Roope Hintz is a tall Finnish forward hailing from Tampere, Finland. He stands at 6'2" and weighs 183 pounds. He has been described in a relatively positive manner by experts and scouts leading up to this draft, and it shows in the final rankings, where he is ranked the 14th best European skater eligible to be drafted. As for a position, the central scouting rankings have him listed as a left winger, but Elite Prospects bills him as a center/right winger. This could either mean that someone messed up, or it could mean that he is versatile along the front, and can play multiple positions. This would be a huge bonus if it is true. However, if we are to pick a position, left wing would be the safer and more likely choice.
Of course, regardless of position, the New Jersey Devils need forwards who can make plays and put the puck in the net. Hintz is projected to go around round 2; should the Devils take a stab that the big Finnish skater will become a strong NHL player? Let's see what he is all about.
Who is Roope Hintz?
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With the exception of a brief stint in United States junior hockey leagues from 2012-2013, Hintz has spent his career so far playing for the Ilves sports club in Finland. Being as Ilves is located in Tampere as well, Roope has essentially been playing for his home team now for several years.
Looking at the stats, we can notice both positives and negatives. On the positive side, he dominated junior competition. Hintz was at least a point per game player in the Finnish C league, B league, and A league, and dominated for the short amount of time he played here in the U.S. He has also been really good in international play. This past season, he scored 10 points in 20 games for the Finnish U20 team in international junior competition, despite being only 18 years old. That is definitely an accomplishment.
On the other hand, there is also an issue. In terms of point production, Hintz has not performed well against the highest competition in his home country. The top league in Finland is the Liiga. In 49 total games played in the Liiga, Roope has a total of 17 points, good for 0.35 points per game. That is not exactly the stellar production one would hope to see from a potential second round pick. Of course, he played those games as a 17-18 year old against quality opponents who were most likely much older. Nonetheless, however, if he wants to succeed in the NHL, he first needs to be able to shine in lesser leagues like the Liiga, and he has not shown the ability to get on the score sheet often over there.
What Others Have Said About Hintz
Hintz has received generally positive reviews from experts who write about him. Elite Prospects seems to be very high on him, with Curtis Joe writing this:
"A highly intelligent Finn who can play the role of scorer or playmaker; has killer instincts and a keen eye for scoring opportunities. Very high hockey-IQ and has incredible awareness on the ice...his proactivity, recognizing and taking advantage of scoring chances, makes him a valuable teammate and offensive catalyst for whoever he plays with."
This is the best praise on him that I could find pretty much. For the Devils, this is exactly what the team needs. Someone who can be both a scorer and a playmaker, and has that knack for creating, finding, and capitalizing on scoring opportunities. I love the high hockey-IQ bit, as I believe that playmakers need to be acutely aware of where everyone is on the ice and where everyone needs to go/will go. If he indeed becomes what Elite Prospects writes of him, he will have a very successful career indeed.
Over at Hockey Prospectus, they did a mock draft of the first two rounds a couple of months back. They had Roope being selected 51st overall by Dallas. As a follow up, David McKnight explained why he projects Hintz to be taken there, saying:
"Very good skater and possesses a number of offensive tools. Big, intelligent and by all accounts has more than held his own playing in the men's pro league in Finland."
Again, the praise of intelligence is brought up, and I like to see that. This goes along with his "number of offensive tools." These are things that the Devils truly need, and if Hintz has them, then he might be someone worth looking into. McKnight also says that Hintz has held his own playing in the Liiga. This may very well be true, and he has played a large enough quantity of games there to get that indication. He just has not produced much on the score sheet.
One website that does not give him the best praise is Draft Site, where Bill Placzek has Hintz projected to go in the 3rd round, #88 overall to Philadelphia. Here is some of what he had to say about the Finnish forward:
"A lanky wing who is a good skater with good speed and nice acceleration. A good back checker. Displays average hands and his skill projects him to possibly be a bottom six player...More of a perimeter shooter who needs to learn patience and better control of the puck in the attack zone. Is strong in puck pursuit but just not overly aggressive, physical or creative."
Here, it is clear that Placzek is not quite as high on Hintz as the others were. He does mention some positives, like the fact that he plays two-way hockey (again vital if he is to become a Devil). But that is overshadowed by the other comments, such as "average hands," "bottom six player," and "needs to learn patience and better control of the puck." In all honesty, the Devils need their second round picks to develop into top 9 talent, potentially top 6, and if Draft Site believes that Hintz will at best become a bottom 6 forward, then that is not good value in round 2. However, that would of course all be riding on whether or not Placzek's projection turns out to be true.
A Little Video
So being as Roope is not a North American prospect, it is difficult to find English-accessible videos about him. However, I did find one gem. It is Roope's highlights from this year's World Juniors. It is a little under 4 minutes long, and just shows quality plays that Hintz played a part in. Hintz is #22 in the video.
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Again, there are a few other videos out there of him talking, one even in English with what I believe to be Slovak subtitles, but nothing of real substance that I could find. If you happen to look online and see something, please post a link to it in the comments, as I would be interested in seeing more.
After researching Roope, I have mixed feelings about him. There are certainly positives to look at and be excited about. He is an intelligent hockey player with a good hockey sense. This does not always translate into stardom, but I feel that it certainly is a great boon to have if he is to become a key forward on an NHL team. He also has been mentioned as a two-way forward, which is very important for the purposes of the Devils. That fits the type of system that has been employed in New Jersey for decades, and it means that he could fit in more easily from the beginning. And finally, some write that he is an offensive catalyst, acting as both a scorer and playmaker. This is something that the Devils desperately need, and it would make Hintz a valuable commodity on the team.
Despite these positives, however, I am not completely gung ho on him either. The main reason is that despite being called an offensive catalyst by some, he has not produced a whole lot of points in the Liiga. 17 points in 49 games is not a good showing for someone who projects to be an offensive guy. Again, that could all change as he ages, and perhaps in another year or two he could be tearing up the Liiga as he tore up the junior leagues he played in. But he is getting drafted in a month, and it is hard to project whether or not he will make that jump. There is the chance that he does not take that jump, and ends up as a career bottom 6 forward like Draft Site projects.
Therefore, given my hesitant feelings, if I were the Devils I would not be inclined to take Hintz with either pick in the second round. They are too high up there in the round, and I would prefer to see the team take forwards who have shown the ability to score at this point. I might be more inclined to take Hintz if the Devils had a pick near the end of the round, but seeing as both picks are closer to the beginning of the round, I wouldn't pull the trigger.
Of course, if he so happens to drop to the third round, taking him there makes much more sense. Taking a risk on a player who could pan out to be a real good scorer is worth it in the third round. Take him then, and hopefully watch him develop into a true scorer and playmaker (while retaining that two-way ability).
Now that you have heard my opinion, what do you think? Is Hintz someone that the Devils should target in the second round? If so, what about Roope intrigues you, and what makes you want to see him come to New Jersey? If you do not want him to be taken by the Devils, why not? Who would you prefer the team to take in the second round or even the third round? Please leave your comments in the section below, and thanks for reading.