We continue our look today at 2020 NHL Draft Prospects as they pertain to our New Jersey Devils. As said in previous articles, the hope is that the conditional first round choices will be part of Jersey’s draft capital this season, and the team will be able to acquire more young, talented players. One player who could be available, and has some intriguing traits is Finnish prospect Roni Hirvonen.
Who is Roni Hirvonen?
Hirvonen is a center prospect who stands 5’9” and weighs 163 pounds at last check prior to the 2020 Draft. He was born in Espoo, Finland where he came up playing through the Espoo Blues Junior system, despite the parent club folding the season prior (2015-16) to Hirvonen entering (2016-17) their system. He moved up to play for Porin Ässät this past season, posting 5 goals and 11 assists in 52 games. While not eye-popping numbers, do remember that young players tend to earn less ice time than their peers in European leagues until they are more established.
Despite the early season cutoff (Liiga actually cancelled the remainder of their season), Ässät was not playoff bound, meaning that what was seen of Hirvonen this season is essentially what would be known of him anyway. Full stats of his time in the Espoo system, as well as with Ässät can be found on his Elite Prospects profile page.
Where is Roni Hirvonen Ranked?
Hirvonen is an interesting possible choice for NHL teams heading into the draft, as his positioning on draft charts all seem to indicate him being a late first round choice. The positioning varies a bit, but every available ranking (including his NHL.com European skater ranking of 10) puts him roughly in that territory.
McKeen’s Hockey - #25 (Mid-Season)
EliteProspects - #29 (February)
Future Considerations - #21 (March)
With a number of talented forwards in the draft, and the Devils possibly possessing a pick that could be in this area (relative to where the Vancouver Canucks finish) let’s take a look at what makes Hirvonen stand out from his peers.
What Others Say About Roni Hirvonen
Today we start with an analysis from Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst, who has Hirvonen listed as his #3 prospect coming out of Finland for this year’s draft:
Hirvonen is an aggressive two-way center with quickness and tireless approach towards every shift while keeping his feet moving at all times. There are games where he will keep his foot on the gas from start to finish and maintain the intensity from start to finish. Even on power plays, Hirvonen stays in motion and will alternate sides of the ice. He handles the puck with ease and is agile in all directions, which helps him run the possession of a power play from the right half wall. Hirvonen also plays on the penalty kill and will pressure the points without overcommitting himself.
Hirvonen had seemingly established himself as an all-situations players in his rookie season, and this report reads of him being a very smart, active player. The mention of him staying in motion no matter the situation bodes well for him in the NHL; players have to find ways to create for themselves, and the best way to do that is to move to open spaces.
Hirvonen is quick in open ice, calculated with his zone entries, and shows fearlessness when he’s taking the puck strong to the net. Although he can come across as a finesse forward at first glance, Hirvonen doesn’t mind getting dirty in the corners or knocking an opponent off balance in the low slot.
Despite his stature, Hirvonen has no problem going into the corners and battling to obtain/keep the puck moving in the right direction for his team. Kournianos also praises his creativity and vision, citing them as superior to fellow Finnish prospect Anton Lundell, who is projected to be a higher choice.
Bill Placzek of DraftSite had a blurb written up about Hirvonen’s game as well:
Undersized high tempo attacking centre who has already spent a good part of this season in the the Finnish pro league where he saw time on the power play due to his high end puck-handling. Instinctive and creative with the puck while moving at top speeds with high tempo pace off the rush. Can think and diagnose the developing play and handle pucks and set ups in tight quarters. Quickly sneaks in the open seams with his lateral agility at opportune times and scores. Active and involved at a high pace all over the sheet with good jump and involvement, but his slightly built frame gets pushed off the puck too easily.
A lot of what Placzek says echoes the report from Kournianos, which bodes well, as multiple sets of eyes are seeing the same aspects of the player. Placzek highlights how Hirvonen does tend to get pushed off of the puck easily due to his smaller frame. Granted, Roni will fill out as he puts on more muscle, but he has more than likely maxed out height-wise, so if size is a concern of yours, this might alter your feelings about Hirvonen.
A Little Video
Today we have two videos for your viewing pleasure; the first is from a relatively big game of Hirvonen’s final season in juniors, where he puts up 5 points (3G, 2A) followed by a highlight package of some of his best plays from his rookie season with Ässät this past year.
An Opinion of Sorts
I’ll be honest, coming into writing this profile, I knew very little about Hirvonen. That being said, the reviews of his game and watching some film on him have me thinking he could be a very good late first round choice. Should the Devils have all three of their potential first round choices, I think he’s a solid selection for that final first round choice. The review posted on The Draft Analyst has me feeling as though he could be a steal in this draft.
There are a couple of points that may make selecting him less attractive in the eyes of some fans: his position and the fact that he gets pushed around. The former point isn’t of much contention: while the Devils seem set at center, having another talented player at that position isn’t a reason to not select a player like Hirvonen. The latter point is a bit more legitimate, as the Devils are already a team that tends to get pushed around on the ice, or at least they were this season. What’s important to keep in mind is that Hirvonen will not be an NHLer in 2020-21; he will have time to develop and put on more muscle which will prevent him from getting tossed around. By the time he is NHL ready, the Devils could look like a complete different team.
The creativity and playmaking ability are still necessities for the Devils; while Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier are both more primarily playmakers, the team still lacks overall talent. Use the two higher picks to draft a scorer and a defender, then flesh out the first round with the best talent available. If and when the Devils come up for a third time in round one, Hirvonen could be “best available” and I personally would not be upset to see him don red and black.
Finally today, I’d like your thoughts on Roni Hirvonen as a prospect; are you encouraged by what you’ve seen of his game? Is his stature a cause for concern in your mind? Anything you have seen or heard that you like/dislike about the game he plays? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!