Welcome to another draft profile here at AATJ! Today, we are going to dive into a Finnish center that can skate. The kid is considered perhaps the best skater in this draft, and it’s his calling card. Aleksanteri has played solely in Finland up until this point, and next year could be poised to see regular time in the Liiga, Finland’s professional league. But because he has not gotten significant playing time there yet, having only four games of Liiga experience to date, he is not considered a top draft pick this year. However, his obvious skill, coupled with his success in international play, could most likely get him drafted in the second round this year. The Devils have a second-rounder, and will certainly know about him, so let’s check him out ourselves and see who he is!
Who is Aleksanteri Kaskimäki?
Aleksanteri is a 6-foot, 183-pound speedster center who hails from Espoo, Finland. Anton Lundell, top prospect in 2020, was also from Espoo, and he just had a really fine rookie season in Florida, so Aleksanteri will hope he can match his kinsman. They also came up with the same organization, with Kaskimäki currently playing for HIFK, the same club that Lundell played for, so the connection is strong. HIFK has iced quality NHL players in the past, including Esa Tikkanen, Kimmo Timonen, Olli Jokinen, and others, so the kid is in a great position to learn what he needs to succeed at the NHL level.
Thanks to his phenomenal skating abilities, Aleksanteri’s numbers have been very good at each level he has played. In 2019-20 in a U18 Finnish league, he was absolutely dominant, producing 48 points in 18 games. The following year was mostly a lost season for him, as he played in only 16 games total, 3 at the U18 level and 13 at the U20 level. This obviously hurt his growth and had he played a full season then, he might have developed more to where he played more Liiga games this past season. Alas, that was not so, and it meant that this past season, 2021-22, was mostly spent for him in the U20 league. It was a great season for him there, to the tune of 40 points in 31 games, again showing dominance at that age level. It was good enough to be noticed by the big club, and he did get into four games in the pro league for HIFK, scoring 2 points in the process, one goal and one assist. Not a bad showing for the sample size.
Perhaps the best part of his resume, however, is what he did in international gameplay this past season, where absolutely shined for Team Finland. In the World Juniors, he put together four points in 6 games and was a strong piece in Finland’s run there. But he also played 18 games of International Junior hockey for Finland’s U18 team, and it was dominant stuff that he put together. In those 18 games, he put up 17 points, 9 goals and 8 assists. Those are excellent numbers for international play, where players really get measured up against the best in the world in their age group. You can bet that the team that drafts him this year will have placed a good amount of weight on what he did on the international stage.
Where is Kaskimäki Ranked?
As I mentioned before, because of that lost 2020-21 season, and because he really has not gotten significant playing time in the Liiga yet, he is mostly ranked outside of the first round. However, as you will see later, pundits like his game and drool over his skating abilities, so he is someone that could pan out despite being taken after the top 32 picks.
-Central Scouting, in their final rankings, has Aleksanteri as the 25th ranked European skater. That is consistent with a second round position, maybe later second round, depending on where the North American skaters go. However, it is also worth noting that he was ranke 20th in the midterm rankings.
-Future Considerations has one of the lowest rankings you will see for him, ranking the center #73 overall in their rankings.
-He might be as low at Dobber Prospects, but we wouldn’t know, as their rankings for April only covered their top 64, and Aleksanteri was not on it.
-Bob McKenzie, meanwhile, does have him in the top 64, albeit just barely, ranking him #63 overall.
-His colleague, Craig Button, is significantly higher on him, ranking Aleksanteri #37 overall.
-The Hockey Writers also have him in the second round, ranking him #61 overall.
Because he is not ranked in the top 32, most places only have a top 32 rankings out, so this list cannot be as long as you will see from others. I threw in one ranking where he is absent, at Dobber Prospects, but that is true elsewhere. Sportsnet, McKeen’s, Sporting News, and others are all top 32 rankings, so it is tougher to get a long list of rankings for someone projected to go round 2. However, from what you can see from the rankings above, it looks like he is more ranked to go near the end of round 2, although Button does have him higher than the rest, and that #25 ranking by Central Scouting for Euro skaters can give him a wide range of outcomes come draft day.
What Others Have Said About Kaskimäki
First, we have an in-depth prospect profile from The Hockey Writers which was written in mid-April. As noted in this profile, he has been given a considerable boost in projected draft position thanks to strong international play, writing that, along with a great second half to the season, “it was the exposure he needed to finally get the world to notice him and recognize his talent”. This profile roughly breaks down his game into the following categories, and I will note a few key quotes from each section:
-Offense: “Gifted with soft hands and accurate wrist and backhand shots, he’s capable of handling pucks down low”...”he’s not shy to distribute the puck to open teammates”...”posing a threat whenever the puck touches his stick.”
-Defense: “There’s still a lot to be desired, but there are some strong points”...”receives plenty of time on the penalty kill”...”engaged at all times and covers passing lanes well enough to get by”...”as his fatigue-level rises, his decision-making becomes questionable”...”his transition game in the neutral zone is inconsistent.”
-Skating: “Kaskimäki’s skating is exceptional among his draft class, as he is explosive, has good acceleration, and his first few steps are a marvel to watch.”
-Physicality: “He’s engaged in the offensive zone and is often seen using his body to separate defensemen from pucks”...”while his frame isn’t particularly large, he plays a big game.”
As noted here, the one big thing hurting his draft stock is something I noted above. As a European, he is hurt by not playing more in the pro league. As they write, “junior players suffer from junior tendencies, and it’s unknown how Kaskimaki’s game will translate to an elevated level of play.” They like what they’ve seen from international play and from his four games in the Liiga so far, but of course, that sample size is way too small to warrant a first-round grade. Therefore, they project a second-round grade on him, and suggest he could go in the early second round, especially as several teams have multiple picks in that range and could use one on him.
Next, while I don’t pay to get the full reports, I can see snippets for free from Future Considerations. There are 5 reports on him from this past season, from 3-4 different authors, and each has a little blurb you can see for free. While this won’t come together to create a profile like I just shared from The Hockey Writers, it does give us info from people who have seen him play and analyzed his game. And what you will read revolves heavily around his excellent skating abilities. The earliest of these reports was from October. In it, Brandon Holmes is all over his skating. He loves that part of his game, and notes that “his trademark is speed and the ability to play with pace with the puck on his stick.” The second report was a month later, in November, and has a similar feel, with Rasmus Tornqvist writing that he is a “speedy winger who can both finish and dish the puck in the offensive end.” The third report continues the theme, noting that “he stood out with his speed and acceleration. His acceleration gives him a chance to defend without needing to cheat for offense.” The final report, recently written on May 16th, notes that “his skating ability is at the very top of this draft. He’s a smooth skater, and the explosiveness combined with good acceleration makes his skating ability a joy to watch.” So overall, while they were different reports from different games, all agree that the kid can skate, and he uses it to his advantage to produce offense.
We also have a blurb to go off of from the Finnish Junior Hockey website. Like with FC, this is a scouting report from a specific game, this one being from November against Ilves. I am going to blockquote the last couple of sentences from the report, as I feel it encapsulates his game and what is mostly said about him:
“He is a strong, smooth skater with a superb glide and he changes direction well. Kaskimäki also put his shot on display in this game. He had a tricky and quick release on his wrist shot and he could change the shooting angle. He finished the game with two goals and had a great performance on HIFK’s first line. He is versatile, energetic and can play any style of the game.”
A Little Video
…Well, this is where that is supposed to happen anyway. However, given that he played almost the entire season in the U20 league in Finland instead of the Liiga, and given that he is not projected to be a first-round selection, there is nothing out there. There are a couple of interviews I found, but they are in Finnish of course, and that really isn’t the point of this section anyway. This is where we want to see highlights of the player, to take what we read in the last section and see it come to life on the ice. Alas, I cannot provide that, as I cannot find anything that seems legit and relevant. If you can find quality videos of his play on the ice, please link to them in the comments so we can all check out his game. Anyone who is a superb skater is always fun to watch, so I bet a highlight package of his best stuff would really be electric given his abilities on that front.
The New Jersey Devils own their own second-round pick, and thus will be picking 37th overall according to Cap Friendly. They also have their own third-rounder, which is slated to be at pick #69. Now, if Aleksanteri falls to the Devils third-round choice, I think it’s a no-brainer. If you can get someone who is regarded by some as the best skater in this draft, and who everyone considers to be a top-flight skater overall, in the third round, you have to do it. It’s worth the draft capital at that point. So the question really is, then, is he someone the Devils should consider at #37? The only one who really ranks him that high is Craig Button, who ironically enough has him ranked 37th, so it seems the majority of people would say no, but let’s look at the pros and cons.
The reason to take him that high is that you are getting someone with electric offensive skills and skating abilities. Again, he is considered to be one of the best skaters in this draft, if not the best. He is fast, agile, has great acceleration, and uses all of that to produce offense. And on top of that, he has produced and done well on the international stage, which is always a great sign. Even if he does not have extensive Liiga experience yet, he has shown to be successful against the best in the world in his age group, and that is a good sign.
Of course, the reasons not to take him are obvious too. He doesn’t have the experience that others have. While he has shown success in each level he’s played in so far, and has been successful on the international stage, he has not done it in the Liiga yet, at least not for a long stretch of time. Four games are not enough of a sample size. Will he be able to handle pro competition as a 18-19 year old? If not, then he becomes an instant bust. He doesn’t need to be a point-per-game player at that level, but if he can’t reach a half point per game, and he’s only being given fourth line minutes, that would be a horrible sign. Therefore, there is more risk to taking him than someone else who has that experience and has shown the ability to succeed there. And finally, his defensive game is a work in progress, and while his skating is good enough to get him back and in position, he can fade in longer shifts and not give it his all defensively at those times, which is an issue.
To me, I think 37 is slightly high to take someone with this much risk who doesn’t play a 200-foot game, but I don’t think it's an awful pick at that point either. The raw talent is there, the offense is there, and those alone are tantalizing. If the coaching staff thinks they can work with him and develop his defensive game, and if they think his game translates to the pro level, then it’s worth a shot. However, I personally would be more comfortable taking him in the later 2nd round. There are usually other, more developed players at 37, players who are more quantifiable and whose projection is much clearer. But then again, the Devils took Jesper Boqvist 36th overall in 2017, after a season where he only had 16 games of SHL experience, so who knows?
That is my take. What do you think about Aleksanteri Kaskimäki? Do you think he is someone who projects well? What do you think about someone with dominant skating abilities but who is a big unknown at the pro level? Where do you think he should go, and do you think the Devils should take him? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading another prospect profile here at AATJ!