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2023 Draft Profile: Lenni Hämeenaho should be available in the 45-70 range for the Canucks
By Faber8 months ago
There are specific prospects that you gravitate to when you dive into some video scouting ahead of the NHL Entry Draft.
One of those players that I’m gravitating to is Lenni Hämeenaho out of the Finnish Liiga.
Hämeenaho is a 6’0″, right-shot winger who can play both sides of the ice, is very good positionally in his own zone and shows tremendous potential to be an offensive creator. He scored 12 goals in Finland’s top league last year and that’s as much as 2022 first-rounder Joakim Kemmell, who many wanted the Vancouver Canucks to select at 15th overall instead of Jonathan Lekkerimäki.
Kemmell played in fewer games this past year but was a surefire first-round pick in the 2022 draft, and he is also noticeably smaller than Hämeenaho. The thing about Hämeenaho is that he is not ranking as a first-round projection on any major scouting site’s rankings.
Let’s get into why we like Hämeenaho, and how we see him be a contributing NHL player in a couple of years.
Top Skill: Finishing and offensive creation
Liiga is a physical league that also has a lot of skill. The league isn’t full of huge open ice hits but the board battles are tough and the battles around the net give players a chance to showcase their finishing ability if they are able to fight for valuable ice around the crease.
Hämeenaho is listed at 6’0″ and he is at least that size. You see a lot of prospects listed at 5’11” who are actually 5’9″ but Hämeenaho’s 6’0″ is the opposite of generous, he appears larger than many of his teammates and there are times where you see him celebrating a goal next to a guy who is listed at 5’11” on the roster and it’s clear that he is multiple inches larger than those players.
We like how Hämeenaho is able to anchor himself around the slot area on the power play but still finds lanes to the net in anticipation of the puck coming his way for a scoring chance. He perfected this last year as a 16-year-old in Finland’s U20 league and for that reason, and others, he played this entire year in Liiga.
Almost all of his goals this past year came from good offensive hockey IQ. Hämeenaho understands that even when there isn’t an obvious incoming scoring chance — good things will come your way if you go to the net with your stick on the ice and give yourself an opportunity to get a shot or deflection off from in tight. Hämeenaho loves to shoot the puck, he attempted 170 in 59 games last season, hitting the target with 102 shots.
Let’s look at a bunch of his goals from this past season in Liiga.
Interesting Skill: Stick-handling and ability to move the puck through the neutral zone
Hämeenaho did a good job of building his confidence in U20 play and gained confidence throughout this past Liiga season. He looked like a different player with the puck on his stick if you watch him in game one compared to game 59 this year.
He’s got a calmness with the puck that you love to see from a teenager in one of the top men’s leagues in the world. Also, you can see what I was talking about when I said he is definitely 6’0″ tall in that last clip’s goal celebration.
You don’t see a lot of flash out of Hämeenaho but he can make advanced dekes when the situation to do so presents itself.
This past year, Hämeenaho averaged 15:33 of ice time in Liiga and on a team that was outscored 150-129, he held a 45.6% control of expected goals.
Skill we Love to See: Defensive IQ
You often see a lot of exciting offensive skills in the top Finnish prospects but Hämeenaho has even more in his toolbelt. We noticed how good of a job he does in his own zone when it comes to taking away passing lanes to his area of the ice. Hämeenaho has good spatial awareness and is constantly scanning the defensive zone for incoming danger. There’s a real commitment to strong play in the defensive zone and that understanding of what is required in the defensive zone is another reason why we can see Hämeenaho being a middle-six winger at the NHL level.
Skill that is Lacking: Powerful skating
As much as we like Hämeenaho, we do see some glaring weaknesses in his game. The biggest is his explosiveness in his stride — it’s likely the reason why he isn’t considered a first-round talent.
He moves well, it’s not like Hämeenaho is slow but he just lacks that breakaway speed that gets you really excited about a prospect. A lot of what we see is just a lack of stride strength. He seems to move well but doesn’t generate the boost on every stride that sets the good skaters apart from the average ones.
Ultimately, we see Hämeenaho being a second-round pick who probably slides outside of the top 50 of the draft. This player could be a target for the Canucks if they were to gain a later second-round pick in the 2023 draft or potentially we see Hämeenaho slide into the third round and that’s where we love him as a pick for the Canucks to take a swing on. You can make a comparison of prospects to the level that Brad Lambert or Aatu Räty is. Hämeenaho outperformed Lambert and Räty’s offensive production in Liiga in their draft year and there are not as many questions/worries in Hämeenaho’s game as there are with Lambert or Räty.
A perfect scenario for the Canucks would be adding this player with the 75th or 89th pick in the draft but we don’t think Hämeenaho will be available by that time. Hämeenaho will probably come over to North America at the conclusion of his 2023-24 Liiga season and join an AHL team for their final stretch of the regular season as well as participate in the AHL playoffs.
We’d love to see him do it with Abbotsford and maybe develop some chemistry while being a linemate with Räty but also see a lot of value in looking for a defenceman if the Canucks are to get themselves in the 45-75 range of the draft by making a trade.
Hämeenaho is a well-rounded prospect who has the potential to be a high-value prospect if he is able to take a step in terms of his skating. He looks the part of an NHL prospect and has shown very well in terms of pro-level production during his draft year.
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