Topi Niemelä

2020 NHL Draft
Photo courtesy of Liiga.fi

Fantasy Summary

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.


Attributes
Fantasy Upside 6.5
NHL Certainty 8.0
Country FIN
Position D
Roster Type Draft Eligible
Shoot/Glove Right
Date of Birth March 25, 2002
Height 6‘0”
Weight 163 lbs
Drafted No

Observations

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


Stats

 Season Team League GP G A TP PIM      Playoffs GP G A TP PIM 
 2016-2017 Kärpät U16 Jr. C SM-sarja Q 1 0 0 0 0 |          
  Kärpät U16 Jr. C SM-sarja 2 2 4 6 0 |          
 2017-2018 Kärpät U16 Jr. C SM-sarja 4 6 6 12 0 | Playoffs 4 2 3 5
  Kärpät U18 Jr. B SM-sarja 36 2 7 9 36 | Playoffs 1 0 0 0
  Finland U16 (all) International-Jr 11 2 8 10 10 |          
 2018-2019 Kärpät U18 Jr. B SM-sarja 6 1 5 6 18 | Playoffs 1 0 1 1
  Kärpät U20 Jr. A SM-liiga 39 1 7 8 16 | Playoffs 11 1 3 4
  Finland U17 WHC-17 6 0 1 1 2 |          
  Finland U17 (all) International-Jr 12 0 3 3 4 |          
  Finland U18 WJC-18 5 1 0 1 0 |          
  Finland U18 (all) International-Jr 16 2 3 5 18 |          
 2019-2020 Finland U18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup 3 0 3 3 0 |          
  Kärpät Champions HL 4 0 2 2 2 |          
  Kärpät Liiga 32 1 5 6 6 |          
  Finland U20 (all) International-Jr - - - - - |          

Highlights