Welcome back to Top Shelf Hockey Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2017 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at Juuso Valimaki.
Juuso Valimaki captained the Finnish team at the 2016 Under 18 World Championships that took home the gold medal. He was also part of the Finnish team at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka tournament, and won a silver medal as an underage defenceman at the 2015 Under 18s. Valmaki played at this year’s World Junior Championships, picking up two goals in six games. Overall, it was a disappointing performance for the Finnish team, but for an underage defenceman Valimaki acquitted himself well.
The 14th overall pick in the 2015 CHL Import Draft, Valimaki is playing on Tri-City in the WHL. He put up 19 goals and 61 points in 60 games this year. He was held to just one assist in the WHL playoffs, as the Americans were overmatched in a four game sweep by the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Juuso Valimaki Scouting Report: 2017 NHL Draft #18
Defense — shoots Left
Born Oct 6 1998 — Nokia, Finland
Height 6’2″ — Weight 201 lbs [188 cm / 91 kg]
Valimaki is an excellent skater. He has very good speed and acceleration in both directions. This allows him to join the rush and get back defensively. His edge work and pivots are also good, allowing him to play his two-way game and transition from offense to defence (and vice-versa) quickly. He also has the lateral agility to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes on the powerplay. Valimaki could be stronger on his skates, but this should come as he increases his lower body strength and muscle mass in the coming years.
Offensively, Valimaki has become more assertive in his second year in the Western Hockey League. He has started to carry the puck and lead the rush more often. However, he is still more likely to start things with a good first pass and getting involved as a trailer. He has an excellent point shot that can be a real weapon on the power play. Valimaki’s slapshot is hard and accurate, and he gets it through to the net. He understands how to keep it low, in order to generate rebounds and tip in opportunities for teammates. Valimaki also has a good wrist shot. It features a quick release. He uses it effectively when pressured at the point, getting the shot off quickly before defenders can shut down shooting lanes.
Valimakie is not the flashiest player, but he does a lot really good things out there. His hockey IQ is very high, and he almost always seems to make the right play with the puck on his stick. He has the poise to control the puck and quarterback the play from the line, as well as the passing skill and vision to find open teammates on the powerplay.
Valimaki plays a simple but effective game in both ends of the rink. Defensively, he is willing to play physical, taking out his man along the boards and clearing the front of the net. However, he does not go chasing big hits, which helps to keep him disciplined in his positioning. He maintains good gap control, and has the agility to keep opponents in front of him. He is tough to beat one-on-one. The ability to read the play, and to anticipate attacks can be improved through continued coaching.
Projection and Comparison
Valimaki has the potential to be a top pairing defender who can play big minutes and be used in all situations, be it PK or PP work. He will need time to continue developing, and to work on polishing up his game. In terms of a stylistic comparison, his game is similar to Matthias Ekholm. This is not a talent based comparison.
The following is a compilation of highlights, assembled from Youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect available on our draft board.