17-year-old Finnish defenseman Eemil Viro is an interesting prospect for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He has average size (6’0”, 168 lbs) and he hasn’t produced a ton of points in the junior league but he’s already played a few games against men at the Liiga level. Some rankings even have him as a first round pick but our own ranking has him as a third/fourth round pick.
I interviewed Viro after his fourth Liiga game on November 15th – the game where he got his first Liiga point. His team TPS won the game against KalPa 4-2. Viro was listed on TPS’ top pair but he actually played on their third pair. Because there were a lot of penalties in the game and Viro doesn’t play on special teams – which is very common for players his age at the pro level – his ice time was pretty low at just 8:34. But regardless of that, he was smiling throughout the interview. We talked about the game, his playing style and strengths and weaknesses, the U18 Four Nations tournament and the U18 Worlds. Hopefully you’ll learn something new about him from this interview.
Q: What are your thoughts on today’s game?
A: It was a very important win. We haven’t had too many of those, so it feels really good. We took too many unnecessary penalties, though.
Q: You recorded your first career point in the Liiga today. How did that feel?
A: It felt really good, and especially because we won the game, it felt twice as good.
Q: Walk us through the play where you got the point.
A: My defensive partner passed the puck to me behind the net, and then I passed to the wing and the guys took care of the rest, so all I needed to do was raise my hands up and smile.
Q: You played with a foreign defense partner today. How was the communication between the two of you?
A: It was fine but there’s room for improvement. I’ll sometimes shout some nonsense and he has no idea what I’m talking about and that creates some confusion. But I think it was pretty good and getting better all the time.
Q: I guess you haven’t played much with foreigners in the juniors? Besides Samuel Knazko of course but I don’t think you two have played much together there?
A: No, we haven’t played much together. But the language barrier isn’t such a big deal, we’ll get through it somehow.
Q: How would you describe yourself as a player to someone who has never seen you play?
A: I’m a very good skater and I like to have the puck on my stick a lot. But I can also play a strong defensive game as well. I’m a two-way player.
Q: What are your weaknesses?
A: Over-enthusiasm at times, at least that’s what I think it is.
Q: Let’s dig into your skating a little bit. What parts of it are your strengths and what needs more work?
A: Explosiveness is something I still need to develop, that will help me create more time and space for myself. But in general my skating ability, stride and glide are very good. Skating is my biggest strength.
Q: You played at the U18 Five Nations tournament in Sweden last week. How was it?
A: It was a pretty good tournament. Our team changed a lot from last time, we had a lot of new guys on the team. But I think we had a pretty good tournament. All the new guys got into our system, so I think it went pretty well. But we won two out of four games, so of course there’s room for improvement. We’re always playing to win, so in that sense it wasn’t perfect.
Q: The U18 Worlds will be the main event in the spring. Are you looking forward to it?
A: I’m very much looking forward to it. It’s a good chance to show to a larger audience what I’m capable of. Hopefully it goes well for me and of course the team as well. Our goal is to win gold there.
Q: Will it be a more difficult tournament because it’s played in USA?
A: I think it’s a great place where the tournament is played. The smaller rink brings some challenges but I think the atmosphere will be great in every game and I believe our team will do well there.
Q: Have you had a chance to play in a smaller rink before?
A: Not that much. Only at the U17 World Hockey Challenge.
And that’s all for now, thanks for reading. Feel free to add comments below. Remember to follow me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.
Main picture courtesy of Leijonat.fi