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Joakim Kemell: 2022 NHL Draft Prospect Profile; A Top Goal Scoring Wing From Finland

Our draft prospect profile series continues today with a look at Joakim Kemell. The Finnish right wing is one of the top goal scorers available in this year’s draft and is coming off of an impressive rookie season in Liiga.

Austria v Finland: Preliminary Round Group A - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship
Joakim Kemell is one of the best goal scorers available in this year’s draft. This profile is going to take a look at what makes him a top prospect.
Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

The 2022 draft prospect profile series continues today with a look at Finnish RW Joakim Kemell. This prospect is one of the best pure goal scorers in this year’s draft and will no doubt make a lot of teams think hard about taking him early in the top 10. This profile will take a look at his background and what he’s already accomplished in his career, look at some scouting reports and videos, and then form an opinion on the prospect. Let’s learn more about Joakim Kemell now!

Who is Joakim Kemell?

According to his Elite Prospects profile, Joakim Kemell is a 5’11”, 176 lbs. right-handed shooting right wing from Jyväskylän maalaiskunta, Finland. He was born on April 27, 2004. That means he spent his age 17 season as a rookie for JYP in Liiga, the top division in Finland. Thanks to Elite Prospects we have a full overview of his career to date from his time as a youth player for Palokan Kiekko to joining the JYP system in 2017.

Stats via Elite Prospects.

The first thing that jumps out at me is that he spent his age 13 season in 2017-18 as a member of JYP’s U16 team. As you can see from the stats, he certainly fit in despite playing a few age groups ahead of his peers. He was the only U14 player to feature regularly in the U16 SM-sarja that season. He was tied-5th on his team with 10 goals in 24 U16 SM-sarja Qualifying games and tied-4th on his team in U16 SM-sarja play with 8 goals in 18 games.

The 2018-19 season, his age 14 year, saw him play again for JYP U16 and make his debut for the U18 team. With the U16 team, Kemell improved his production, especially his goals, with 10 goals in 12 U16 SM-sarja qualifying games and 17 goals in 15 U16 SM-sarja games. Those 17 goals in 15 games led the U16 team that season. He also had a strong debut for the U18 team with 7 goals in 19 U18 SM-sarja games. His 10 points in 19 U18 SM-sarja games led all U15 players in the league.

The 2019-20 season, his age 15 year, saw Kemell feature full-time for the U18 team. He put up 17 goals and 21 assists for 38 points in 40 U18 SM-sarja games, finishing 6th on his team in scoring. Among U16 players in that league, Kemell finished 4th in scoring (Juraj Slafkovsky led with 52 points in 39 games). In international play for Finland’s U16 team, Kemell would have 5 goals and 5 assists in 12 games. No doubt this strong season put him firmly on the draft radar for his age group.

His pre-draft season of 2020-21 would see Kemell move up to play with JYP’s U20 team. In the U20 SM-sarja, Kemell had 22 goals and 14 assists for 36 points in 38 games. He led that U20 team in goals and points despite this being his age 16 season. He led all U17 players in that league in goals, points, and points per game (0.95). For comparison, Juraj Slafkovsky was 2nd in points per game (0.81) after putting up 13 points in 16 games. Kemell also made his professional debut with a goal in his first Liiga game for JYP. In international play, Kemell had 3 goals in 7 games for Finland’s U18 team at the U18 World Championship.

The 2021-22 season saw Kemell once again take another step forward in his development. As a 17-year-old rookie for JYP in Liiga, Kemell produced 15 goals and 8 assists for 23 points in 39 games. According to the Liiga website, we can see that Kemell had an 8.57 SH% and averaged 4.49 shots per game. I like to see that his goal production wasn’t inflated by a high SH% and that he did well to get a lot of shots on goal. Kemell also averaged 16:13 per game as a rookie which is solid. He finished tied-3rd on JYP in goals and 8th in points. He led all U18 players in Liiga in games, goals, assists, points, and points per game (0.59). For comparison, here is how Kemell’s 2021-22 season compares to other players that played at least 30 games and scored at least 15 goals in their age 17 season in Liiga:

Stats via Elite Prospects.

This past season was also a busy one for Kemell on the international stage as he competed at both the U18 and U20 levels. He served as an alternate captain for Finland’s U18 team at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and had 5 goals and an assist in 5 games. In his second U18 World Championship tournament, Kemell was an alternate captain and posted 6 goals and 2 assists in 5 games as Finland won a Bronze Medal. For that performance, Kemell was named a Top 3 Player on Team. At the U20 level, he participated in 2 games in the ill-fated U20 World Junior Championship but didn’t register any points.

Kemell is set to continue his career with JYP in 2022-23. He is signed through the 2023-24 season with the club. I would also expect to see him for Finland at the (second attempt) U20 WJC tournament in August.

Where is Joakim Kemell Ranked?

It seems Kemell is considered by most outlets to be a top 10 prospect. There does seem to be some divide between those that have him as a possible top 5 player and those that think he’s more towards 10th. Here are some of the most recent publicly available rankings:

What Others Say About Joakim Kemell

Here is Ben Kerr’s scouting report on Kemll over at Last Word on Sports. He breaks down Kemell’s skills by describing the prospect’s skating, offensive game, and defensive game, and then offers a projection and comparison. In regards to Kemell’s skating:

His stride is a little bit choppy and awkward. This takes away from the speed and power that he is able to generate...His edgework and agility are above average though.

In regards to Kemell’s offensive game, specifically his shot and playmaking:

He has an outstanding arsenal of shots. His one-timers are absolutely lethal...He also has an outstanding wrist shot. It is both powerful and accurate. Kemell also shows a quick and deceptive release.

However, he needs to read the play better. He does not always take the best pass that is available, keeping the puck on the outside, instead of setting up a scoring chance.

In regards to Kemell’s defensive game:

He provides good back pressure against the rush as well as supporting the defence down low against the cycle...His positioning and anticipation are good. He uses his active stick to cut down passing lanes and create turnovers.

Finally, here is Kerr’s projection and comparison for Kemell:

Kemell has some things to work on in his game, but most of his flaws can be corrected with by adding some muscle to his frame as well as good coaching. If he can work with the right skating instructor and improve his stride, he could be dynamic...Kemell’s game is reminiscent of Patrick Laine.

It seems that Kemell is a player that has already figured out how to score at the professional level despite his age. Kerr has a lot of praise for Kemell’s shooting ability and notes how diverse his array of shots are. It does seem Kemell needs to put in a lot of work into his skating and spend more time in the gym to get stronger. I do like reading that his defensive instincts are solid and he’s willing to put the work in his own zone.

The next report comes from Sam Happi over at McKeen’s Hockey. Happi opens up the report by noting Kemell’s hot start before a shoulder injury halted his progress. Happi also notes that Kemell battled two other injuries in the second half of the season which is something to keep in mind when looking at his stats. This report breaks down Kemell’s game by skating, shot, skills, smarts, and compete/physicality. In regards to Kemell’s skating:

Kemell’s offensive toolkit does not centre around his skating, which is closer to average than many of his other skills. He chains together plenty of crossovers, a tactic that can make him a difficult player to wall off in transition but generates only moderate power and speed from those movements. The Finn is not much of a rush threat and rarely threatens to beat a defender wide.

In regards to Kemell’s shot, which includes plenty of video clips:

He’s powerful and accurate from the circles, both on wristers and one-timers...Notably, his excellent hand-eye coordination allows him to consistently get full power behind his one-timers...Kemell also has a quick, deceptive release, which can come in handy when he gets in behind the defence for a breakaway (first clip) or slices off the wall into the slot (second clip).

In regards to Kemell’s skills:

Kemell is a very shifty forward, using good puck skills to effectively attack defenders and get to promising areas. This is a crucial part of his skillset, because his inexplosive skating doesn’t give him much leeway when it comes to operating in tight spaces– if he’s going to be a high-level offensive player, he needs to depend on his puck skills to get him to open ice in situations where his feet cannot.

In regards to Kemell’s smarts:

Kemell has strong scoring instincts but isn’t a particularly intelligent passer and could stand to refine his decision-making in order to more effectively blend his offensive tools...Often, in a bid to keep the puck moving, he’ll make a low-percentage pass to a teammate that will frequently kill the offensive.

I wouldn’t expect him to create a whole lot as a passer. But that won’t particularly matter: if Kemell keeps scoring, he’ll be valuable. I do find his instincts and ability to work himself into situations where he can use his best weapon to be quite impressive.

In regards to Kemell’s compete/physicality:

His eagerness to engage physically is a fun little feature to his game– he likes to hit and he’s considerably more effective than I expected when he does. He punches above his weight class...It’s rather impressive for a 176-pound, 17-year-old rookie who plays in a skill role to be this involved physically in a senior league...I’m unsure exactly how much will carry to higher levels, considering Kemell’s size and likely skill role, but it’s promising to see him this engaged.

There’s a lot to take in in this report and I do suggest checking out the video clips over at McKeen’s. It really does seem that Kemell needs to improve his skating to develop into a top 6 wing at the NHL level. He seems to have a decent understanding of the game but could use some more work in getting his passing ability up to maximize his playmaking skills. I like reading about how engaged he is physically and that he’s not afraid to put a competitive shift in despite playing against men.

Now, here is some of what Eetu Siltanen had to say about Kemell over at Dobber Prospects:

His shooting ability and overall goal-scoring toolkit are still among the best in the class and he has the potential to be a dynamic powerplay weapon in the NHL, thanks to his versatile repertoire of shots.

Kemell won’t wow you with his vision but he can flash some playmaking skills along with his scoring ability from time to time. He is also a good skater with good balance, and he has been improving his transitional game, finding players with quick passes and carrying the puck up ice with his speed and agility.

This report seems to take a more optimistic view on Kemell’s skating and playmaking abilities than the previous reports. Though it is worth noting that this report still considers his shooting ability to be his best skill by far.

Finally, here is how the Hockey Prospecting model views Kemell:

Projection via Hockey Prospecting.

That 33% Star Probability is tied for 9th highest in this year’s draft class in the model.

A Little Video

The first video comes from Will Scouch of Scouching. This comprehensive report breaks down Kemell’s game using video analysis and tracked data:

It notes that Kemell had a breakout season in Liiga though his scoring production was propped up by a hot start to the season. It does note that Kemell suffered an injury at the end of October and his production fell off after that. When I looked at Kemell’s game logs, I noticed that he had 12 goals and 6 assists through his 16 games to start the season. After the injury, he had no points in 14 games and then just 3 goals and 2 assists in his final 9 games.

Scouching also mentions that his tracked data gives some reason for concern for Kemell’s projectability. While Kemell’s goal-scoring production was solid, he took a lot of low danger shot attempts from the perimeter. He notes that as Kemell moves into the North American game that better goaltending and defenses will prevent these chances from going in at a higher rate. He also notes that Kemell wasn’t much of a play driver offensively. In terms of his profile, he’s a finisher that will rely on his teammates to find him in open ice to get his chances. Kemell also doesn’t set up much with his passing in the offensive zone. Kemell did protect the puck well on the boards and should continue to get better at that as he fills out his frame. Scouching also notes that Kemell was solid defensively, especially in transition, and that he was good at starting or engaging in breakouts from his zone.

Overall, Scouching notes the best part of Kemell’s game is his scoring potential and off-puck offense. This is due to Kemell’s ability to float into open space. He notes that a good part of Kemell’s game is his physical improvement over the season and that his defensive game shouldn’t be underrated. A not-so-good part of Kemell’s game is that he’s a shooter with questionable shot selection that affects his projectability.

The next video comes from NHL Draft Pros:

This video uses highlights and stats, including those powered by InStat Hockey, to look at Kemell’s game. It also breaks down his skating, shooting, passing, puck control, hockey IQ, and improvement.

An Opinion of Sorts

Overall, I have a favorable opinion of Kemell. I like that he dominated at every level of junior hockey despite playing well up from his age group. I like that he more than held his own as a 17-year-old playing over 16 minutes a night in one of Europe’s top leagues. Though his 1st half/2nd half production differences were quite stark, he still ended up putting together a very strong draft year in Liiga. He proved that his shooting ability is already a plus at the professional level and that he has the competitive level to play against men. For a goal scorer, he seems committed to playing a sound defensive game which is a nice plus.

He has a decent base level skill-wise with his skating and playmaking abilities but they’ll definitely need to improve for him to reach his potential as a top 6 wing at the NHL level. As one of the reports mentioned above, those are skills that can be improved through coaching and hard work. He already has perhaps the hardest skill to learn, goal-scoring, down already at an impressive level. I do have some concerns about him if he isn’t able to round out his game though. As the Scouching report noted, he wasn’t a play driver offensively at the individual level and relied on his teammates to help set him up. That could be passable on a team where he plays with an above-average center, but I do worry about how he would play if he didn’t get to play with a center like that. I also am concerned about his shot selection and hope that is something he can improve on going forward.

With all of that said, I do view him as more of a back end of the top 10 prospect than a top 5 prospect for this year’s draft. I feel that some of the other prospects offer a bit more upside to warrant a top 5 selection and could have higher floors. Still, Kemell is a high-quality prospect and will rightfully be selected highly in this year’s draft.

Your Take

What are your thoughts on Joakim Kemell? Where would you rank him among the prospects in the 2022 draft class? Do you expect him to go in the top 5 or do you think he’ll go past that? What do you think his NHL potential is? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!