Veeti Miettinen is a 5-foot-9 winger who is eligible for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He is one of the oldest players in his draft class but he put up 42 goals and 73 points in 52 games this season playing in Jr. SM-liiga, the highest level of junior hockey in Finland. He will start his NCAA career at St. Cloud in the fall.
I interviewed Miettinen over the phone in Finnish, transcribed that discussion, and then translated it to English. I hope you enjoy getting to know him a little bit through this Q & A type interview.
Q: Now that corona is on everyone’s mind, I must ask; have you stayed healthy?
A: Yes, I’ve managed to stay healthy. I’ve tried to avoid going to public places.
Q: Have you managed to practice during this time?
A: Of course I can’t get to the ice or to the gym but I’ve managed to do everything else like stick-handling, shooting the puck and jogging normally.
Q: Do you have a place where you can shoot the puck in your backyard?
A: No we don’t. There’s a place next to a nearby ice rink here, we’ve been there to practice shooting.
Q: What have you done to kill time lately?
A: I had my final exams at the start of this but after that, I’ve just hanged around and watched some TV shows.
Q: Is it frustrating to not know when and how the NHL Draft will be held?
A: Of course it’s a frustrating situation. I’m sure it would have been a nice event. But it doesn’t really help to think about it too much when there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ll just live in the moment.
Q: You’re going to NCAA next season. What were the reasons that led to this decision?
A: Of course it’s a high-level league and a new kind of a challenge for me. Additionally, I’ve always been good at school, so I didn’t want to waste that either. While there, I get to go to school and work towards my degree.
Q: Why did you choose St. Cloud State University?
A: They showed interest from the get-go, and they’ve had many players from Espoo. I was able to talk to those people and get a really good picture of the school, so it was an easy decision. And also, their coaches have visited Finland and I’ve been able to talk to them.
Q: How many years are you planning on staying there?
A: Well, we haven’t made any big plans about that. Let’s assume four years for now, and we’ll see what happens, if maybe something happens before that. I’m open to everything at this point.
Q: You had to play junior hockey this past season to maintain NCAA eligibility. Did it frustrate you to play in a league you had sort of played through already?
A: At times it did. But I knew why I was playing there, so I was able to get my thoughts into developing myself and challenging myself with different level of things in games and at practice.
Q: Did it feel like you managed to take advantage of this year in regards to your development?
A: Yes it did. It wasn’t a wasted year at all.
Q: You must have known that playing in the junior league would make it harder to get to the WJC team, and it might hurt your draft stock as well. Was it harder to make and keep your decision because of these things?
A: No, not really. I have another chance to play next year (at the WJC), and the draft number is just a number. It doesn’t define how an individual develops and acts after that.
Q: Was it frustrating that Finland’s under-20 team didn’t seem to even consider players from Jr. SM-liiga?
A: It was frustrating. There were other players as well who should have been on the team and didn’t make it because they played in the junior league. But I think everyone knew they wouldn’t choose anyone from that league.
Q: The Espoo Blues organization went bankrupt last summer and your entire team was moved over to play under Kiekko-Espoo organization. How was the change from player’s perspective?
A: There were no issues during the season. We didn’t really change anything besides jerseys and the team name. You couldn’t even notice much else besides that.
Q: The season before, your team finished second in the league but this past season, your team fell to the lower continuation series. What was the reason for that?
A: I don’t know. Our team was actually quite different compared to the previous season. We just couldn’t play at our best level. We had a lot of weak games, so it was probably just small things like that.
Q: On a personal level, you had a great season. You led your team in scoring by 24 points. What were the things that made it possible?
A: Well, obviously I had experience from this league, so I knew what we were up against. I also had very high goals and expectations for myself this season. And of course when I got to play with my brother, it made things easier.
Q: Last season, you had Roni Hirvonen (2020) as your center, this season it was your younger brother Verner (2021). How was the change and how would you compare the two?
A: They’re both very good players. Things went well with both of them. Hirvonen is a bit more offensive. Verner focuses a bit more on defense but he knows the offensive side as well when needed.
Q: Somehow you only managed to get six penalty minutes throughout the season (in 52 games). How is that even possible when you played big minutes all season long?
A: I’ve never been the type of player who takes a lot of penalties. I’ve always tried to do something else to get to the puck and force a turnover. I’d rather take a few more steps than start poking around. It’s very wearing for the team if you’re constantly down a man killing penalties.
Q: You led the league in points during the qualification series, and if we look at the entire season, you led the league by a wide margin in both goals and points. But this wasn’t enough for individual awards or a spot on the first All-Star team. Did it feel like too much emphasis was put on the upper continuation series?
A: I don’t think it was just a matter of feeling like it, it just was like that. But those are just awards. It would have been nice to win them but they don’t really mean all that much.
Q: In public draft rankings, you’ve been on second and third round in many of them but some rankings have forgotten you entirely. Have you followed them during the season?
A: Not really, I prefer not to see them. After all, they are just someone’s opinion and the draft is where that final number will be given.
Q: How would you describe yourself as a player to someone who has never watched you play?
A: An offensive player who is skilled with the puck, smart, and owns a good shot.
Q: If you had to use a current NHL player as a comparison for yourself, who would it be?
A: I can’t think of anyone similar but I’ve been watching a lot of Mathew Barzal and Brayden Point because they’re not the most physical players. So I’ve been watching them and trying to learn from them.
Q: Which players have been your idols growing up and more recently as well?
A: I’ve been a Sidney Crosby fan ever since I was a kid. Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of Connor McDavid. I don’t know if it’s just because of how great he is or if I can learn from him but I’ve been watching him.
Q: You had a very impressive goal total this season (42 goals in 52 games). Are you more of a goal-scorer or a playmaker?
A: I’m a little bit of both. This season, I managed to score a lot of goals. Maybe it was a tiny thanks for the work that I put into it.
Q: Besides your shot, what are your strengths?
A: I’m a tenacious player who wants to win. Not having enough will to win has never really been an issue for me.
Q: Do you have any clear development areas before getting to the NHL?
A: Obviously these days skating is something that needs to be improved all the time. I also need to gain more power and strength.
Q: What parts of skating in particular need improvement?
A: Skating power and versatility. They’re not at the level that would allow me to play there yet. But in general, all parts of skating.
And that’s all for now, thanks for reading. Remember to follow me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.
Main picture courtesy of Leijonat.fi