Very reliable and smart two-way defenseman who will join the rush and get involved offensively. Capable of making above-average plays but isn’t the type of player who will make flashy plays constantly. Reliable defensively already at young age which bodes well for his NHL future.
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November 2019 – Niemelä surprised a lot of people when he started the season with Kärpät’s Liiga team. Last season was his first at the top junior level, and he played a relatively limited role there. The expectation was that Niemelä would play a major role at the junior level and maybe get a game or two at the men’s level – especially because he’s in the Kärpät organization which is known for their crazy amount of depth. But Niemelä forced the issue by playing so well that it was impossible for the Kärpät coaching staff to send him back to junior. Niemelä hasn’t played a big role this season but he’s played almost all the games and been a regular on the third pair even though they usually have seven defensemen on the roster each game. Niemelä has averaged 13:32 per game which is sixth most on the team among defensemen. He has played some shifts on both special teams but hasn’t been a regular on either.
Niemelä’s biggest strength is his hockey smarts. He always knows where he should be and where his teammates are. He understands when he should join the rush and support an attack but he also knows when to hold back to make sure the opposing team doesn’t get a dangerous scoring chance. Niemelä is also a great skater which allows him to play that type of role. He can make above-average plays but isn’t the type of player who will make flashy high-end plays constantly. His hands and shot are good but not elite. His tools are good enough to get involved offensively but he won’t be a huge point-producer.
Niemelä had an impressive performance at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and he is a lock for Team Finland at the U18 Worlds. But there’s a very good chance he gets to play at the U20 World Juniors as well. His stats may not look impressive but it’s important to remember he’s always played way above his age group which has limited his offensive opportunities. Right now, Niemelä is a projected second round pick for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. But as we saw this past summer with Tobias Björnfot, Niemelä could get drafted much higher if a team really likes a player who projects to become a minute-muncher at the NHL level and doesn’t require a whole lot of time before he’s ready to play there. Jokke Nevalainen
|2016-2017||Kärpät U16||U16 SM-sarja Q||1||0||0||0||0||||
|Kärpät U16||U16 SM-sarja||2||2||4||6||0||||
|2017-2018||Kärpät U16||U16 SM-sarja||4||6||6||12||0|||||Playoffs||4||2||3||5||0|
|Kärpät U18||U18 SM-sarja||36||2||7||9||36|||||Playoffs||1||0||0||0||0|
|Finland U16 (all)||International-Jr||11||2||8||10||10||||
|2018-2019||Kärpät U18||U18 SM-sarja||6||1||5||6||18|||||Playoffs||1||0||1||1||0|
|Kärpät U20||U20 SM-sarja||39||1||7||8||16|||||Playoffs||11||1||3||4||2|
|Finland U17 (all)||International-Jr||12||0||3||3||4||||
|Finland U18 (all)||International-Jr||16||2||3||5||18||||
|2019-2020||Finland U18||Hlinka Gretzky Cup||3||0||3||3||0||||
|Kärpät U20||U20 SM-sarja||1||0||1||1||0|||||Playoffs||1||0||0||0||0|
|Finland U18 (all)||International-Jr||9||0||4||4||2||||
|Finland U20 (all)||International-Jr||9||0||4||4||2||||
|2020-2021||Kärpät U20||U20 SM-sarja||3||1||2||3||0||||