NHL Prospect Profile: Anton Lundell

With the 2020 NHL Draft approaching, Anton Lundell of HIFK continues to establish himself as one of the top prospects eligible for selection. A crafty centre who plays a responsible game, Lundell could be made a top-five pick come the 2020 NHL Draft.

– Anton Lundell –

HIFK (Liiga) | C/LW | 2020 NHL Draft Eligible

Espoo, Finland | 6-foot-1, 185-pounds | October 3rd, 2001

Unquestionably the top Finnish-born prospect eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft, Anton Lundell is a versatile centre-man who can do seemingly everything well each and every time he takes to the ice. With great size, Lundell is a force who is hard to handle in the offensive zone — moreover, he plays a responsible two-way game and can be counted upon to produce or defend regardless of the situation on the ice.

However, at the end of the day Lundell’s calling card is his offensive prowess, as the native of Espoo, Finland features lightning-quick hands, impeccable vision and an extremely high level of on-ice intelligence and awareness. Whether he be attacking on the rush or anchored in front of his opposition’s goal, Lundell has the skill set necessary to excel in multiple situations and, as a result, stands as one of the top prospects eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft.

With this being said, let’s take a more refined look at Lundell’s numerous strengths on the ice.

Strengths:

  • Skating Speed and Acceleration
  • Shot Release and Velocity
  • Offensive Awareness and Intelligence
  • Vision and Playmaking Ability
  • Strength, Stability, and Positioning

The foundation of Lundell’s game — like many great players — is his ability to navigate the ice with both purpose and confidence. When leading an offensive rush, Lundell displays his steady and fluid stride — one which allows him to create and maintain a high-level of speed with little issue. Further, Lundell is remarkably strong on his skates and difficult to knock off of the puck, a reality which allows Lundell to drive puck possession for his team. Since he is so fast, agile, and strong on his skates, Lundell has little issue creating time and space for himself and comes to stand as a lethal offensive threat as a direct result.

If opposing defenders afford Lundell with too much time and space in the attacking zone, he will routinely find an open shooting lane before unleashing his deceptive on goal. Defined by its unique release, Lundell’s shot is extremely difficult for opposing goaltenders to read and often finds the back of the net before they can read it’s direction and speed. However, if pressured, Lundell also features the vision and offensive awareness necessary to fire crisp and creative passes to his fellow teammates in high percentage scoring situations.

Areas of Improvement:

  • First Step Acceleration
  • Offensive Versatility

In terms of areas in need of improvement within Lundell’s game, there aren’t many. So, if we were to nitpick, we’d identify Lundell’s first step acceleration as well as his offensive versatility as two areas that are strong yet could be improved in the years ahead.

While his acceleration is strong, Lundell would do well to become a more explosive skater who can turn around and disorient his defenders in all three zones of the ice. As Lundell continues to mature physically this skill will surely develop, and so too will Lundell’s offensive versatility. In the future, we’d like to see Lundell fully utilize his skating abilities, strength, and instincts to become a player who can drive the puck wide and hard to the goal on the rush — if able to do so, Lundell could stand as a combination of Aleksander Barkov and Sebastian Aho at the NHL-level.

Future Projection:

In short, Lundell is a decisive offensive player who can also play a responsible 200-foot game. Not afraid to park himself in front of his opponent’s and ever creative, it’s rather easy to see why Lundell is skating and producing at the Liiga-level in the season preceding his first NHL Draft. If he can continue to produce offensively at the Liiga-level throughout the 2019-20 season, Lundell will unquestionably be selected within the top-10 overall come the 2020 NHL Draft, if not higher.

In the years ahead, Lundell boasts the skill set and intelligence level necessary to become a first line player at the NHL-level. Lethal offensively and reliable in all three zones of the ice, Lundell has the tools to become a modern-day NHL star.

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NHL Prospect Profile: Anttoni Honka

Anttoni Honka is a potentially potent two-way defenceman who loves to join the rush with regularity. If he can get his defensive game under wraps this year, he has the ability to be one of the top defencemen available in the 2019 NHL Draft.

– Anttoni Honka –

JYP (Liiga) | Right Defence | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Jyväskylä, Finland | October 5, 2000 | 5-foot-10, 170-pounds

Anttoni Honka is a smooth skating, offensive defenceman who lives on the transition game, using a multitude of methods to turn the play from defence to offence. He’s a relatively small defender still, and has lots of room to grow as a result, but the late 2000-born prospect will need to round out his all-around game if he hopes to challenge the top defencemen for the 2019 NHL Draft.

Honka catches the eyes of scouts with an effortless stride and an ability to weave and fly up the ice with the puck. He creates plenty of controlled zone entries each game and prefers to be in the offensive zone. His two goals and nine points in 20 games were the most of any 2019 draft eligible player in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league.

Strengths:

  • Skating
  • Offensive Instincts
  • Transition Game

Considered as an offensive defenceman, Honka has excellent instincts on the attack. He is an effortless skater who has decent top speed and above average agility. He controls the puck very well on the rush and is a strong passer, finding lanes through all kinds of traffic. From the point, Honka can float a wrister on net to produce rebounds and deflections, but he doesn’t own a booming slapshot by any means.

Honka has great potential within his transition game, as he is able to make impressive passes or rush the puck end-to-end. He just needs to improve his sense of when to make which play, but Honka certainly has the capability to be a point-producing, two-way defenceman at the professional level.

Weaknesses:

  • Defensive Reliability

Despite his tremendous offensive potential, Honka still needs to fine-tune his defensive tendencies if he wants to go up against the top defencemen in the 2019 NHL Draft. He can often be found making risky decisions when jumping into the rush, ultimately resulting in odd-man rushes against.

Honka remains a relatively small defender by NHL standards, leaving him outmatched in board battles and rushes against larger opponents. He also struggles to box out forwards in front of his own net. Most worryingly, Honka’s decision-making with the puck in his own end is dicey at times, making a complicated play when a more simple and safe one is available.

Future Potential:

Anttoni Honka forecasts as a potential top-four defenceman at the NHL level. While his skating and offensive talents are tantalizing, he still has a lot of development to incur. Honka needs to play a stronger defensive game with better decision-making. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Honka projects to be a Top-20 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft. If he can round out his defensive game while building on his point totals in Liiga, he may be able to push for Top-10.

NHL Prospect Profile: Kaapo Kakko

Kaapo Kakko boasts a polished skill-set and one which is defined by high-end talent and raw ability with the puck.

– Kaapo Kakko –

TPS (Liiga) | Right Wing | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Turku, Finland | February 13, 2001 | 6-foot-1, 181-pounds

Kaapo Kakko is an elite and dynamic prospect for the 2019 NHL Draft. The 17-year-old winger spent the majority of the 2017-18 season playing for the TPS U20 team, which plays in Jr. A SM-Liiga. He tore the league apart, tallying 25 goals and 55 points over just 38 games. Kakko’s 1.47 points-per-game rank third all-time among U17 prospects playing in the league, behind only Mikael Granlund and Jesse Puljujarvi.

Kakko will likely spend the entire 2018-19 campaign in Liiga where he will be up against stiff competition each night. The greatest point-per-game rate for an NHL Draft eligible prospect in Liiga was 0.93 but, Kakko may be able to push that record.

Strengths:

  • Hockey Sense
  • Skating
  • Puck Handling

Kaapo Kakko is an electric force to watch each night he takes the ice. He is an elusive skater who can use his edges efficiently to maneuver through traffic with ease. He reaches impressive top speeds and has the agility and acceleration to make him dangerous within the first three steps.

Kakko also reads the game extremely well, understanding where his teammates and opponents will be as the play develops. He often utilizes this ability to force turnovers and generate offence. Kakko also possesses a quick set of mitts, and frequently makes his opponents look silly by dangling through tight spaces.

Weaknesses:

  • Defensive Awareness

As a winger, this undoubtedly has less of an impact than it would for a center, but Kakko has room for improvement in his defensive game. As with most 17-year-olds, Kakko’s game revolves around his offensive abilities, but a slight increase in his awareness within his own zone would go a long way to further convincing NHL scouts of his immense value. A few simple adjustments in positioning and stick locations would morph Kakko into an all-around superstar on the ice. As with all top prospects, it takes some serious nit-picking to find a flaw in Kakko’s game.

Future Potential:

Kaapo Kaako projects to be a potent first-line winger and a game-changer in the NHL who could rack up north of 35 goals and 80 points in his prime years. Comparables include Sebastian Aho and Filip Forsberg. Entering the 2018-19 season, Kakko ranks as a top-3 pick for the 2019 NHL Draft.