Emil Pieniniemi – 2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

Emil Pieniniemi

2022-23 Team: Karpat U20 / U20 SM-sarja
Date of Birth: Mar 02, 2005
Place of Birth: Kuopio, Finland
Height: 6-foot-2, Weight: 170 pounds
Shoots: Left
Position: Defense
NHL Draft Eligibility: First-year eligible


When you discuss players who could hear their names called at the NHL Entry Draft, the drop off from top talent to fringe prospect happens quickly. Once you get past the first few rounds, it becomes harder and harder to project where a player will even be drafted, let alone what their potential in professional hockey will be.

That’s where prospects like Emil Pieniniemi come into play at the 2023 NHL Draft. At 6-foot-2, he has the size of a modern NHL defenseman, but he is still very raw and needs to develop many aspects of his overall game from on-ice awareness to speeding up his decision-making before he will be ready to take the next step in his career.

Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide

There are plenty of positives to his game, of course, including solid skating and a great two-way gameplan that allows him to turn defensive responsibility into offensive potential when he transitions cleanly up the ice.

In fact, while at the 2023 International Ice Hockey Federation U18 World Championship, Pieniniemi played a significant role for Team Finland, where he acted as one of the backstops to their blue line. In fact, he was named the team’s best player in their quarterfinal matchup against Slovakia, when they were eliminated from the tournament.

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Emil Pieniniemi – NHL Draft Projection

While Pieniniemi won’t be a top prospect at the draft, I still believe he will be a shrewd selection by a franchise after Round 5. If he had a bigger frame or was able to impress more against his peers in the 2023 WJC I would expect him to hear his name called in Round 5, but neither of those things have happened.

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That leaves us with a raw but talented prospect that will likely scare away some general managers with his developing toolkit. With this in mind, I could see Pieniniemi as a late sixth-round pick, who could move up the draft boards if a team believes in his potential and has a plan on how to properly develop him.


The 31st-ranked European skater wasn’t one I saw a ton of this year, but he’s a decent skater that did a good job of always covering a man in the defensive zone. I don’t think there’s an NHL future here, but he’ll have a decent pro career.

Steven Ellis – dailyfaceoff.com

He (Pieniniemi) showed some good poise in the offensive zone at times, beating the offensive player on the blue line and creating some time and space for himself through that. However, on the power play, there were times when he went for a sloppy shot towards the net instead of keeping the play alive with an easy pass, which made me question his hockey IQ a bit.

Rasmus Tornqvist (From ‘April 20, 2023 Scouting Report of Emil Pieniniemi’, FCHokcey, April 20, 2023)


  • NHL caliber size
  • Solid skater
  • Good two-way play

Under Construction – Improvements to Make

  • Rough prospect who will need time to develop his game.

NHL Potential

If given time to develop the positives of his toolkit while learning how to minimize his shortcomings, Pieniniemi could grow into his game and round into form as a top American Hockey League defenseman who earns limited time in the NHL in a bottom-pairing role.

2023 NHL Entry Draft Guide Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli
While he might not be a top prospect at the 2023 NHL Draft, Emil Pieniniemi has a raw toolkit that could be developed into an AHL or even an NHL starter. (The Hockey Writers)

I wouldn’t expect him to become the next late-round pick who turns into a nightly starter, but the toolkit is there if the right franchise picks him and understands what he needs to grow his game. This will take time, but every season there’s a surprise pick or two in the later rounds that become far more than expected, and Pieniniemi could very well be that player in 2023.


Risk – 3/5, Reward – 2/5

Fantasy Hockey Potential

Offense – 3/10, Defense – 5/10

Emil Pieniniemi Stats