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2021 Draft Prospect Profile: Samu Tuomaala— The Finnish Sniper

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Samu Tuomaala may have the best shot in his whole draft class— is that enough to get the Devils to pick him up?

Who is Samu Tuomaala?

Imagine you are a mad scientist. You take DNA from Alexander Ovechkin and Patrick Laine, remove the Russian genes, and create a baby. That baby will then grow up to become Samu Tuomaala.

Tuomaala is one of the top ranked Finnish prospects in this year’s draft. He plays for Kärpät, racking up 15 goals and 16 assists in 30 games with their U20 team this past season, although he struggled when moved up to the adult squad and did not manage to make the scoresheet in 5 games with them. In 2020 he helped take Finland to the World Juniors, racking up 5 points in 5 games in the U17 division. The 5’10, 175lb winger is described as a pure sniper— Tuomaala is a player with a fantastic shooting ability.

Where is he ranked?

What do the experts have to say about him?

The positives:

“A quick sniper who plays a lot heavier than his measurements may indicate, Tuomaala teamed up with fellow winger Ville Koivunento to lead Karpat U20 to within one game of the SM-Sarja championship. He also put on a show for Finland at the under-18 world championship, posting a team-best 11 points in seven games.” Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst

“One of the top Finnish players in the draft, Tuomaala is a player who has a shooter’s mentality and he isn’t afraid to show it. He thrives on shot generation and forcing the goaltender to make saves all over the ice. He has a good snap shot that can score from anywhere at the junior level. He can beat goalies with pinpoint accuracy or his quick release. Tuomaala does an excellent job of getting himself into space and setting up for a pass....Tuomaala is fleet of foot, able to quickly move the puck up ice and evade a back check. He is solid in transition, providing an outlet for defenders and using his feet to get open push the play in the right direction. He plays with pace and his quickness is an asset in all three zones and his effort is generally quite good...The young Finn does a good job of playing smart defensively and pressuring puck carriers. He gets below the dots in his own zone, supporting the battles in the corners and engaging when needed. He does a very good job of using his stick to knock pucks loose and corral them into his own control.”-Tony Ferrari, Dobber Prospects

“Tuomaala is first and foremost a goal scorer. He loves to shoot but doesn’t do it without regard. He works hard to get into the dangerous shooting locations, rather than just flinging the puck from the periphery. All too often prospects will try to beat goaltenders from far out, which will not serve them well as they ascend in league difficulty. Tuomaala does not have this negative trait...He’s fast enough to get breakaway opportunities, which he can often convert on due to his good shot. He also possesses good edge work, which allows him the stability and power to maneuver tight spaces. His hockey intelligence is also very good. He knows where to be to receive the pass and he knows how to position himself to fire a one-timer. He creates space for himself with his skating but also is adept at giving up the puck and finding more open space to either create or shoot. Victor Nuño, The Hockey Writers

“Tuomaala has an outstanding array of shots. He is amongst the best shooters in the class. His wrist shot has a lightning-quick release and he can quickly move his hands to change the angle on it, fooling goaltenders. He is very accurate as well as generating a ton of power. Tuomaala also has a good slap shot and one-timer...Tuomaala is also a good defensive player. He is strong positionally and more active physically than he is in the offensive zone. He supports the defence down low and looks to keep the puck to the outside on the cycle. Tuomaala is also willing to provide backpressure on the rush. Tuomaala has a good active stick and cuts down passing lanes.” Ben Kerr, Last Word on Sports

“In the defensive zone, Tuomaala does a great job of psychologically trapping you. At the blue-line, the Finnish winger widens and lowers his body to take up more space defensively. By doing so, you feel as if you have far less space to work with the puck and often times you find yourself drifting in low danger situations...Tuomaala is a far better shooter than he is a playmaker. But, we have seen episodes that show that he is capable of setting up electric scoring chances. For example, I’ve seen Tuomaala shift from left to right in the neutral zone, complete a controlled zone entry, wrap the net and then complete a centered pass on the left side of the ice to the right side for an assist.” Josh Tessler, Smaht Scouting

And the Negatives:

“I guess people were expecting Tuomaala to score like 50 goals in U20 SM-sarja this year, but his point contribution hasn’t been quite that amazing. However, he has 13+14 in 27 games, so he has a solid number of points, but he just hasn’t been as dominant as expected. When he gets going, he can dominate. He’s an excellent skater and snipes the puck hard and accurate. He can also drive the play with his skating and has good puck skills. His defensive effort has been a bit worrying and he looks a bit selfish – like every sniper – from time to time but as he has really high upside, he shouldn’t drop too far.” Eetu Siltanen, Dobber Prospects

“Tuomaala’s skating is a bit hit and miss. His first step and acceleration are decent and his top-end speed is above average. However his stride could be improved. It is a bit choppy. This robs him of some of the power and speed that he could generate. If he can improve this with a good skating coach, he can become a much more effective player. Tuomaala can keep up with the play as it is, but lacks the explosiveness to get past defenders and cut to the net... He also can add a bit of core strength to improve his balance and make him stronger on the puck.” Ben Kerr, Last Word on Sports

“I would like to see better decision making from Tuomaala. There are shifts in which Tuomaala makes bad decisions on breakout passes. He will either fail to identify the ideal teammate to pass to and/or misread the route of his teammate. His decision making when stick-handling also needs some improvement...While he likes to be physical in low danger, they are far from explosive and powerful checks. They are light bodychecks... For example, I’ve seen bodychecks from Tuomaala where he clearly didn’t possess the necessary speed to complete the check and he instead took a face-plant...As mentioned earlier, Tuomaala struggles with speed and it’s quite evident on the forecheck. He doesn’t generate much explosiveness on his stride. Occasionally, we will see a power stride for the first couple of steps, but it is far from consistent...

We’ve talked quite a bit about Tuomaala’s struggles with stick-handling. Tuomaala seems to stick-handle with ease only when he isn’t facing tight pressure or when the defender struggles to read what Tuomaala intends to do with the puck... but in most cases, we see Tuomaala struggle to move the puck around the last defender when on the rush. He isn’t a deceptive stick-handler. So, don’t expect a Matthew Beniers like stick-handler. Additionally, he struggles at realizing how far out he has to stick-handle to beat the defender. There are situations in which he will attempt to go from forehand to backhand, but the puck never gets to his backhand. Instead, the puck gets intercepted by the defender’s skate.” Josh Tessler, Smaht Scouting

Some Highlights:

Some Thoughts:

For a highly ranked prospect, there sure are a lot of negatives floating around Tuomaala’s scouting reports. Some disagree on the assessments of his defensive play, but most agree he isn’t the best defensive forward. He also isn’t the best playmaker, fastest or most agile skater, most physical player, or the best stickhandler. Of course, to be a good player you don’t necessarily have to be the best at all of these. That’s why we have a whole line of players on each shift who can complement each other in their skillsets. However, it is a bit odd for a player to be so highly ranked who struggles in so many of these skills.

So why is Samu Tuomaala so highly ranked? His shot. It is absolutely lethal. He is one of, if not the best shooter in the draft class. His shots are quick, hard, and accurate, and he is adept at picking not only his shot’s location, but also the best place on the ice to shoot from in order to maximize his scoring chance. Where he lacks a high hockey sense for passing and playmaking, he makes up for it in his smart choices when it comes to goal scoring. He can even get his shot off from either foot, which is an uncommon and high-level talent.

So, should we draft him?

I’m going to make this short for everyone: No.

Tuomaala is an excellent sniper and will probably be a great NHL player some day. But he’s a handful of projects in every other area that will take extensive work to make him usable at the NHL level, and there’s plenty of other players available at the time the Devils will be drafting at the end of the first round that are more complete, lower risk prospects for the Devils to choose from. Tuomaala will probably go in the early to mid second round, and he isn’t worth the reach for us in my opinion. This draft is too strong to be reaching that early in the pickings.