2015 NHL Draft Profile #53: Julius Nattinen

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TopShelfProspectsJulius Nattinen has long been a member of Finland’s junior national teams, and has been very successful in international hockey.  Last year, he played on the Under 17 team at the January 2014 Under 17 World Hockey Challenge.  This year he has been with the Under 18 squad, playing at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, the five nations, and the IIHF Under 18 World Championships.  Overall, he has put up 11 goals and 31 points in 23 games with the U18 squad, showing dominant offensive ability against his peers. He played a big role in helping Finland to the Silver medal at the IIHF U18s.

In terms of his club hockey, Nattinen plays in the JyP HT Jyvaskyla system. He has played nine games with the big club this year, with three assists to show for it. He has spent more time with their Mestis league club (also a men’s league but the second best division of Finnish Hockey) where he put up 11 goals and 29 points in 39 games. Nattinen was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2014 KHL draft, by Finland’s KHL representative Jokerit. His brother Joonas Nattinen was a 2009 3rd round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens.

Julius Nattinen

Center/Left Wing — shoots Left
Born Jan 14 1997 — Jyväskylä, Finland
Height 6.02 — Weight 191 [188 cm/87 kg]

Julius Nattinen is a a good skater.  His speed and acceleration are at a very good level, and his stride is long and smooth. He’s even shown the ability to go wide on defenders and cut to the net off the rush. Nattinen has good lower body strength, allowing him to fight through checks, win board battles and establish position in front of the net. Nattinen also has the edgework, and agility necessary to slip by defenders and find open spots on the ice.

Julius Nattinen is much more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He really works well in the cycle game. Nattinen protects the puck extremely well using his body to shield defenders, and his stickhandling to keep control of the puck down low.  Nattinen then makes while also being fully capable of driving to the front of the net, and having the soft hands to finish in close. He is extremely hard to knock off the puck. Nattinen makes the smart pass and finds the open man whether it be in keeping the play alive on the cycle or making the pass to a teammate for a scoring chance.  He has shown the ability to drive the puck to the net and the hands to finish in tight spaces. Nattinen does have a decent wrist shot and a good release, but he doesn’t seem to use it often enough.  If there is a criticism of Nattinen’s game it is that he is not always at the same level of offensive intensity.  While he is never going to be a big hitter, he can play a gritty game along the boards, and dig pucks out of corners, as well as fight for position in front of the net. When he does these things, he can dominate a shift and control puck possession for his team.  However there are also times he seems to get away from those physical battles in the offensive zone and looks to play too much of a perimeter game.  If he can learn to keep up the intensity, he could be a real steal in the draft.

Julius Nattinen’s two way game is extremely well-developed for a player his age. He is very good at the little things, such as winning faceoffs, using his long stick to break up passing lanes, and supporting his defence down low.  He shows the ability to work along the boards and win battles in all three zones.  He also is able to contain opponents on the cycle game and is willing to put his body on the line to block shots. While there were some criticisms of his intensity in the offensive zone, Nattinen doesn’t take shifts off in the defensive end of the ice.

Julius Nattinen has the potential to be a very valuable two-way centre in the NHL.  If he develops to his full potential he can be a top six centre who provides offence and is also tasked with killing penalties and playing against the other team’s top line. At his best, his style is reminiscent of Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild, but this is a playing style comparison and not one based on talent.

Below are some highlights of Nattinen in action.

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