Welcome back to Top Shelf 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 2021 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 bring you our Aleksi Malinen Scouting Report.
Aleksi Malinen spent this season playing against men in Finland’s top hockey league, the SM Liiga. While playing for one of the weaker teams in the league, JYP, he scored just two goals and one assist for three points in 30 games. He also played three playoff games for JYP’s team in the Under-20 league, picking up one assist in the process. Malinen made the Finnish team for the IIHF Under-18 World Championship. He scored one goal in seven games, helping the Finnish team to the semi-finals of the tournament. According to Elite Prospects, Malinen is signed through the end of the 2021-22 season.
In 2019-20 Malinen put up one goal and nine assists for 10 points in 49 games in the Under-20 league. He also played three games in the Under-18 league, picking up two assists in the process. Malinen also played for Team Finland at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge. He didn’t score in five games of the tournament. He also played 14 other games in various exhibitions and European tournaments with the Under-17 squad, picking up two goals and one assist for three points in the process.
Aleksi Malinen Scouting Report
Left Defence — shoots Left
Born May 26th, 2003 — Tuusula, Finland
Height 6’0″ — Weight 185 lbs [183 cm / 84 kg]
Malinen is an excellent skater. His stride is very smooth and generates very good acceleration and top-end speed. Malinen gets up and down the ice quickly. He is a little hesitant to push the offence given that he is a 17-year-old in a men’s league and is playing it safe, but his speed should allow him to pinch at the blueline or join the rush and still get back defensively. He also has good speed while moving backwards. Malinen is mobile in all directions. His edgework and agility are good and allow him to move laterally or change directions effectively. He also has smooth pivots. They help him transition from offence to defence quickly and vice-versa. He could stand to add muscle to his frame though. This would help him to win more battles on the boards as well as in front of the net.
Malinen marries his skating with good puckhandling skills. He is able to avoid forecheckers and get the puck out of the zone, effectively starting the transition game. Given the level he is playing at, he does not rush the puck up the ice often but when he does, he generates effective zone entries. Malinen shows poise and protects the puck well at the blue line. He also has very good vision as Malinen sees the play well and makes smart decisions with the puck. However, he needs to be more consistent with his passing. There are times when he is just a little off and despite making the right read, he can miss the pass, leading to icing or a turnover.
Malinen has a decent shot from the blue line but it is not a howitzer. This is an area of his game that may improve as he gets stronger. He does a good job of opening shooting lanes with his lateral mobility. Malinen could stand to improve his accuracy though. He needs to keep his shot low to give teammates an opportunity for deflections and rebounds. His wrist shot is also decent. He can improve the power on his shot as he adds muscle to his frame. His release is average though.
Malinen is already effective defensively. His skating allows him to maintain good gap control and force opponents to bad shooting areas on the perimeter. He also does a good job of poke-checking the puck away from opponents and creating turnovers. Malinen will take the opportunity to step up in the neutral zone and deny the zone entry entirely. He also uses his active stick to cut down passing lanes. Malinen is well-positioned without the puck and anticipates the opponents’ attacks. The lack of strength can be a liability though as he sometimes gets pushed around in his own end. This is another area where being a teenager playing against men and needing to fill out his frame is an issue.
Projection and Comparison
Malinen has many of the skills needed to develop into a top-four defenceman at the NHL level. However, his game is extremely raw right now. He needs to continue to add muscle to his frame. He can also work on refining some of his offensive skills. There are flashes of ability in his shooting and passing, but they are not at the level of his skating and stickhandling today. Malinen is likely a few years away from reaching his potential. If he does develop though, it would be a real coup for the team that drafts him. Malinen’s game is reminiscent of Ryan Lindgren but this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Aleksi Malinen that are available on youtube as well as Twitter.
— Lassi Alanen (@lassialanen) December 29, 2020
— Lassi Alanen (@lassialanen) February 18, 2021
Just like that, Aleksi Malinen finds twine with a low, seeing-eye shot from the point. #2021NHLDraft.
— Elite Prospects (@eliteprospects) May 1, 2021
Check back later for our latest NHL Draft article.
Aleksi Malinen Scouting Report Main Photo:
A new player report on Aleksi Malinen, who impressed in the U20 playoffs and is one of the most interesting Finns eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft.
— Finnish Jr Hockey (@FINjrhockey) April 1, 2021