It’s time to kick the video work into overdrive.
The NHL draft is less than six weeks away and we want to bring you the best coverage out of any single-team-focused blog in the world.
Let’s get it going.
Today we are looking at two right-shot defencemen out of Finland who the Canucks can target with their third-round pick.
Otto Salin, RD, 5’11”, 192 lbs
Every team wants a 6’3” right-shot defenceman but don’t let Otto Salin’s sub-six-foot height get you down. His physicality doesn’t come up short during game-action. Salin sticks up for his teammates and looks very strong in the corners during his play at the U18s as well as his play in the J20 Finnish league.
Salin has impressed with his strength this season but he showcases his game best with the puck on his stick. He got into six games in Finland’s top-tier league (Liiga) this season. He played an average of 10-14 minutes and looked confident with the puck on his stick. Salin always wants the puck and his beaver taps per 60 are through the roof no matter what level he is playing at.
The main thing that pops off the tape is the volume of shots that Salin takes. Many of his J20 games saw five or more shots a game. This resulted in him being a point-per-game defenceman in the J20 league.
Both his slap shot and wrist shot have some pop to them but he does miss the net on a lot of shots at the top of the power play.
We also like his poise with the puck in his own zone. Salin makes good decisions with breakout passes and thinks ahead with his passing.
When it comes to defensive play, we noticed that Salin has a strength and a weakness.
We like the way that he attacks oncoming forwards at the blue line. He forces a decision before the forward can gain the zone and that created a lot of offsides or early dump-ins before the second forward could get into position to chase the puck.
Salin plays an aggressive defensive game when the puck is between the blue lines and is able to quickly transition from defending to being the fourth attacker during transitional offence.
The parts of his defensive game that we don’t like are the slothful stick during stationary defending and the lack of movement on the penalty kill.
Once the opposition has set up in the offensive zone, Salin looks disengaged when he is around his own net. We’d like to see more movement from his stick to take away multiple passing lanes. He commits to either his forehand or backhand and his opponent can wait for a play to develop in the open area and make a pass through Salin’s zone.
Some higher-level coaching can likely fix this problem and the hope is that he will be able to figure it out by the time he is a consistent Liiga defenceman. If this is a lazy tendency, he will be exposed even more in the Finnish top league.
The second negative in his game is simply just not wanting to engage in the defensive zone. Salin can be physical when he wants to be but there were a lot of times where he just simply gets into a spot on the ice and won’t be aggressively going at his opposition. The attacking forwards often have a lot of time to make a decision with the puck once they are set up in front of Salin. We love the way he attacks incoming forwards between the blue lines but wish there was more aggression once he’s in the defensive zone.
We project Salin to go in the fourth round of the draft. There’s a lot of offensive upside but there’s not an elite skill in his game to get you really excited. There’s value if the Canucks can snag Salin in the fourth or fifth round of the draft.
We’re not the biggest fans of the kid but can recognize some of the talents that have him ranked pretty high on major sourcing sites’ draft boards. To us, he’s ranked too high by FCHockey, TSN and McKeen’s — we project him closer to the EliteProspects ranking at #85.
Rankings provided by EliteProspects.com
Kasper Kulonummi, RD, 6’0”, 174 lbs
Kasper Kulonummi is a Finnish defenceman who we believe is the better of the two profiled in this article.
The active defending in both the neutral zone and near his net is why we are higher on Kulonummi. In a similar way to Salin, Kulonummi aggressively defends the blue line and forces opponents to make a play before they gain the zone.
Stationary defending is where Kulonummi looks like the much better prospect. He has an active stick, a high motor, and shuts down multiple passing lanes as he closes in on attacking forwards. A big reason why we like his stationary defending is his contact evaluation of the ice. Kulonummi is always moving his eyes to look for open spots on the ice and can anticipate a shot coming against and quickly clogs up the shooting area. He blocks shots with regularity and is rarely out of position in his own zone.
There is no laziness in Kulonummi’s game and from what we’ve heard, there is a lot to like about the kid away from the rink. He is a leader who works hard on every shift and was selected to be the assistant captain of Finland’s U18 team for international competitions. Kulonummi played on both special teams units for his J20 team as well as time with Finland’s U18 squad.
The area where we really enjoyed his play was his ability to make good passes under pressure. Whether it is while walking the line or beginning a breakout, Kulonummi uses his skating, vision, and accurate passes to move the puck towards scoring chances.
There’s a lot to like about Kulonummi’s poise with the puck. He is quick to make decisions and his overall awareness of space on the ice helps him in both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice.
Kulonummi is a player we’d like to see the Canucks target in the third round if he is still available. He adds depth to the prospect pool and he seems to be a player who is interested in coming to North America sooner rather than later from what we’ve heard.
We like Kulonummi in the range of 55-70. If the Canucks can scoop up a defenceman with his type of talent in the third round, that would be a boost to what they currently have for defence prospects. In our eyes, an ideal draft has the Canucks using a majority of their picks on defencemen. These two players are examples of mid-rounders who would help fill that quota.
Kulonummi is higher in our internal rankings and could very well be available in the third round, where the Canucks possess the 79th overall pick in the draft (15th pick in the third round).
Rankings provided by EliteProspects
One thing is for sure. No matter if they are Finnish or not, the Canucks need to draft defencemen at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. They need to take swings on defencemen who have skills that project to become NHL players down the road. This draft needs to be step one in fixing the problem that they have in their pipeline.
We will continue to bring scouting reports on prospects that make sense for the Canucks at the 2022 draft. It’s going to be a busy six weeks.
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