Prospect Deep Dive: Ville Heinola

Jokke Nevalainen

2019-03-18

 

Finnish defenseman Ville Heinola is one of the top defenders available for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He may not wow you with speed, a big slap shot or big hits. But his all-around package is very intriguing for the modern NHL. In all likelihood, Bowen Byram will be the first blueliner taken in the draft but Heinola is one of four or five names that can realistically go second.

 

Season review

 

Heinola started his season with Finland’s U18 team at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup where he had two assists in four games. Decent start to a season but probably didn’t raise many eyebrows at the time. After that, he played nine games in Jr. A SM-liiga, the top junior level in Finland, and had nine points in those games. That’s when people really started to notice him.

 

Heinola was quickly promoted to the top level after showing dominance at the junior level. In September and October, Heinola had just one point in 12 Liiga games. But the team clearly saw something special in him because he averaged over 16 minutes per game.

 

Then came November and December, and this is when Heinola truly started to shine. He had five points in 11 games, and his average ice time was close to 20 minutes per game. During that time, Heinola also played at under-20 tournament with Team Finland. Even though he didn’t have any points in the three games there, it became obvious he had earned a lot of rope because he played on their top pair and top power play over some of the more established options.

 

At the end of December, Heinola was selected to represent Finland at the World Juniors. While there, he played on the top pair once again which is remarkable for a 17-year-old. Heinola was arguably Finland’s best player in the game against Slovakia where he scored a goal and added an assist. He was held pointless in the other games he played but earned a lot of praise.