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New Jersey Devils Prospect Spotlight: Lenni Hameenaho

Last year’s 2nd round pick, Lenni Hameenaho has been great this season for Assat. How great? This post takes a closer look at his development.

New Jersey Devils 2023 Development Camp
The look of someone who knows he’s about to break out.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images

With the holiday break upon us now seemed a good a time as any to spotlight last year’s 2nd round pick, winger Lenni Hameenaho, and his breakout season in the Liiga.

Spotlight: Hameenaho

Drafted in the 2nd Round, 58th overall of last year’s NHL entry draft, Lenni Hameenho had a stigma amongst many online scouts of being a low-ceiling, high-floor prospect despite a high rate of production in the Liiga in his draft year. (Re-read John Fischer’s excellent pre-draft write-up on Hameenaho for more a more details of this “consensus.”) That stigma helped Hameenaho land in the Devil’s laps towards the end of the 2nd round. Only a few months later, Hameenaho is already looking like an excellent prospect. Far from a limited future bottom sixer, Hameenaho may find himself one day as a top six winger and perhaps, even perfect complimentary winger to Jack Hughes.

The reasoning is Hameenaho’s hockey sense. Hameenaho is excellent at reading plays and getting open around the net at the right time. Jack Hughes is elite in making plays. If Hameenaho keeps developing well, they could be a perfect match someday down the road with Hameenaho playing the role of the hard nosed finisher to Jack’s magic around the net.

Prospect Watch, a column on the New Jersey Devil’s website recently posted this article on Hameenaho, highlighting his hockey sense. In the article is this gem quote from Devils scout Mark Dennehy, explaining the importance of this difficult to pinpoint skill:

“It’s his hockey sense,” Dennehy shared, “The game is a fast game, you have to be able to play fast. Now, a lot of people think that means you have to be able to skate fast, there is a certain speed, minimum, for sure. But one of my favorite lines ever was from Rick Kowalski and he said he played with a guy that was really fast, and that he could get to the wrong spot on the ice faster than anybody.

In the same article, Dennehy further explained that Hameenaho’s hockey sense extends to all three zones:

“He does other things and that’s because he’s smart. He’ll assume all checking positions. If he’s F-1, if he’s F-2, if he’s F-3, he’s smart enough and he’s good enough to be able to make the plays there. So we’re thrilled that he’s scoring, but I do think that when he’s not scoring, he’s still going to be able to help his team. Good players do that.”

Elite Prospects posted this video also highlighting Hameenaho’s elite hockey sense and how it’s grown more consistent this season:

How much has Hameenaho improved so far this season?

In his draft season, Hameenaho scored 9 goals and 12 points in 51 games for Assat. By comparisons, John Fischer outlined them in his pre-draft article:

As a quick aside, here are some recent Liiga rookies and their season’s point totals. Juraj Slafkovsky had 10 points in 33 games with TPS in 2021-22. Brad Lambert had 7 goals and 15 points in 45 games with JYP in 2020-21. Aatu Räty had three goals and six points in 35 games with Kärpät in 2020-21. Anton Lundell had nine goals and 19 points with HIFK in 2018-19.

As of earlier this week when this article was written, Hameenaho had 11 goals and 6 assists in only 26 games — a pace nearly tripling his goal production and doubling his point production in a projected 56 games per Elite Prospects.

Final Thoughts

As a personal note, I refrained from naming this article “Making Sense of Hameenaho.” So, you’re welcome for that.

On a more serious note, it’s early yet, but the Devils look like they found another potential gem in Lenni Hameenaho. One should not expect him to jump into the NHL right away. Prospects take time. However, the future looks bright for the Finnish winger, whenever he is ready.

Now it is time to tell us what you think. Post your comments below.