2018-19 Team: Lukko (#14)
Date of Birth: March 2, 2001
Place of Birth: Honkajoki, Finland
Ht: 5’ 11” Wt: 181 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2019 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 4th (among European skaters)
- Future Considerations: 27th
- Hockeyprospect.com: 17th
- Dobber Prospects: 20th
While he’s not a well-known name at this point, you should expect to be hearing the name Ville Heinola often in the near future. The Finnish player is one of the best available defenders in this year’s draft class and looks to be a first-round pick in June’s draft.
Related: NHL Draft Guide | 2019 Edition
Heinola started the 2018-19 season with the Lukko U20 team, but that didn’t last long. After nine games, he had a goal and eight assists and got the call-up to Lukko – the men’s team playing in the Liiga. Since then, the defenseman has been playing in a league against men, collecting two goals and 12 assists through 34 games as a rookie.
The longer Heinola played in the Liiga, the better he got. His time-on-ice climbed from roughly 16 to 21 minutes a game, with over three minutes a game on the power play and about a minute on the penalty kill. His season time-on-ice average was 18:54. All of this while maintaining a positive Corsi.
While his numbers don’t jump off the page, it’s important to recognize just how impressive they are. His 14 points this season are fourth all-time for an under-18 defenseman. That’s better than Dallas Stars defender Miro Heiskanen in his rookie season.
To cap off 2018-19, Heinola played for Team Finland at the U18 World Championships. Despite a quarterfinal loss, Heinola looked strong for the group, finishing the tournament with a goal and three assists. His four points tied him for second on the team. He was arguably the team’s best player, showing that he can play big minutes.
Other THW Draft Profiles:
Ville Heinola – NHL Draft Projection
There are aspects of Heinola’s game that need improvement, which is the same for every defender his age. Bowen Byram seems to be the undisputed first defender to go in the 2019 NHL Draft, but Heinola is one of a handful that could follow him. He should be a mid-first round pick. I have him going 20th.
“A talented and effective offensive defenseman who boasts quick acceleration and expert edgework. Makes smart decisions with the puck and already looks confident in the top men’s league. He’ll need to continue to improve his positioning as his stature doesn’t allow him to outmuscle. Had a very nice WJC on the top pair for Finland. He’s one to watch.” – Cam Robinson, DobberProspects
“Heinola doesn’t have blazing top speed but he’s a smooth skater. He’s excellent at using his edges which is very important for a modern defenseman. His agility and acceleration are excellent. His skating seems effortless which allows him to play big minutes. He’s a very talented skater, and top speed is likely something he can improve over the next few years.” – Jokke Nevalainen, DobberProspects
“Heinola was very good for a 17-year-old defenseman before a brutal knee injury took him out. He was playing top-four minutes, and showing good feet, touch and great overall instincts. He moves the puck well for a double underage and showed that he knows how to make a play. His decisions weren’t perfect, but for a guy his age, I have no concerns that as he matures he’ll clean his game up. He looked like a top-two-rounds pick.” Corey Pronman, The Athletic (From: “Pronman’s 2019 World Junior Championship wrap: Standouts, disappointments and draft talk” – The Athletic – January 7, 2019).
- Hockey IQ
- Puck movement
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
Heinola should be a top-four defender in the NHL, the question will come down to when. At just 5-foot-11 and 176 pounds, he’ll need to bulk up a bit before facing the world’s best players. Expect it to take him a couple of years to break the NHL. I could see him staying in Finland for one more season before coming to North America and playing in the AHL for a season or two.
Risk – 3.5/5 | Reward – 3.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 8/10 | Defense – 7/10
Heinola is no stranger to international hockey, as his resume shows. Playing for Team Finland, he’s participated at the U15, U16, U17, U18 and U20 levels. He also participated in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2018-19 collecting two assists in four games. Also in 2018-19, Heinola was a part of the World Junior team that won the gold medal, scoring a goal and an assist before a knee injury took him out of the tournament.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.