Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson 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”! Today we bring you our Kasper Halttunen Scouting Report.
Kasper Halttunen Scouting Report
Kasper Halttunen, born June 7th, 2005, in Helsinki, Finland, is a forward playing within the Finnish ranks. Halttunen stands at 6’3” and 207 pounds, playing primarily on the right wing. The 17-year-old winger played with the HIFK organization this season, splitting between the U20 SM-Sarja (Finnish junior league) and the top men’s league, Liiga. In 27 Liiga games, Halttunen scored just one point (an assist), while he produced 18 goals and 24 total points in 18 U20 games. Most notably, he captained the Finnish U18 World Juniors squad, where he scored six goals and four assists for 10 points in just five games.
With his U20 production, experience in the Liiga against men, plus his international performances, he’s considered by some a first-round prospect. He has been ranked 19th by Recruit Scouting, 25th by Craig Button, 26th by FCHockey, 29th by Bob McKenzie, 30th by Draft Prospects Hockey, 33rd by McKeen’s Hockey, 36th by Daily Faceoff, 37th by Dobber Prospects, 52nd by Smaht Scouting, and 71st by Elite Prospects.
Kasper Halttunen Deep Dive
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born June 7th, 2005 — Helsinki, Finland
Height 6’3″ — Weight 207 lbs [191 cm/94 kg]
The main rankings to look for in the above listing is Bob McKenzie and Craig Button. Not because they’re better than the other rankings; usually the public has pretty large disagreements with some placements. But because they more closely resemble what NHL teams feel. That said, Halttunen is likely to be a late-first. So, why such a large gap from 19th through 71st?
Halttunen is an awkward skater. While his straight line speed is good, he lacks that extra gear to burn past defenders. But that’s not a problem, especially considering his larger frame. His acceleration is also fairly strong, allowing him to reach top speed quickly. That’s due in large part to his long strides, showing good power.
However, outside of his long strides, his skating mechanics are awkward. While he is one of the youngest prospects in a large frame he may not be comfortable in just yet, it’s something that still needs adjustments. That’s especially true when his agility is impacted by those mechanical errors. Again, as he gets used to his growing body, this should work itself out. But he may never truly unlock that next gear, which again is not a problem, due to his size.
When it comes to his offensive game, Halttunen is a shoot-first player through and through. That’s not surprising when looking at his goal-per-game rate at the U20 level and at the World Juniors. His shot is very strong, and is generally pretty accurate. Add to the fact that he has good off-puck abilities, finding soft spots in coverage in tight, and the team that drafts him will have added a goal-scorer. If nothing else, he can score goals at will to earn a shot at the NHL.
However, outside of his off-puck abilities and his shot, Halttunen’s impact is limited. While he is an accurate passer in his own right, that’s usually due to him making the safe and simple pass. He hardly ever makes passes into the slot or attempts cross ice passes to stretch out the defence. Perhaps even worse, he often turns a blind eye towards such passes, instead opting to shoot. For Halttunen to be effective at the NHL level, he needs to establish a little bit of a passing ability. Otherwise, he’ll be fairly easy to defend once his size no longer becomes a factor at the NHL level, against guys like Victor Hedman, Radko Gudas, and Brandon Carlo, among many others.
Kasper Halttunen’s Transitional Abilities
Probably one of the biggest reasons behind why some are low on Halttunen is his transitional game, or lack thereof. Yes, he played against men in the Finnish professional ranks, as a 17-year-old. It’s hard to truly carve out much of a role in regards to being a puck transporter. However, when he was given a chance to create entries or even exits, he wasn’t efficient.
While he did struggle transitionally, that’s not to say he cannot become much better. His size and solid skating, where he will grow more and become faster, respectively, plus more experience and confidence, will do wonders. Adding more responsibility onto his plate moving forward in this department will likely see growing pains, but is necessary. Halttunen may not have the best hands, but he can make some things happen with them. He needs more confidence, and that might be the key to unlock his puck-moving ability.
Halttunen’s Defensive Zone Play
Defensively, Halttunen utilizes his large frame effectively. That was especially noticeable against players his own age. Halttunen has a very strong work rate on the ice, and generally has solid positioning. While his ability to read the play away from the puck defensively isn’t as good as his ability to read offensively, his willingness to battle and use his frame generally keeps him from being caught in a bad spot. It’s tough to call out bad positioning when he hounds the puck when it gets close.
If there’s any main concern, it’s his agility and lack of an active stick. He has a long reach, but doesn’t always use it effectively. Additionally, he can struggle to keep up with a faster pace, especially if the puck changes directions. Working on that skating and using his stick more would take him to another level in regards to his defending.
Kasper Halttunen’s Potential
Halttunen is an interesting player to project. If he can add a second dimension to his offensive game in the form of a better passing ability, plus his skating improves a touch, he has the makings of a future middle-six scoring winger. However, if his offence remains one-dimensional, Halttunen likely winds up as a solid bottom-six forward. That said, he is a safer projection than most; it all comes down to his puck-moving and offensive abilities.
Halttunen having a high work rate, willing to use his body, and having a strong shot with a knack for scoring goals to boot. Several players come to mind. Josh Anderson is one name that has been floated out there for Halttunen, but he isn’t quite as physically involved. Instead, another two names come to mind; Anders Lee and Morgan Geekie. Based only on playing styles and not as a projection of skills, Lee, Geekie and Halttunen are fairly comparable.
Lee is a more complete offensive player, and was a better skater back when he was drafted than Halttunen currently is. However, he plays a hard-nosed style with a big frame that allows him to power his way into chances rather than stickhandle and dazzle. His shot is also very heavy. Same can be said about Geekie, who was not the best skater coming into the draft, but developed enough to become an NHL mainstay recently. If things go very well for Halttunen, he could play a Lee-esque role. If not, he may have to carve a role out similar to the way Geekie has.
Raw stats via Elite Prospects
Main Photo: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports