Who is Jesse Kiiskinen?
Jesse Kiiskinen was born August 23, 2005 in Hollolla, Finland, making him one of the youngest players in the 2023 NHL draft. His father, 6’5 winger Ville Kiiskinen had a long career in Finnish hockey, playing from 1995-2012, mostly in the 2nd tier Mestis, although he did end his career completely obliterating the 5th tier division with a ridiculous 65 points in 16 games. Per Elite Prospects, Kiiskinen has a pro frame of 6’0 and 187 pounds.
The younger Kiiskinen mostly played for the Pelicans U-20 team this past season, where he led the team with 43 points in 31 games and finished 4th in the U20s league in ppg for players who suited up for at least 30 games. Kiiskinen missed some time this year for the best of reasons — a call up to the Lahti Pelicans, where he recorded his first professional point (an assist) in seven games.
Kiiskinen also played well for Team Finland in the WJC-18’s putting up five points in five games in the tournament including this tip in born from driving to the net to start the game against rival Norway.
That escalated quickly! 69 seconds are played - we have the first goal of the game! Jesse Kiiskinen scores for @leijonat! #u18mensworlds #FINNOR pic.twitter.com/8d9BxEnRly— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) April 25, 2023
In the 2022 U18 Five Nations tournament last year Kiiskinen either scored or assisted on 8 of Finland’s 12 goals in the entire tournament, leading the team in scoring by twice that of his second-highest scoring teammate.
Kiiskinen is in a good spot to develop in the Liiga, where he should be a fixture in the Lahti Pelicans lineup next season. As Lahti just lost in the finals this past year, Kiiskinen should develop on a strong contending team.
Where is Jesse Kiiskinen ranked?
A few mocks have Kiiskinen going in the late first round, but most commenters have him slated to go somewhere in the second round or slip into the third. Whether he will still be available when the Devils pick at #58 is the biggest question.
- Ranked #99 by FCHOCKEY
- Ranked #55 by DAILY FACEOFF
- Ranked #49 by TSN/BOB McKENZIE
- Ranked #60 by TSN/CRAIG BUTTON
- Ranked #13 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (EU Skaters)
- Ranked #52 by DRAFT PROSPECTS HOCKEY
What others say about Jesse Kiiskinen
There are a surprisingly scarce amount of useful publicly-available scouting reports on Jesse Kiiskinen at the time of this writing. Kiiskinen tends to fall just outside of the draft where European prospects are given lengthy online reviews. I expect this to change closer to draft day as the usual analysts complete their more comprehensive prospect reviews.
For now, we look mostly to the Hockey Writers. Per Alex Chauvancy’s Hockey Writers draft profile on Kiiskinen, the “low end of Kiiskinen’s potential is a third-liner winger who can pot 15-20 goals and 40-45 points.” In a smaller report, Draftprospectshockey mentioned that Kiiskinen “has a nose for the net and gets himself in dangerous areas of the ice”, while touting his “deceptive and quick shot”, but also noting that his “skating and edgework are both a work in progress.” Lastly, Rasmus Tornqvist of FC Hockey touted Kiiskinen’s “hands” and “effective shot” as well as his ability to “force takeaways on the forecheck.”
Corey Pronman recently wrote an interesting article for the Athletic in which he evaluated the attributes of the players still competing in the playoffs back when they were prospects as compared to the rest of the league and what lessons could be learned from drafting for playoff performers going forward, which the Devils most certainly expect to be. [The Athletic $]. In short, none of the forwards in the final four received subpar marks for compete level from Pronman as prospects, though many received subpar marks for skating, most notably star forward Jason Robertson, who fell into the 2nd round in 2017 due, in part, to perceived skating issues and has gone on to score 40 goals in two consecutive seasons. As Pronman notes “[i]t’s a really noticeable part of watching the NHL playoffs — how few players have compete or physicality issues, even if they are average-sized.”
This seems contrary to draft-day thinking as strong skating is essential in the NHL, but many young prospects are able to work out minor kinks in their skating with proper coaching and muscle growth. Using Pronman’s observations along with what others have said about Kiiskinen, the young Pelican appears to be a future playoff performer even if his edgework still needs a little work.
Here is a little video on Kiiskinen:
Jesse Kiiskinen (#23 for Finland) had three points in the opening #U185Nations game against Switzerland yesterday.— Steven Ellis (@SEllisHockey) November 9, 2022
He's been near a point-per-game with Finland's U-18 team this season. He's eligible for the 2023 #NHLDraft. pic.twitter.com/zzzVW8uvie
In the clip, Kiiskinen appears quick and decisive with the puck. All good signs for a future pro-career.
An Opinion of Sorts
If Kiiskinen is available in the back half of the first round, he would make a fine selection for the New Jersey Devils. Kiiskinen checks a lot of my personal benchmarks that I look for in prospects after the first round, who are usually more likely to be role players rather than first line drivers of offense. I tend to favor forward prospects in the middle of the draft who have 1) a high compete 2) some defensive ability or at least a high enough hockey IQ where they should be able to develop defensively 3) produce enough at their current level so that a NHL role is possible and 4) enough speed to one day compete in the NHL or high-end speed and/or skating if the prospect is undersized.
Kiiskinen checks all these boxes. Per the Hockey Writers, “compete level” is one of Kiiskinen’s strengths. The young 6’0 winger scores goals, sets ups plays and even plays the PK at his current level, which at a minumum, should translate to him being teachable defensively at the higher levels. Kiiskinen is also hard on the forecheck and plays physical when needed, which is an added bonus on top of his developing offensive game, as is his touted “leadership” qualities. All of these attributes will only get stronger when Kiiskinen adds more muscle to his already pro-frame.
On offense, Kiiskinen is not a one-trick pony. While many touted his shot, others note Kiiskinen’s ability to set up plays, which indicates a strong hockey IQ. The biggest knock on Kiiskinen seems to be his edgework, which should get stronger before he’s ready for the NHL. All in all, Kiiskinen appears to be a relatively “safe” for the late second round but also a potentially high-reward pick.
Now is the time to tell us what you think about Jesse Kiiskinen or the upcoming draft. Do you like Kiiskinen? Post your comments below.