2020-21 Team: JYP
Date of Birth: May 26, 2003
Place of Birth: Tuusula, Finland
Ht: 6-foot-0 Wt: 185 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2021 first-year eligibility
- NHL Central Scouting: 41st (amongst EU skaters)
- FC Hockey: 72nd
- Dobber Prospects: 84th
- TSN/Bob McKenzie: 65th
- The Hockey Writers (Zator): 86th
- The Hockey Writers (Forbes): 107th
Malinen is a Finnish defenseman who spent a significant majority of this season playing for JYP in the Finnish Liiga, where he had three points in 30 games. Although JYP only controlled 37.5 percent of the shot attempts with Malinen on the ice, there are a couple of things to consider. One, he was a 17-year-old playing in a first division pro league. Two, JYP finished with a 17-34-8 record, which was the worst in the Liiga.
Despite JYP’s struggles, Malinen seemed to handle himself fairly well. What stands about his game is his skating. Not only is he a speedy skater, but he has a good stride that looks almost effortless. On top of his skating, he moves around the ice well and can change directions with the blink of an eye. His high-end skating indicates he should be effective in carrying out controlled zone exits and zone entries at the next level, a trait modern blueliners need to succeed in the NHL.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
Though Malinen’s shot attempt share with JYP was pretty rough, his defensive game showed some promise in a shift-by-shift video reel (which you can view below) that I managed to find. His positioning was sound, and though he’d get knocked off the puck from time to time, there were a couple of impressive one-on-one battles he managed to win. He’ll need to get stronger to play in the NHL, but with him still being 17 years old (he’ll turn 18 on May 26), he has plenty of time to add to his 6-foot, 185-pound frame.
If there’s one area of Malinen’s game where he may need some improvement, it’s his passing accuracy. He makes good decisions with the puck for the most part, but his passes weren’t always on point from what I saw, especially when he tried to stretch the ice. A couple of those resulted in icings, but his passing is a correctable issue. It’d also be beneficial for him to become a little more assertive generating offense, especially because of his skating, but that’s also something that should come with time. And remember, his May 26 birthdate makes him one of the youngest players in the 2021 Draft.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Aleksi Malinen — NHL Draft Projection
Malinen is generally a top 100 prospect, with TSN’s Bob McKenzie having him as high as 65. That’s noteworthy, given McKenzie’s ranking comes from him conducting interviews with NHL scouts. Because of that, Malinen seems like a good bet to come off the board at some point in the early to mid-third round.
“Malinen was by far the best defenseman on either team in this playoff game. He contributed to a number of zone exits and zone entries, he could kickstart the breakout with a firm first pass, or carry the puck up the ice with ease and enter the offensive zone. He was a deceptive operator with the puck, calculated and calm in possession, managed to skate out of trouble and controlled the puck well while pressured. However, some more creativity would have been nice to see and he didn’t take many chances. Malinen is a great skater with a powerful first step and crisp, agile four-way mobility. He can outskate anyone in the league and he wins foot races to pucks. He registered two hits and one blocked shot. His defensive play wasn’t spectacular, but he was tough to get around and showed awareness in his own end.” – Marco Bombino, Finnish Junior Hockey
“Malinen is a fairly typical puck-moving defenseman, but the fact that he’s been sticking in the Liiga all season as a 17-year-old stands out, even if JYP is a bad team. There is some dynamism to his skating, as his crossovers and edges are pretty good, and he wants to play quick and push the pace. He’s assertive with his decision-making, making calculated risks to pinch up in the neutral zone…” – Derek Neumeier, FC Hockey
- Defensive positioning
- Two-way ability
Under Construction — Improvements to Make
- Passing accuracy
- Offensive assertiveness
- Adding strength to his frame
Malinen has an intriguing skill set. The offensive production may not have been there this season, but JYP’s struggles had something to do with it. His skating should allow him to become a more confident and assertive offensive facilitator as he matures. With his defensive game already showing promise, he could max out as a two-way, second-pair defender in the NHL.
Risk – 2.5/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 7/10, Defense – 7/10