has been very solid is 6’0 Eetu Mäkiniemi (Jokerit), who’s athletic with some good long-term potential. Niilo Halonen (Jokerit) has played ten games and is the top 98 goalie in the league. He’s quick, calm in the crease and is capable of making athletic saves. Two other 98’s to keep an eye on are Anton Ignatius (HIFK) and Daniel Ketonen (TPS).

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Henrik Borgström – A Hidden Gem for the 2016 NHL Draft

HIFK U20 center Henrik Borgström might be the most underrated Finnish prospect for the 2016 NHL draft. He was passed over in last year’s draft after playing only U18 hockey, though he was one of the top prospects on that HIFK team that reached the finals. A 1997 birthyear, he’s currently playing for the U20 team and has been an impact player on the first line. He has currently 25 points in 15 games, including nine points over the last three games.

Borgström has been a very notable player in each of the six games I have seen from HIFK U20 this season. He’s an entertaining player to watch because he can slow the game down and will make plays that no one could anticipate. Borgström can dangle with the puck even when there are two or three players around him. Has great hands and playmaking skills –  makes timid, heady passes in the final third. Also, he has a good wrist shot with a quick release. It’s difficult to defend against him because he can and will also shoot the puck. He’s a quick thinker and anticipates a lot of plays.

An area where he could improve is his physical game. He isn’t a particularly physical player but relies more on his stick and positioning. At times Borgström tries to do too much which can result in some mistakes, but in general he’s efficient and his skill level is much higher than many other U20 players. He’s a good skater as he gets where he needs to, plus his separation speed is impressive. He’s tall but could add some more muscle over the next years, meaning that he could become even more dominant.

At the moment I believe Borgström has a chance to be drafted in the late rounds of 2016 NHL Draft. I prefer him over some first-time Finnish draft eligibles as I think he is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential.

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Notes on Undrafted Finnish Prospects, November 2015

Here are notes on undrafted Finnish prospects who have been impressive in recent viewings. As the season goes on, more players will be added as there are some good 1999 and 2000’s with only limited viewings thus far.

99 RW Lauri Pajuniemi – TPS U18

I wrote the following piece about Pajuniemi in September: A 99 right-handed winger with evident upside, Pajuniemi protects the puck well and is versatile. He can not only make quick one-touch passes, but also keep the puck on his stick to gain extra time in the offensive zone. Makes crisp passes, uses the point on power play at the right times. Has grown to 5’10 but that hasn’t affected his strong skating much. Pajuniemi is leading the U18 league in scoring with 15 points (including 13 assists) after six games.

Much hasn’t changed as Pajuniemi leads the U18’s in scoring with 41 points 17 games, eight points more than the next player. His poise with the puck and ability to find open space are very impressive. Really looking like a prospect who will make a smooth transition to the U20 league.

99 RW Aatu Luusuaniemi – Kärpät U18

A good-sized winger with some skill and versatility. Still isn’t the greatest or fastest skater, but has been improving on that. Has a dangerous, heavy shot that he’s not afraid to use. Good stick and displays solid defensive awareness. Willing to play physically and works hard along the boards. Luusuaniemi has 22 points in 16 games for Kärpät U16.

99 LW Kristian Vesalainen – Frölunda U20

Made his pro debut in Frölunda as a 16-year-old. Has excellent size and strength, plus has improved as a playmaker. Plays a straight-forward game, often gets the inside position. He’s strong in puck battles and uses his size effectively along the boards. Has a quick wrist shot and is a strong skater with a long stride and good lateral agility. Had 4-4-8 stats line at World U17 Challenge.

00 C Rasmus Kupari – KooKoo U16

Kupari is a versatile 5’11 center who may not stand out because of flashy offensive skills, but he plays well on both sides of the puck. He’s very solid at face-offs and won’t forget his defensive duties as he’s good on PK as well. Could improve his speed and acceleration to be even more effective. Had one goal and assist in two games against Germany U16 in October.

00 D Jasper Rannisto – HIFK U16

Rannisto has good size and strength at 6’1, 183 lbs, but he’s actually a mobile defenseman with strong footwork and overall mobility. Able to unleash heavy, quick shots from the point. Brings a physical element in the defensive zone and also makes good decisions with the puck. Will be eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft due to October birthdate.

00 RW Samuel Salonen – Jokerit U16

An intriguing prospect with already some very good size (6’3, 190 lbs) and projectable skills. Salonen has a very good, quick release on his wrist shot, and with his good puck skills he can be an assignment for defensemen in the U16 league. An accurate passer with decent skating, he plays a heavy game. Had 21 points in eight qualification games.

00 D Leevi Karjalainen – Jokerit U16

Karjalainen had 11 points in 10 qualification games, most by a Jokerit U16 defenseman. He’s a 5’10 defenseman who can do little bit of everything. He’s a good to above-average skater with nice lateral agility and quickness in all directions. Has displayed strong gap control and a quick stick. Offensively, he can move the puck with crisp long passes and he makes sure he gets pucks to the net.

00 D Niko Antila – Ilves U16

Having seen the defenseman three times this season, Antila has picked his game up lately.  He’s a smaller defenseman at 5’8, but he’s a really good skater with speed and agility. He can use his skating to carry the puck into offensive zone, but he also gets back to his defensive position quickly. Has good hands and moves the puck well.

01 G Matti Fingerroos – HIFK U16

It’s very early on and I haven’t seen all the top 2001 teams yet, but Fingerroos is certainly looking like a goaltender with a lot of potential. Played last season for KJT before moving to HIFK for this season. Has very good reflexes, strong lateral movement and competes very well in the crease. He’s been pretty consistent in my viewings. Has been the number one goalie on HIFK U16 as an underager.

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Five Finnish Prospects to Watch in the World U17 Hockey Challenge

Here is a look at some Finnish prospects who will be playing at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge this year. Eeli Tolvanen (Sioux City, USHL) isn’t included as I haven’t had a chance to see him play this season. Also, I already highlighted forward Kristian Vesalainen in this article.

99 D Miro Heiskanen – HIFK U20

Heiskanen is a defenseman with excellent skating and hockey sense. His lateral agility and edge work are top notch. He handles the puck comfortably and hardly ever makes a bad decision or turns the puck over. He makes long tape-to-tape passes and will also rush the puck up the ice if there’s an opportunity. Heiskanen has an active stick defensively and reads the developing play smartly, anticipating plays and not getting caught out of position.

99 D Urho Vaakanainen – Blues U20

Vaakanainen is a prospect who has been on the radar for many years. He has good puck skills and works well at the point. He does a pretty good job on getting pucks to the net, even from bad angles. Vaakanainen has good size at 6’1, 185 lbs but hasn’t grown much over the last few years, so other prospects have started to catch him up physically. I’ve also been a little bit concerned about his decision making at times, however, his potential remains high and he should be a top defenseman in the tournament.

99 D Henri Jokiharju – Tappara U20

A former standout defenseman with Jokerit U16 and U18 teams, Jokiharju decided to move to Tappara U20. He’s been playing well over 20 minutes lately and has eight points in 16 games. What stands out to me is his passing and hockey sense. He sees passing lanes exceptionally well and can control the pace of the game when he has the puck. Jokiharju is a quick and agile skater with very good lateral mobility. He doesn’t have the ideal size but he’s smart and plays the game the right way.

99 G Lassi Lehtinen – Lukko U18

In my opinion, Lehtinen is the top Finnish goaltender prospect in his age-group at the moment. He’s a very consistent goalie who tracks pucks very well through traffic and displays good rebound control. He has the lateral agility and reflexes to make game-changing saves if required. Lehtinen has already three shutouts this season and is a big reason for Lukko being second in the Finnish U18 league.

99 LW Teemu Engberg – HIFK U18

Engberg is a skilled left wing with some pretty high upside. He has very good hands and can dangle with the puck at high speed. He’s a good, smooth skater with the ability to change directions quickly. He’s creative in one-on-one situations and has showed willingness to drive to the net. However, I think Engberg could use his linemates more effectively at times and also play with more of an edge when he does not have the puck.

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Kristian Vesalainen to make his debut in SHL

Frölunda Indians announced yesterday that Finnish forward Kristian Vesalainen has been called up from the U20 team and will make his debut with the men’s team against Karlskrona. He will start as the 13th forward.

A 1999 birth-year, Vesalainen was also drafted by Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL Futures Draft this year. He’s currently leading the Frölunda U20 team in scoring with five goals and 14 points in 14 games.

He’s a big 6’3 left wing but a very good skater for his size and age. His smooth and efficient stride allows him to generate plenty of speed with the puck. He can drive the net and has good patience with the puck. He’s also capable of making accurate passes showing strong vision. Vesalainen also has the physical tools and is strong in puck battles. He has the potential to be selected in the first rounds of the 2017 NHL Draft.

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Scouting Notes from Finnish junior leagues (9-11 Oct)

Jokerit – Blues U18 (3-6)

Oliver Kinnunen is a world-class skater which jumps at you right away. Very smooth and light on his skates, allowing him to make quick turns and stops in any situation. Very dangerous when attacking laterally. Showed a lot of confidence with the puck. Excellent possession player down low and along the boards but he did also take the puck to the net a couple of times. Made at times some slightly careless passes and also lost the puck once at the offensive blueline, resulting in a two-on-one attack for Jokerit. He will need to add some size and strength to be considered a true NHL prospect. Even though his linemates Oskari Uomala (three goals) and Ottoville Leppänen (three assists) took most of the points, I thought Kinnunen had a very good game too.

Bernard Isiguzo was the best defenseman in the first period, showing very few flaws in his overall game. Made some mistakes as the game went on but I liked his puck skills and hockey sense. Made quick and accurate lead passes for the centers. He was very active offensively by pinching at the right times and jumping very high from the blueline. For a defenseman with a wide base and solid size, he showed strong backwards skating and coordination. Not afraid to use his physical strength as Isiguzo had one big in the early moments of the game. Unleashed high and heavy wristers on power play. Finished the game with one assist.

1998 center Atte Karppinen was particularly good in the first period. He showed some tenacity and intensity by winning battles and having a good stick. He also protected the puck well and had one really good scoring chance, but his wrist shot was denied by Jokerit goalie Erno Gerlander. However, later on he made a few inaccurate passes and the more I watched him, the more I thought he needs to add some quickness to his skating. Blues have a lot of quick skaters and they play a high-paced game in which he struggled a bit in my opinion.

Eero Teräväinen had an inconsistent game on the backend for Jokerit. He was clearly at his best when playing with poise and making those crisp, accurate cross-ice passes. He also kept a few plays alive in the final third. When he tried to carry the puck himself, he couldn’t manage well as he did so at the wrong times and he’s not an explosive skater either. As a result, he had some poor giveaways. He was rather weak defensively and appeared to lack some lower-body strength, especially in the corners. He managed decently well under pressure in the first two periods but all in all, consistency and lack of high-end ability were the two issues for me.

Blues Akatemia – Ilves U16 (0-4)

Niklas Blomberg didn’t score any points but the 2000 Ilves forward was one of the best players on both teams. An opportunistic and decisive shooter with a quick stride and acceleration. Had a few shots on net, displaying a quick wrister with accuracy. Had one excellent shorthanded attempt and made one nice cross-ice pass to start a quick counter attack. Also, had a good stick to break off a couple of plays in the offensive zone. Already has seven goals in as many games and showed offensive talent in this contest.

Ilves defenseman Niko Antila displayed above-average skating, including very smooth and effortless stride. His defensive game wasn’t equally impressive since he was passive and stagnatic certain times. Could have been better on gap control. Decent hands, vision and first pass. There were some occasions when Antila could have used his speed to rush the puck as there was enough space to do so.

Lassi Thomson was the most reliable Ilves defenseman. Solid first pass that rarely missed the target. He ended up with an assist and goal, both being results of heavy slap shots from the point. He showed an average stride and didn’t show any particular standout skill besides that effective shot.

Julius Grönroos is a 6’5 defenseman with some athleticism and physicality. Liked to jump into the play by at times being the first Blues player on the attack after dumping or carrying the puck. On the other hand, he made some poor passes in his own zone. Very raw in his decision making and his reactions were slow at times.

Julius Mäkinen showed an ability to get shots to the net through traffic. He too made some mistakes and struggled defensively a little bit but for a 2001 he was pretty solid. He’s mobile with good lateral agility but must become bigger and stronger going forward.

HIFK – Tappara U20 (3-2)

A 1999 playing in all situations for Tappara, Henri Jokiharju showed lots of potential at both ends. Smooth would be the best adjective to describe him: he’s smooth with the puck and smooth on his skates, thus he can make the game look easy. Made excellent, crisp cross-ice passes and run the power play. Had a few sharp wristers and liked to jump into offense, but was also able to come back defensively thanks to his effective skating. He was the most consistent defenseman on his team and one prospect you’ll be soon hearing more about.

Another 2017 NHL Draft eligible who played for Tappara, Martin Bodak showed potential as well. He wasn’t as flashy as Jokiharju but the Slovakian defenseman did a good job on forcing opponents into corners. He didn’t try to do too much with the puck but he was effective and showed good sense for the game. He a few shots on net, plus one rocket of a slap shot that went high.

Dallas Stars prospect Miro Karjalainen had a very solid game for HIFK. The towering 6’6 defenseman assisted the first goal after rushing the puck up the ice and scored the game-winning goal with an excellent slap shot. He was mean on the boards and his skating looked better than at the end of last season as his movements were much more fluid. He needs a healthy season after missing plenty of games last year.

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Boston College lands commitment from Top 01 Patrick Moynihan

As those who follow the college hockey (and general college sports) recruiting scene know, it has become more and more common for some of the top bantam-aged talents in the country to make college choices and that trend continued tonight as Boston College landed the pre-eminent 2001 forward in the state in Nobles-bound center Patrick Moynihan. The highly skilled, fast-off-the-blocks, cerebral prospect had been generating buzz among college recruiters for over a year. Currently leading the U16 Neponset Valley River Rats in scoring with a 3-8-11 line, Moynihan is the top center on a team playing at what is a very competitive level for players mostly one or two years older than him.

Recent scouting reports:

Great speed, effective hands, great in tight spaces. Smart, effective forechecker with a good stick that takes away lanes, communicates off the puck. His speed affords him a lot of opportunities and his hands can eat up defenders breaking over the offensive blue. Decent size. He is a lot to handle at this level with great instincts of where to be, when to go there, and how. Shoots right.

  • All-Tournament at Mini Chowder Cup: F Patrick Moynihan (Nobles) is the show for the Black Squirrels at 5’9 148. You can tell how talented he is because he sees the ice so well and translates it into success naturally. Picks up speed very efficiently breaking into the zone: most defenders have trouble staying with him because he can change direction on you or snap off a shot. All Tournament selection, with good reason.

We also caught Moynihan at the Yale showcase last weekend as well as earlier in the year with Neponset, at Mini Chowder Cup, and at the STX 68. He adds a lot of offensive punch and playmaking promise to the Eagles pipeline, but still basically has a full two seasons before he’ll even be trying out for the NTDP, so a lot can happen in the time between then and now.

That said, Moynihan’s commitment is big in that BC win a commitment from someone who had a ton of interest, and also because it could swing some more recruiting momentum. Where the last few years have been monopolized by a recruiting frenzy by the Terriers, the Eagles are officially on a tear of their own this fall. Last fall saw the Eagles keeping up with some serious talent at forward in TJ Walsh and Jake Tortora, this year the Eagles have secured commitments from a top-flight goaltender in Spencer Knight (2001), another big, NTDP talent at forward in California native Joey Cassetti, and 2000-born defenseman Adam Samuelsson, son of Ulf and brother of Philip, who spent two years at BC. Earlier, in August, the Eagles swooped in on tall, athletic forward Patrick Giles out of Maryland, who had caught the eye of a lot of scouts and, despite a long, wiry frame for his age showed he can keep up with players from more traditional hockey areas at the World Selects Invite and Select 15s just weeks prior to his commitment. Whether the Eagles decide to focus attention on more 2001-born talents, like east coast natives and Shattuck-St. Mary’s stand-outs Robert Mastrosimone and Braden Doyle, or a 2000 such as recent UNH decommit Joel Farabee, if they continue on this tear, Moynihan’s commitment will have proved to be another in a growing chain of key recruits landed.

 

 

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AYHL UMass Showcase Schedule October 2-4 2015

The Atlantic Youth Hockey League will be hosting a showcase event this weekend at UMass’ Mullins Center. Below is the revised schedule up-to-date as of today, September 29. ‘MULLINS P’ is practice arena, ‘MULLINS M’ is the main sheet.

U18

# DATE DAY TIME RINK LEVEL AWAY at HOME

 

1 10/2/2015 FRI 2:30 PM MULLINS M 18U NJ ROCKETS at MERCER CHIEFS

2 10/2/2015 FRI 4:15 PM MULLINS P 18U WBS/JR. KNIGHTS at JUNIOR TITANS

3 10/2/2015 FRI 4:40 PM MULLINS M 18U JUNIOR FLYERS at LI GULLS

4 10/2/2015 FRI 6:25 PM MULLINS P 18U LITTLE CAPS at LITTLE FLYERS

5 10/2/2015 FRI 6:50 PM MULLINS M 18U TEAM COMCAST at CT WOLF PACK

6 10/2/2015 FRI 8:40 PM MULLINS M 18U VALLEY FORGE at NJ AVALANCHE

7 10/3/2015 SAT 7:45 AM MULLINS P 18U NJ ROCKETS at TEAM COMCAST

8 10/3/2015 SAT 8:00 AM MULLINS M 18U LI GULLS at LITTLE CAPS

9 10/3/2015 SAT 9:25 AM MULLINS P 18U MERCER CHIEFS at LITTLE FLYERS

10 10/3/2015 SAT 11:05 AM MULLINS P 18U CT WOLF PACK at JUNIOR FLYERS

11 10/3/2015 SAT 12:00 PM MULLINS M 18U VALLEY FORGE at JUNIOR TITANS

12 10/3/2015 SAT 12:45 PM MULLINS P 18U NJ AVALANCHE at WBS/JR. KNIGHTS

U16

# DATE DAY TIME RINK LEVEL AWAY at HOME

1 10/3/2015 SAT 1:40 PM MULLINS M 16U NAT JUNIOR TITANS at CT OILERS

2 10/3/2015 SAT 2:25 PM MULLINS P 16U NAT CT WOLF PACK at WBS/JR. KNIGHTS

3 10/3/2015 SAT 3:20 PM MULLINS M 16U NAT NJ ROCKETS at LI GULLS

4 10/3/2015 SAT 4:05 PM MULLINS P 16U NAT NJ COLONIALS at VALLEY FORGE

5 10/3/2015 SAT 5:45 PM MULLINS P 16U NAT NJ AVALANCHE at LITTLE CAPS

6 10/3/2015 SAT 7:25 PM MULLINS P 16U NAT LITTLE FLYERS at NJ DEVILS

7 10/3/2015 SAT 9:05 PM MULLINS P 16U NAT TEAM COMCAST at CT WOLF PACK

8 10/3/2015 SAT 9:15 PM MULLINS M 16U NAT JUNIOR FLYERS at LI ROYALS

9 10/4/2015 SUN 8:00 AM MULLINS M 16U NAT WBS/JR. KNIGHTS at JUNIOR TITANS

10 10/4/2015 SUN 8:30 AM MULLINS P 16U NAT LITTLE CAPS at NJ COLONIALS

11 10/4/2015 SUN 10:10 AM MULLINS M 16U NAT CT OILERS at NJ ROCKETS

12 10/4/2015 SUN 10:40 AM MULLINS P 16U NAT LI ROYALS at TEAM COMCAST

13 10/4/2015 SUN 12:20 PM MULLINS M 16U NAT VALLEY FORGE at NJ AVALANCHE

14 10/4/2015 SUN 12:50 PM MULLINS P 16U NAT NJ DEVILS at JUNIOR FLYERS

15 10/4/2015 SUN 2:30 PM MULLINS M 16U NAT LI GULLS at LITTLE FLYERS

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Finnish U16 league round-up, September 2015

 Group A

CSM lohko 1

Kärpät and JYP are the unbeaten teams in the qualification Group A. Kärpät has allowed just ten goals in five games and is leading with fifteen points; however, JYP has played one game less. Thus the game between these teams on October 11 will be an important one.

Leevi Aaltonen (KalPa) has scored a 7-4-11 stats line in only four games. He’s one of the fewer 2001’s which makes this even more impressive. Henri Nikkanen (JYP), who was Aaltonen’s linemate in Jukurit, has seven points thus far.

Group B

CSM lohko 2

SaiPa and HIFK, who were arguably the favorites to compete for the first place, have started well in Group B. However, KooKoo also has a good age-group with some solid 2000’s and the only loss thus far came against SaiPa. HIFK will play next against KooKoo and SaiPa at home ice.

Center Ville Petman (SaiPa) has had a great start to the season with a 7-7-14 stats line in four games. All in all, SaiPa has six players with at least six points, so there are lots of players that can score. There will be more about HIFK at the end of the article with a few scouting reports.

Group C

CSM lohko 3

TPS is leading the Group C with seventeen points. The most remarkable thing is that the team has scored 56 goals in six games. While the level of the play can be varying between some teams, it’s regardless very impressive. At the moment it looks like GrIFK and Ässät will be competing for the fourth place.

Jani-Petteri Ylikännö, who was one of the top forwards at the U15’s last season, has 20 points after six games. TPS has six players with at least 10 points. One interesting thing to notice is that Blues defenseman Axel Rindell has scored six goals and two of them came against TPS when he played at center.

Group D

CSM lohko 4

Jokerit has been as strong as expected after being second at the U15’s last year. Some of their best 2000’s have played for the U18 team, but there’s lots of depth and quality on the roster. Ilves has also won all four games and the first game between these two teams will be on October 11.

Jokerit left winger Justus Hakulinen has scored 15 points, while his linemates Jonne Brygger and Hannes Hyytiäinen both have eight. While HPK has won only once thus far, forward Sami Lukkari has scored seven goals, including five on power play.

Scouting notes from the viewings this season

00 D Jasper Rannisto (HIFK U16)

Rannisto has good size and plays an intensive, physical game in the defensive zone – he’ll go for a hit any time when there’s a chance. Needs to pick his spots better certain times, however. But he also moves well backwards and skates with a strong stride and coordination for a big defenseman. Moves the puck with accurate passes and makes constantly right decisions on the point. Versatility makes him a good power play quarterback, since he can also put a lot of power behind his slap shot. Needs to improve his consistency on a game-to-game basis, but there’s potential here.

00 D Veikka Kalliokoski (HIFK U16)

Confident and calm with the puck in his own zone, Kalliokoski makes nice long passes and fairly calculated decisions. He hasn’t really joined the rush a whole lot, however. There’s still some room for improvement in his skating and agility in particular, though appears to be 6’2 and does move decently well. He’s got a good reach, pretty active stick and will block some shots. At this point of the season, Kalliokoski hasn’t been quite at Rannisto’s level, who can impact the game in multiple ways. But Kalliokoski has also shown promise and is someone to keep an eye on.

01 F Anton Lundell (HIFK U16)

In our only viewing of the late born ’01 center thus far, Lundell scored two goals and showed nice stick skills in the first one before surprising Kiekko-Vantaa goaltender with an accurate shot. Poised and consistent distributor with the puck, he was highly efficient in his playing. He’s listed at 5’9, which we’d say is quite accurate. Lundell was also strong defensively thanks to a good stick and defensive awareness. His skating, including edge work and overall mobility, was good for his age and size, but it’s more his offensive ability and hockey sense that makes us excited. Just want to see him against some of the top teams in the country.

00 F Lenni Killinen (Blues U16)

A player who has consistently stood out in Blues U16 viewings, Killinen already played in the league last season. Makes advanced decisions with the puck and is very strong along the boards. Killinen can take hits in order to make plays. Has displayed a heavy wrist shot and mentality to shoot the puck. On top of his strong offensive skills, Killinen has shown a strong commitment defensively. Skates with a quite smooth and efficient stride that allows him to get back to the defensive position.

00 D Miika Heiskari (Blues U16)

Heiskari is a terrific skater with excellent agility, speed and four-way mobility. Handles the puck confidently in his own zone and also plays a highly-efficient game at the point. Heiskari’s decision making and poise are two things that stand out. While his shot doesn’t appear to be the strongest one, he certainly picks his spots well. Could play more with more of a physical presence in the defensive zone, even though thanks to his skating and awareness he helds his own pretty well.

Overall, Blues U16 defense is very good thanks to promising 00’s in Heiskari, Noel Pietilä, Tom Grönblom, and Kaapo Kosunen. Pietilä is small but an excellent skater with decent puck skills, while Grönblom has a heavy slap shot and is just very solid in all three zones.

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Yale U16/U18 Jamboree Schedule October 3-4, 2015

Here is the showcase for the big midget event at Yale this October 3-4. We will be covering the event here and on twitter (@OTBPuckWatch). To view the schedule on a smart phone, use horizontal view.

Yale
Date Time U16/U18 Home Away
3-Oct 2:00pm U16 Selects American Northern Cyclones
3:30pm U16 Yale Selects Academy
5:00pm U16 Neponset River Rats Springfield Rifles
6:30pm U18 Yale National Selects Academy
8:00pm U18 Mid Fairfield N.J. Avalanche
9:30pm U18 Neponset River Rats Springfield Rifles
Wesleyan
Date Time U16/U18 Home Away
3-Oct 5:15pm U18 Yale American Northern Cyclones
6:45pm U16 N.H Avalanche Northern Cyclones
8:15pm U18 N.H Avalanche CT Rangers
Yale
4-Oct 8:00am U16 Yale N.H. Avalanche
9:30am U18 Yale American N.H. Avalanche
11:00am U16 Selects Academy Neponset River Rats
12:30pm U18 Selects Academy Neponset River Rats
2:00pm U18 Springfield Rifles Mid Fairfield
3:30pm U18 Yale National Northern Cyclones
Wesleyan
4-Oct 8:30am U16 Springfield Rifles Northern Cyclones
10:00am U18 Northern Cyclones CT Rangers
11:30am
1:00pm U16 N.H Avalanche Springfield Rifles
2:30pm
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