2021-22 Team: JYP U-20 (U-20 SM-Sarja)
Date of Birth: Jan 25, 2004
Place of Birth: Jyväskylä, Finland
Weight: 216 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings: 1st (among EU goalies)
- TSN/Craig Button’s Post-Lottery Rankings: 75th
- FC Hockey: 76th
- Forbes’ March Rankings: 88th
- Recruit Scouting: 96th
- Baracchini’s May Rankings: 112th
Born in Jyväskylä, Finland, Topias Leinonen played hockey for Ilves in his youth before joining his hometown team, the JYP U-16 program. He was considered a top goaltending prospect from a young age, and although he has played mostly for the JYP U-20’s this season, he got into four Liiga games as well. Even though his 5.02 goals-against average and .825 save percentage in the professional ranks leave a lot to be desired, we can give him the benefit of the doubt due to the small sample size.
Speaking of size, Leinonen has the size that NHL general managers drool over. He’s 6-foot-5, weighs 216 pounds, and could fill out even more by the time he reaches the NHL. He’s not just big in size, he also plays big. He seals the bottom of the net easily, and has the length to close up angles to the top part of the net with his arms and hands. He’s hard to beat cleanly with a shot.
His next biggest asset is his athleticism and quickness. He might not move as smoothly as some scouts would like, but his feet and hands are quick for his size. He has strong edgework, which goes hand-in-hand with his cross-crease explosiveness. It’s easy to see a potential comparison to longtime Nashville Predator Pekka Rinne, who was also 6-foot-5 and one pound heavier at 217 pounds. Rinne was not the most elegant goalie in the league, regularly sprawling and swimming in the net. But like Rinne, Leinonen finds a way to make the save, is surprisingly explosive for his size, and stops at nothing to get in the way of rebounds, too.
Related: THW’s 2022 Draft Guide
He follows the play easily, with his eyes, chest, hands, and feet, and reads and interprets threats effectively. He is almost always in solid position, not only for the initial shot, but for any rebounds as well. He fights to find the puck through screens, and stands straight up to look over them most of the time, but can sometimes move too much to one side to track the puck.
With exceptional awareness, he is also eager to play the puck. He can make heads-up passes, but normally chooses to make a simple play. Finding a balance between overplaying and being an effective sixth man on the breakout should come easy to him at the next level.
Another strength of his game is his controlled aggressiveness. His depth control is naturally efficient, and he’s rarely caught too far out of his net, if ever. In this way, he lets his size do the work for him. He routinely sits at the top of his crease, but not further. This will surely translate to the next level.
Leinonen is one of those “quietly confident” netminders. In interviews, he likes to joke around, but doesn’t come across as cocky. This might seem like useless information, but mental game and confidence is extremely important for goalies. His mentality reminds me of a young Carey Price.
There are two significant holes in his game. Firstly, his feet can sometimes look slightly jittery in net, which is known as “busy feet.” This is especially pronounced on chances in tight. Busy feet can lead a goalie to be unprepared for an incoming shot. On the flip side, when a goalie has quiet feet, they are more prepared to spring into a save. This comes down to poise. While he exemplifies poise in other ways, including his calm upper body, he could work on his patience with his feet in tight.
The second thing he could improve upon is his rebound control. Due to his busy feet, he’s sometimes late to a scoring chance, rather than beating the puck to the play. Although his athleticism and size can bail him out occasionally, this habit leads to uncontrollable rebounds. He rarely gets beat on the first shot, but with two or three rebounds afterwards, the puck eventually finds the net. This was apparent at the U-18 World Championships in April, but due to his ability to thrive in more structured hockey, he will be better suited to the professional game.
While these issues can be problematic at the next level, Leinonen is still a very raw talent with tremendous upside, and should be able to improve his poise and rebound control through his professional development.
Topias Leinonen – NHL Draft Projection
With no truly elite goalies in the draft, and his current NHL Central Scouting ranking, he could be the first goalie picked in 2022. Even if he isn’t one of the first goalies picked, he has the size and talent that teams crave and could be picked as early as the late second round, but will most likely land in the mid-third round.
“Leinonen is a very well-rounded netminder. He is very tall for his age and takes away big portions of the net very well. Leinonen stands out due to his hockey sense and athleticism, and he is really hard to beat with a clean shot. Leinonen also has very good puck-handling skills behind the net and he isn’t afraid to use them.” – Lassi Alanen, Finn Prospects
“Topias Leinonen is young, but a goalie with raw talent and loads of potential long-term… He possesses strong edge work, and moves laterally pretty well for his size… Leninonen shows good depth control, as he works to get to the top of the crease, while understanding when to play a little deeper during specific situations presented in front of him. He shows flashes of athleticism, but plays more of a positional, blocking style.” – Frank Longo, Recruit Scouting
“The top-ranked goalie in Europe for NHL Central Scouting. The obvious is his stature, 6-foot-5, 207 pounds. He’s a big body goalie who takes up the net. His play in the tournament was mostly solid. He is at his best in a structured format. When his team plays lost in their zone he tends to follow suit and kicks pucks back out into scoring areas or allows a goal he would like to have back. The kid has all the tools, but he will need time. He could be the first goalie off the board in Montreal. A team with multiple picks in the second round could roll the dice.” – Jason Bukala, Sportsnet
- NHL-ready size
- Innate positioning and aggressiveness
- Elite quickness
- Natural confidence
- Ice awareness and puck-handling
Under Construction – Improvements to Make
- Rebound control
With NHL-ready size and quickness, he has the tools to be an elite goalie in the NHL. It will take time for him to reach his potential, but he could end up being one of those goalies that everyone forgets about after he’s drafted and then he shows up five years later in elite form. However, he will most likely end up in a time-share role, rather than as a true starter. His career could end up being similar to Thomas Greiss‘.
Risk – 3/5, Reward – 3/5
Topias Leinonen Statistics
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Writer and hockey addict from the GTA, covering the Ottawa Senators. Leafs fan from birth, moved to BC to explore the mountains and find the strength to keep cheering. Love talking prospects, potential, and coaching strategies.