2021-22 Team: SaiPa (SM-Liiga)
Date of Birth: Feb. 10, 2004
Place of Birth: Lappeenranta, FIN
Ht: 6-foot-2 Wt: 187 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible
While you might not find him on too many scouts’ rankings, Otto Hokkanen is an intriguing name to keep an eye on ahead of the NHL draft. The 6-foot-2 Finnish centre has been playing in SaiPa’s system ever since his U16 years, and although he’s been less dominant as he’s gotten older and started playing against tougher competition, he’s been a consistent name on the scoresheet as long as he’s been playing against players his own age.
Despite being only 17/18 years old with limited pro experience prior to this season, Hokkanen spent the majority of the season playing for SaiPa’s top pro team. He only had one point, a goal, in 30 games with the club, so it’s a good thing that there’s far more to judging prospects than point totals, especially when it comes to those who are playing for pro teams in Europe. On top of this, his offense showed through when he was playing against competition his age, with 16 points through 14 games with SaiPa U20.
Part of the reason he spent the season in the pros could be attributed to the fact that SaiPa finished second last in the Liiga this season, so there was probably some more room for him. But at the same time, the fact that they kept him on the team despite his limited offensive production says a lot about the trust his coaches have in him. He undoubtedly played limited minutes, but the fact that he was on the roster at all is a good sign for him, and it’s more than likely that he’ll have a bigger role next season with more responsibility and another year under his belt.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
By all accounts, Hokkanen is a reliable two-way centre with some possible untapped potential offensively. He’s a speedy player, which is a nice combination to have with his size. And despite most of his value coming from the playmaking side of things, he’s a sneaky goal scorer with a deceptively good shot as well. His two-way game will likely be the factor that gets him drafted, along with the size up the middle. The physical aspect of his game could use some work, but not so much in the sense that he needs to use his body more. Rather, he needs to work on cleaning up his hits, as he was suspended for a game at the U18 World Championships due to a hit from behind. He could also work on his face-off abilities, but that’s not uncommon for a young centre.
If he gets off to a strong start with SaiPa next season, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him representing Finland at the 2023 World Juniors. While he’s certainly a few years away from sniffing the NHL, there are enough tools there for him to be worth the gamble, and it wouldn’t shock me at all to see a team take a chance on him on June 8.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Otto Hokkanen – Draft Projection
For lack of a better term, the draft is always a crapshoot after the first round, so Hokkanen’s potential at getting drafted entirely depends on how GMs and scouts across the league measure him up against similar players. However, I think he’s shown enough this year to be a possible third or fourth-round pick, possibly even a second-round pick if teams feel he’s worth the reach. I view him as a top-10 Finnish player in this draft class, and with the lack of high-end Finnish talent in this draft class, that measures him up near the middle rounds.
“Hokkanen is a two-way center that is reliable with the puck and a good playmaker in the offensive zone. He was able to showcase some of his good playmaking skills in the game against Jukurit. He skated decently well, and that in combination with his size makes him an interesting player going into the draft.” -Rasmus Tornqvist, FC Hockey
“Otto Hokkanen has slowly but steadily climbed up SaiPa U20 depth chart. For the last two games, he has been centering the first line, and he scored his first two goals of the season in a 7-1 win over Ilves (the other one was an empty netter). The skilled and rangy center has soft hands for giving and receiving passes. He moves up and down the ice well.“ -Marco Bombino, Neutral Zone
- Defensive Awareness
- Hockey IQ
Under Construction – Improvements to Make
- Faceoff Ability
- Physicality/Timely Hits
If all goes according to plan during Hokkanen’s development, I could see him panning out as a reliable middle-six centre at the NHL level, with his ceiling being a two-way, second-line centre. It would probably be a safer bet to project him as a bottom-six forward, but the offensive potential leaves a window of opportunity on a more offensively-driven line.
Risk 1/5, Reward 3/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense 6/10, Defense 6/10
Hokkanen won a bronze medal with Team Finland at the 2022 U18 World Hockey Championships
Alex Hobson is a third year broadcasting student at Niagara College. He has been writing about sports since 2015 and has been with The Hockey Writers since October of 2020. He covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, World Juniors, and the NHL Entry Draft, and is also part of the Sticks in the 6ix Podcast, presented by THW. He also makes weekly appearances on THW’s Maple Leafs Lounge Roundtable. For interview requests or any other inquiries, you can follow Alex’s social media pages listed at the bottom of his articles like this one.