It was a very busy day in the National Hockey League as far as prospects go. It appears that the dates for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft have been finalized and four more young players are loaned to European clubs for the start of the upcoming season.
Draft Dates Appear to be Set
The very quick NHL offseason is starting to take form as the Stanley Cup playoffs are down its final four teams. During the second NHL Draft Lottery, the league mentioned that the first round of the 2020 Entry Draft would take place on Oct. 9.
On Tuesday, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported that the dates have been moved up a couple of days. He confirmed that the first round of the draft will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 6 with the remainder being held on the following day.
The main reason for the change in dates is that the leaguewide start of free agency is scheduled to start on Oct. 9. This will lead to a hectic few days across the NHL which will keep everyone busy.
Suter Loaned to Swiss League
Pius Suter was one of the top free-agent forwards coming out of Europe this past season. He eventually signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 16. On Tuesday, the Blackhawks announced that Suter will be loaned to Grasshopper Club Küsnacht (GCK) Lions in National League B, Switzerland’s equivalent to the American Hockey League (AHL).
The GCK Lions are the NLB affiliate for the ZSC Lions, who Suter spent the previous five seasons playing for. He was the National League A’s most valuable player for the 2019-20 season after scoring a league-high 30 goals and 53 points in 50 games. His first season with ZSC Lions was spent playing for head coach Marc Crawford, who is now an assistant with the Blackhawks. Suter is expected to return for the start of training camp in early December.
Blue Jackets Loan Trio to Finland
The Columbus Blue Jackets were busy on Tuesday as general manager Jarmo Kerkalainen announced a trio of player loans for the start of the 2020-21 season. Right wing Emil Bemstrom has been loaned to HIFK Helsinki, center Alexandre Texier to KalPa and goaltender Veini Vehvilainen to JYP Jyvaskyla. All three teams play in Finland’s top professional league, Liiga.
Bemstrom played in 56 games for the Blue Jackets this past season, scoring 10 goals and 20 points. He was selected in the fourth round (117th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Texier played in 36 NHL games before a back injury ended his regular season on Dec. 31, scoring six goals and 13 points. He returned for the Stanley Cup playoffs where he picked up four assists in 10 game.
Vehvilainen made his North American debut during the 2019-20 season. He played in 33 games for the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL. He posted a 10-18-4 record with a .901 save percentage (SV%), 2.76 goals-against average (GAA) and three shutouts.
All three players are expected to return to Columbus for the start of training camp.
Prospect of the Day – Roni Hirvonen
We are going to stay in Liiga to look at one of the top Finnish prospects of the 2020 NHL Draft class. NHL Central Scouting has Hirvonen ranked as the 10th-best European skater. In his final rankings, THW’s Larry Fisher has him ranked 42nd among all players.
Related – THW’s 2020 Draft Guide
Hirvonen spent the 2019-20 season playing for Ässät and did not look out of place in Finland’s top league. He scored five goals and 16 points in 52 games, which made him the second-highest scoring teenager in Liiga.
He is more of the undersized skill player we have seen over the past few years at just 5-foot-9 and 163 pounds. What he lacks in size he makes up for with great hands, elite vision and excellent puck control. While he is far from the fastest skater on the ice, he has quick feet which allow him to make moves around defenders.
In addition to setting up his teammates, Hirvonen likes to crash the net and score goals from the dirty area of the ice. He plays with a high-intensity level and loves to be in control with the puck on his stick.
Our own Matt Cosman feels that Hirvonen could project to be a very good NHL player with the right development.
Many of Hirvonen’s shortcomings will see a big jump in improvement once he adds more muscle mass. A stronger Hirvonen will also amplify his tenacious play style. With the proper coaching and development, Hirvonen projects to be a middle-six forward in the NHL. While he’s a natural center, left wing may be a better fit for him in the NHL due to his current size and strength.
Hirvonen could be drafted as high as the first round, but whatever team that does select him will have to patient with his development. He is years away from being in the mix for an NHL roster spot. Like nearly all players at his age, he will need to work on adding some size and strength. His style of play and playing making skills have him on the radar of many scouting staffs across the league.