Kristian Vesalainen is one of Finland’s top prospects this year. The 18-year-old winger shoots left and has great strength when it comes to getting into the dirty areas on the ice. He’s played for Finland at the International level, however he left his home country to play in the Swedish Professional League for Frolunda. He’ll likely go at some point in the mid- to late-first round at the entry draft.
NHL CS RANKINGS
Projected to go 7th overall among European skaters.
(Stats courtesy of EliteProspects)
Vesalainen has only played a total of 45 games for Frolunda HC and has only put up 8 points. This is nothing to be concerned about, though, as he’s only 18-years-old and playing against men. He’ll game will continue to improve as he plays more professional hockey. In the Superelit league, Vesalainen was almost a point-per-game player. He’s in that weird spot where he’s too good for the Superelit league, but not quite good enough for the SHL.
At the International level, Vesalainen has represented Finland many times and always impressed. Most recently, he put up 7 points (4 G, 3 A) in 12 games for the U20 Finland team at the International Jr. Championship.
THE EYE TEST
NHL Director of European scouting Goran Stubb had this to say on NHL.com:
“HE’S A BIG, PHYSICAL POWER FORWARD WHO LIKES TO GO STRAIGHT FOR THE NET.”
Ryan Kennedy, from The Hockey News, also adds:
“Vesalainen has studied Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and prides himself on playing hard at both ends of the ice. Indeed, in Michigan, if Vesalainen turned the puck over, he would track it down until he got it back and out of danger. His size helps, but his skating is also coming along nicely, too. “
DOES HE FIT IN WITH THE RED WINGS?
Vesalainen will likely pan out as a top-6 winger. He’s got good speed for his size and, as mentioned earlier, uses his big frame to get into the dirty areas on the rink. He’s a great net front presence, either at even strength or on the powerplay, and is a strong backchecker. With his shot and nose for the net, he’ll be like a better Justin Abdelkader. That being said, Detroit already has a Justin Abdelkader and they’ll have him for a long time. This team has good depth on the wing and is in dire need of either a top-line centre or top-2 defenseman. Since Vesalainen is neither of these, I can’t see him fitting into this Red Wing roster anytime soon.