Neutral Zone – Men's
In-Depth Amateur Scouting Coverage and Rankings


Finland U20: HPK Hameenlinna (5) vs Kiekko-Espoo (1)

SM-sarja U20 match-up between HPK and Kiekko-Espoo. Neutral Zone focused our attention to first time 2024 NHL draft eligible players.

Kim SaarinenHPKLiigaLG6’4″174Hameenlinna, FIN20062023-2024: B

Game Grade: B+

Comments: Saarinen is a long lanky 6’4′ left catching goaltender with subtle compact movements that allow him to continually to stay square to the puck. Tonight he anticipated all but one royal road passing attempt with the one that he did not anticipate coming on a 5 on 3 with the most dangerous Kiekko player standing to his right on the goal line. Shot attempts that hit his glove stayed in his glove and he did a nice job of directing 6′-10′ shots into the corner away from secondary scoring opportunities. Saarinen showed the strength and balance to fight through net front traffic so he could keep his eyes on the puck. At this point Saarinen has a Neutral Zone ‘B’ grade for the 2024 NHL draft.

Roope VesterinenHPKLiigaLRW5’9″163Hameenlinna, FIN20062023-2024: B

Game Grade: B

Comments: Vesterinen is an undersized left shot forward who played primarily a very responsible 200′ left wing. He showed an upright skating posture with a long stride that finished with a toe snap and an almost oval return path for his glide leg. Offensively he handled poor passes into his feet without needing to over handle the puck before making the next play. We also noted that Vesterinen did an excellent job of scanning the ice to locate his teammates and his opponents before the puck was on his stick so he never looked panicked or surprised when the got to his stick. We also liked the awareness he showed on face-offs as he was aware of the situation and knew his job on a loss or a win. Defensively he played with his head on a swivel and seemed to always have his stick in a potential passing lane. On more than one occasion he recognized that his both linemates were forechecking below the goal line in the offensive zone and that his strongside defenseman was pinching. As soon as he recognized the vulnerable position his team was in Vesterinen hustled back to assume being HPK’s defenseman playing the rush. During one first period situation like this he ended up defending a 2 on 1 and was able to get his stick on the backdoor passing attempt to break-up the play. Vesterinen was fixture on both special team’s units as he was the bumper on the power play (6:48 time on ice) earning a secondary assist and his attention to detail & willingness to play in straight lines earned him third unit pairing on the penalty killing unit (2:06 time on ice). He finished with 2 grade ‘A’ scoring opportunities with both coming on quick transition 2 on 1s. On the first he was carrying the puck down his off-wing and when he noticed that he had carried the puck too far past the face-off dot he fired a 6′ backhand towards the five hole that led to a rebound for his teammate. On the second 2 on 1 Vesterinen was coming down his off-wing and opened up for a one-timer. The pass was behind him and he slammed on the breaks reaching back to fire a sweeping wrister towards the five-hole. On both plays we liked the awareness he showed to fire low shots that could potentially generate secondary scoring opportunities rather than ripping momentum killing bullets wide. Vesterinen currently has a ‘B’ Neutral Zone 2024 NHL draft grade.

Valtteri ViitaluomaHPK U20U20 SMLC6’0″172Helsinki, FIN2006Not yet rate

Game Grade: C

Comments: Viitaluoma is a strong powerful left shot center who contributed to both special team’s units while playing forth line 5 on 5 minutes for HPK. As a forth line center who killed penalties he was used on defensive zone face-offs and went 1/3 on those opportunities. He showed an upright skating posture and was a little bit stiff through his hips but he did show good straight line speed and very high compete. At this point Viitaluoma does not have a Neutral Zone 2024 NHL draft grade.

Oliver KopiloffHPK U20U20 SMLLW5’10”161Espoo, FIN20062023-2024: C

Game Grade: A-

Comments: Kopiloff is a quick footed slight agile left shot forward who played primarily right wing during 5 on 5 play. He is light on his feet almost bouncing from stride to stride looking to help defensively or jump into the play offensively. No matter what the situation he was always moving looking to provide support for his teammates. During 5 on 5 play he was always darting in and out of dangerous ice or sprinting into the quiet areas in the offensive zone. There were times when he got bounced around or pushed out of his ice due to being so light but in our opinion he was trying to use his body to make the right play and this is a positive trait that can not be ignored on a young player and in fact should be highlighted. On the man advantage he was a major factor as he totaled 6:36 in power play ice time and was a primary slingshot option on HPK’s power play breakout. On the PP he had the free reign to travel all over the offensive zone and we like how he demanded the puck from his teammates. This confidence led to him scoring on a quick release short side snap shot that he fired through a screen. He finished the night with a game high 7 power play shots, plus having another 2 power play shot attempts being blocked at the net front and finished second in the game with 4 grade ‘A’ scoring opportunities. At this point Kopiloff is ‘C’ rated Neutral Zone 2024 draft prospect, but it is easy to see him as a more highly rated prospect once his physical maturity catches up to his mind.

Heikki RuohonenKiekko-Espoo U20U20 SMLLW6’0″192Helsinki, FIN20062023-2024: C

Game Grade: B+

Comments: Ruohonen is a thickly built left shot forward who as a 2006 is an Assistant Captain for Kiekko and played primarily center versus HPK. He showed a shoulder width skating base keeping his shoulders over his knees throughout his stride and throughout contact. He did not show an explosive first step, but he did show explosiveness through contact by reverse hitting opposing defenders and knocking them off their feet. Although he finished the game with zero points the puck seemed to opportunistically follow him around and bounce into his skating lane or even directly onto his stick blade so he could make a play. In a controlled setting of defensive zone coverage he showed the awareness to stay on the defensive side of the battle and did not get himself trapped on the wrong side of the scrum, but once HPK began to cycle and scissor there were too many times that Ruohonen would straighten his legs reaching for the puck. A prime example of this occurred on HPK’s third goal where both of his defensemen were below the goal line and he was the net front presence. When one of his defensemen lost their battle Ruohonen reached for the puck allowing the puck carrier to to gain net side positioning and jam the puck into the crease for an eventual dirty grimy goal. Offensively he had three shots on net and three grade ‘A’ opportunities with the first coming on a nice individual effort in the second period where he came down the right side, faked wide to his backhand and cut hard to the middle for a shot from the middle of the royal road. On all three of his scoring opportunities we would have liked to have seen more urgency after the shot was taken by his using his powerful frame to drive the net, stop on the goalie and create some net front chaos by digging for the rebound. On the night it was very obvious that his coaching staff trusted him as he earned a game high among forwards of 23:26, including 8:30 on the power play and 6:22 while shorthanded. He finished the night -1 with 0 points, 3 shots, 3 grade ‘A’ opportunities, 8/20 on face-offs and had 1 shot blocked. Ruohonen currently has a ‘C’ 2024 NHL draft grade from Neutral Zone.

Matias TorkkiKiekko-Espoo U20U20 SMLLW6’1″176Espoo, FIN2006Not yet rated

Game Grade: C+

Comments: Torkki is a left shot left wing who looks dramatically larger than his listed 5’11’, 150lbs, actually looking closer to 6’1′. Tonight he showed strength as he carried opposing defenders to the net and power as he was able to drive directly through them if they were in the way. He showed above average straight line speed and had a sound outside edge when power turning, but at this point he is still developing his outside edge cross-under to generate speed as well as his first step explosiveness. He earned 9:38 in total ice time, including 0:14 on the power play and 1:43 on the penalty kill. Torkki had 2 grade ‘A’ scoring opportunities with one coming on a cross crease pass for a backdoor opportunity on a 2 on 1 that he failed to hammer home. At this point he does not have a Neutral Zone draft grade.

Tuomas SuoniemiTPS U20U20 SMLC5’11”157Stavanger, NOR20062023-2024: B

Game Grade: B

Comments: Suoniemi is a slightly below average sized slight left shot forward who played left wing. He showed a very smooth long stride with a return leg that landed on his flat edge allowing him to maintain pace with very little effort. There were actually times where he took three or four hard strides and was able to glide past opponents who were attempting to get defensive body positioning on him. Offensively he is very gifted showing a very soft first touch and not needing to stickhandle the puck before making highly skilled play. As a middle drive midway through the first period he smoothly picked up a poor pass into his feet without slowing down by using his right inside edge to kick the puck up to his forehand and then made a backdoor pass through the defender’s triangle to his right wing in the dot-lane. In our opinion he consistently cheated to the offensive side during transition but he used his acceleration to push the pace creating opportunities from himself or his linemates when Kiekko won the the loose puck. As the goal line option he earned a secondary power play assist on a 5 on 3 where he kept things simple by moving the puck quickly to catch the defenders leaning and reaching. On the night he totaled 18:51 in ice time and he led Kiekko in power play ice time with 9:32 time on ice. He did not play on the penalty kill unit. He led the team with 4 shots on goal (2 grade ‘A’) but what we really liked was his willingness to shoot the puck with a purpose. He did not just try to pick the wide top corner, instead he recognized net front traffic, potential flash screens and teammates who were driving the back door so he fired the puck 6”-8′ off the ice to create secondary scoring opportunities. In the long run his defensive details away from the puck will need to improve and in this game his puck watching in the defensive zone led to him being -1 as he never did a shoulder check to notice his defenseman (the goal scorer) crashing backdoor. Overall he is a highly skilled forward who can make plays and create offensive opportunities from all three zones. As such Neutral Zone has him rated as ‘B’ prospect for the 2024 NHL draft and that grade could go much higher with improved play away from the puck.

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