Liiga Update: Prospecting For the Next Finnish Star

Peter Harling



The Finnish Elite League is one the top European leagues. This year was a historic one for Finland as there were three players selected in the top five at the NHL entry draft. Before that night in Buffalo, only five Finnish players had ever been selected within the first five picks of an NHL draft.  Lots of skilled and exciting players have come from Finland in recent years, Alex Barkov, Sami Vatanen,  Patrik Laine, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Sebastian Aho to name a few. In this monthly feature I will try to help you find the next Finnish superstar.


2017 draft eligible Miro Heiskanen, had a great start to the season with two points in five games. Heiskanen received big minutes due to an injury to one of the team’s top pair defenders and he really made the most out the unexpected situation. At the moment he has two goals and three assists in 17 games, while averaging 19:58 a night.

Heiskanen is an elite skater that can generate turn overs and land long tape-to-tape passes consistently. The calm defender has become a fxture in HIFK’s top PP-unit. So far the 17-year-old Heiskanen has been solid playing his first year in the Liiga.



Some scouting services already have Urho Vaakanainen rated as a first-round NHL pick in 2017. In his first 12 games this promising defender has scored a goal and currently has a minus-3 rating. Vaakanainen is averaging 15:26 time one ice.

He is an excellent skater and has the potential to run the power play. He still needs more commitment defensively, but makes smart plays. Vaakanainen is a smooth skater with vision and a good set of skills including skating, passing, shot and vision.

{source} <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Potential first round pick of <a href="">#2017draft</a> Urho Vaakanainen made his first goal of the season today <a href="">#jypliiga</a> <a href="">#liiga</a></p>&mdash; FinnProspects (@FinnProspects) <a href="">November 15, 2016</a></blockquote>

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Otto Koivula was drafted in the 2016 draft by the New York Islanders (4th round, #120 overall). The 18-year-old winger has six goals and 12 points in 20 games, with a minus-6 rating while averaging 15:49 time on ice. Koivula scored twice earlier this season in a game against SaiPa, the opening goal and the game winning goal in overtime. Both goals were scored on the power play.

The area that needs work the most is his skating. The big winger prefers to drive to the net and use his heavy shot to generate chances. Koivula can dangle and handle the puck well and protect it with his big frame and reach. He has high hockey IQ and makes consistently good decisions with the puck. Koivula isn’t known for throwing big hits but he doesn’t shy away from physical play either.


 Niko Salminen


Name Fantasy Upside NHL Certainty
Andrei Buyalsky 4.5 3.5
Ivan Ivan 4.5 7.0
Matthew Stienburg 3.5 6.0
Oskar Olausson 7.5 8.5
Sampo Ranta 6.0 6.5
Tristan Luneau 7.5 8.0
Zachary Nehring 4.5 5.0
Jacob Julien 5.5 5.0
Antti Tuomisto 4.5 6.0
Aku Räty 5.8 5.0