Today we are going to profile the arguably top defenseman of the 2017 draft, Miro Heiskanen. This young defender has put together an impressive 2016-17 season and has seen his stock rise as a result. Let's get to know more about Heiskanen below.
Who is Miro Heiskanen?
According to his EliteProspects profile, Miro Heiskanen is a 6'0, 174 lbs. left handed defenseman from Espoo, Finland that was born on July 18, 1999. He came up through the Espoo Blues youth system before transferring to Helsinki based club, HIFK, for his junior and professional hockey. Let's take a look at the two-way defenders stats below courtesy of EliteProspects.
When looking over these production stats, we can see that he's been solid at every age level he's appeared at, even while being on the younger side of them. He spent time with HIFK's U16 set up from 2013-15, putting up a 0.55 Pts/GP average. With the U18's from 2014-16 he had a 0.64 Pts/GP. Moving on to the U20's for the majority of 2015-16, Heiskanen put up a 0.47 Pts/GP average. His 14 points that season put him 2nd in scoring for U17 defenseman. He spent the 2016-17 season as a regular for HIFK in Liiga, appearing in 37 games with 5 goals, 5 assists, -1, 4 PIM, 5.32 SH%, 2.54 SH/GP, and a 18:59 average ice time per game. Heiskanen led all U18 players in Liiga in goals, assists, and points while also having the 2nd most appearances. He was also a regular in the playoffs for HIFK, appearing in 8 games with no goals, 3 assists, -1, 0 PIM, 14 shots, and an average ice time of 20:30. The fact he produced at this level as a 17 year old and was trusted to play a regular shift is an encouraging sign.
Heiskanen also is familiar with the international stage, having played for Finland's U16, U17, U18, and U20 teams over the years. He won a U18 WJC Gold Medal in 2016 and a U18 WJC Silver Medal in 2017. He was named Best Defenseman for the tournament and to the tournament's All-Star Team. He also earned "Top 3 Player on Team" honors for Finland and led the U18 WJC in +/- (8), most assists (10), and most points by a defensemen (12). A few months earlier, he appeared in the U20 WJC for Finland which is impressive given his age.
Where is Miro Heiskanen Ranked?
Below are the latest rankings that are publicly available from a handful of great sources: NHL Central Scouting, The Draft Analyst, Hockey Prospect, Future Considerations, International Scouting Services, Craig Button, Dobber Prospects, TSN, and Recrutes:
|NHL CSS||Draft Analyst||Hockey Prospect||Future Considerations||ISS||Craig Button||Dobber Prospects||TSN||Recrutes|
This is one of the more unpredictable draft classes in recent history, so it's no surprise to see Heiskanen ranked anywhere from #4 to #11. I find it interesting to see that he jumped up from #13 in TSN's midseason rankings to #4 and from #6 in Central Scouting's midseason rankings to #4. Though for a different viewpoint, Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst, actually dropped Heiskanen from #9 in February to #12 in May. Some out there believe he's the best available defenseman in the draft while others would argue that Cale Makar or Timothy Liljegren deserve that praise.
What Others Say About Miro Heiskanen
Here is a portion of what Future Considerations had to say about Heiskanen from his profile page:
A two-way rearguard that plays with strong mobility, speed and awareness…carries the puck confidently up the ice and into the offensive zone…makes very good passes, finding his teammates quickly and without hesitation in all three zones…takes quick, accurate wrist shots from the point…good foot speed enables him to keep gaps close…keeps his man to the outside…struggles with a lack of strength…displays pretty strong awareness defensively making quick stick checks to interrupt plays and then quickly turning the play back up ice…a minute muncher who shows high level intelligence and decision making…a potential top four blueliner
This report certainly gives the impression that Heiskanen has the potential to turn into a solid NHL defender down the road. I'm encouraged to read that he's capable offensively and defensively and can use his skating, passing, and vision to help the transition in all three zones. He's certainly proven to be a decent defender in a men's league as a 17 year old which is impressive, especially since he lacks some strength as this report mentions. Time is on his side and I'd be optimistic that he'll continue to round out his game while packing on some more muscle.
Next, let's check out to see some of what The Draft Analyst had to say about Heiskanen:
He’s a cerebral puck mover with above-average speed who is rarely caught out of position, and he accumulates shots and chances by aggressively dropping down well below the dots. Heiskanen is a very good outlet passer and plays with poise, but his impeccable positioning, especially on the penalty kill, is just one of the many reasons why he was entrusted with critical situations despite being one of the youngest players in Finland’s top league. Both his wrister and slap shot are hard and accurate. Heiskanen is strong with his footwork — cutbacks, pivots, edges, etc. — and he is capable of outskating a backchecker as he joins a rush. Strong enough to win most of his one-on-one battles, Heiskanen will finish checks or use developing upper-body strength to pin and hold long enough for support to arrive.
Once again there is a lot to like about Heiskanen's game based on this report. He seems to have impressed a lot of scouts with his puck moving abilities, skating, passing, and defensive awareness and positioning. It's interesting to read that he was trusted on the penalty kill as a 17 year old in Liiga play. I also like to read that it seems like his strength is developing nicely.
Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports has Heiskanen ranked #5 for the draft and has this scouting report on the defender, broken down by skating, offensive game, defensive game, and projection and comparison. Since the above reports covered Heiskanen's game well, I'll share what Ben had for a projection:
Heiskanen may never be a huge offensive producer, but he can develop into an excellent two-way defenceman, who can contribute on both the power play and the penalty kill, and play tough match-ups at even strength. He has to continue to refine his game and add mass, but there is a lot of potential here.
I get the vibe that Heiskanen in his prime could be one of those defensemen that doesn't get a lot of attention around the league, but will do a lot of things well to help his team win games. Sort of an unsung hero type of player. While the potential is there for him to turn into a #1, he seems like a solid bet to be an above average top 4 guy that can play in all situations.
Finally, here are some observations from Peter Harling of Dobber Prospects on Heiskanen from back in March:
His offensive ceiling is not too high and he may never quarterback the powerplay but he has good hockey sense, is ahead of his years in his defensive play. Heiskanen needs to add some bulk to his slight frame to be effective in North America but he is already proven at the pro level and may have a shorter path to the NHL than some other draft eligible defencemen.
I cut out parts that praised his skating and puck moving abilities, but Harling's account seems to be in agreement with those posted above. I'd also imagine that if Heiskanen can handle Liiga as a 17 year old, that his road to the NHL should be fast like Harling mentions in his report.
A Little Video
The first video is from YouTube channel, SEER VIDEO. In this video you can really see #41 for HIFK is comfortable moving the puck and moving into open space down in the offensive zone to get quality shots on goal. The highlight package even noted some defensive plays where he used an active stick to frustrate his opponents.
The next video is from YouTube channel, Prospect Videos, and contains highlights from Heiskanen's Liiga season. Once again the two-way, mobile defender puts on a nice show.
An Opinion of Sorts
I think highly of Heiskanen as a prospect and think he has a bright future ahead of him. I mean what's not to like about a two-way defender that has shown he can hold his own in a men's league at the age of 17? Mobile defenders that can read the play and pass the puck are the type of players you need to be successful in today's game. Heiskanen seems to have the potential to turn into a reliable top 4 defensemen that can play in all situations and do it well. He may even have the potential to be a #1 down the road. The tools are certainly there, he just needs to keep getting stronger and rounding out his game. With all that said, there is no way I'd want the Devils to use the top pick on him. Even though he may be the best blueliner in the draft and the Devils really need a prospect like him, I don't see how you could pass up on Patrick or Hischier at #1. That's not a criticism towards Heiskanen but more a compliment to Patrick and Hischier.
What are your thoughts on Heiskanen as a prospect? Do you think he can be an impact defenseman at the NHL level someday? Would you want Ray Shero to shock the hockey world by taking him at #1 or moving back to select him and pick up an other asset? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!