First impressions matter. Lenni Hameenaho is making an impressive one.
The 18-year-old Finnish winger was selected by the Devils in the 2nd round of this year’s NHL entry draft and has been a force ever since. At the time of the draft only a few short months ago, the knock on Hameenaho (and why he likely fell into the Devil’s lap in the late 2nd round) was that a “consensus” of pundits believed that the 6’1’’ 185lb right wing was a safe bet but to be a NHL-caliber player, but had a low ceiling. Read John Fischer’s excellent write-up on Hameenaho before the draft here for details on the thoughts of the punditry at the time.
That consensus seems to be changing. Fast.
Hameenaho currently has six goals and one assist (seven points) in eight games to start the season for Assat. Those goal and point totals are better than any drafted player in the Liiga. Hameenaho is also one shy of the goal lead behind Czechia veteran Petr Kodytek, who has played one extra game.
It’s early yet, but these numbers are encouraging. Others have been taking notice.
Daniel Amoia of the Hockey Writers wrote this piece before the season began highlighting Hameenaho’s high hockey IQ, his upward trend and making comparing his time in Assat’s system to other familiar NHLers. Per the article:
For comparison, Erik Haula also played for Ässät’s U20 team during the 2007-08 season, where he posted 22 points in 40 games. Hämeenaho nearly doubled his production.
For what it’s worth, I agreed with this position at the time and wrote about Hameenaho here during his domination of this summer World Junior’s showcase. From my article:
Following a strong prospects camp, Hameenaho led all prospects at the WJSS with seven points in four games (2 goals and 5 assists). This added confidence should bolster Hameenaho when he starts his season in the Liiga. Don’t be surprised if the majority of pundits are wrong about Hameenaho’s ceiling and he breaks out in a big way this year.
It’s early yet. Anything can still happen, including a major regression. We know. Still, the hot start is encouraging.
Scott Wheeler of the Athletic is one of many prospect pundits already starting to take notice. In his article behind a paywall here on NHL prospects who have stood out early, Wheeler lists Hameenaho, noted an “uptick in the number of soft skill/finesse plays he was making.” Wheeler further notes that in addition to the goal scoring, Hameenaho is shooting at a much higher volume, playing over 18 minutes a night for Assat and had a 55.8 Corsi For percentage in his first six games.
In other words, Hameenaho is doing just about everything right to start the season. Let’s hope it continues.
Around the Pool
- The Juniors leagues have begun. In this very young season, Winger Cam Squires is leading the pack with three points (2 goals) in his first two games, including this game-winner in OT.
- From the same link, center Jaromir Pytlik is starting to find his game in Czechia and is up to 4 points in his first 7.
- It’s only exhibition, but Seamus Casey had a great start to his collegiate season. [Michigan Daily]
The season is still very young. Let us know your top picks for potential breakout candidates this year. Post your comments below.