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2nd Round Draft Profiles Part II: Finns and other Europeans

We’re back for another roundup of NHL Draft profiles on various guys that the Red Wings could take with their 2nd round picks. Our first article looked at the various Russian options and today we’re moving slightly westward into Finland, as well as other European nations that aren’t Sweden (they’ll have their own article next up). Today we have a handful of players, defense, forwards, and goalies, on our list, so let’s break them down:

Mikko Kokkonen, D, Jukurit (Liiga)

First up on our list is a pair of polarizing Finnish defensemen who some see as solid first round prospects, and others as third rounders. Kokkonen has one of the most deliciously Finnish names of the draft, besting Kaapo Kakko in the “how many K’s can you fit in one name” contest. Kokkonen also, unfortunately, looks like every smug kid in school that you had to hold back the urge to punch in the face.

Anyway, as for the player, Kokkonen is a 5’11” defenseman who played the entire season in the Finnish men’s league, Liiga, playing significant ice time for Jukurit, one of the absolute worst teams in the Liiga (second only to Otto Kivenmaki’s Assat). Scott Wheeler of The Athletic ($) is incredibly high on Kokkonen, ranking him as a solid first rounder, and complementing his achievements this past season, setting new U18 records for a defender in the Liiga. Wheeler raves about Kokkonen’s strong defensive game and offensive instincts, despite a disappointing U18 World Championships in April. Corey Pronman of The Athletic, on the other hand, sees Kokkonen in the 70s range of prospects, remarking that while Kokkonen has a high hockey IQ and is sound defensively, he has major problems with his skating, which could be a fatal flaw long term. Dobber Prospects largely sums up the two opinions, by stating that Kokkonen does most things well, but nothing very well, which could limit his upside. Pretty much everyone agrees his acceleration is an issue that will be something to watch moving forward.

In totality, Kokkonen is a safe pick who seems like he could be a good bet to play in the NHL given his ahead of schedule development and sense for the game, but may have a low ceiling because of the aforementioned skating problems.

Anttoni Honka, D, JYP (Liiga)

The fourth Honka brother to come along, Anttoni is similar to Kokkonen in the wide array of projections. Honka is older than Kokkonen with his October 2000 birthday, yet hasn’t fully broken into the Liiga yet, playing just 16 games there this season.

Pronman argues for and against Honka, talking about a lack of consistency and a tendency to alternate between brilliant plays and boneheaded turnovers. Wheeler largely agrees in his assessment of Honka, except he falls on the side of going all-in on the young Finn, ranking him in his top 20 due to his raw offensive potential, though even he admits that Honka can be a liability in his own end. Dobber Prospects goes so far as to call Honka the most divisive prospect in the draft, recognizing his elite skating and offensive tool-kit in his undersized (5-10) frame, while noting that Honka is a guy who always looks to create offense while neglecting his own end and struggling in puck battles. As a result, his total prospect profile is one that seems to be a swing for the fences and almost the opposite of the safer Kokkonen. Draft Honka and hope his offensive tools turn him into a Mike Green type. But there’s also the chance that his defensive issues hold him back forever and he’s closer to Brendan Smith.

Lassi Thomson, D, Kelowna (WHL)

Yet another defenseman, Thomson played for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL this past year but plans to return to Finland to play in Liiga next year. Thomson scored 41 points in 63 games in the WHL this past season, making a quick adjustment to North American hockey, just in time to be whisked back to Europe.

He’s generally ranked around #40 in the prospect rankings, with the potential to go in the early second round. His offensive toolkit is pretty well regarded, with the first thing that every scout mentions is his shot. It’s a cannon from the point with heavy spin and some scouts say that he sometimes relies a bit too much on it. Outside of just his shot, he’s a good skater with plus agility and optimal puck skills as well. This prospect profile from the SB Nation blog Eyes on the Prize does a good job of summing up his offensive talents. No scout seems to argue about Thomson’s skills as a puck-mover and an offensive creator. However, there are real concerns about his performance in the defensive end, with WingsNation’s own Cameron Kuom listing Thomson on his “Do Not Draft” list due to a glut of ugly turnovers in the defensive end. In some ways, Thomson resembles Honka as a skilled offensive player with notable risks when it comes to the selection, so tread carefully when considering him.

Matias Maccelli, LW, Dubuque (USHL)

Maccelli is an older prospect, being another October 2000 birthday and he just wrapped up his season playing in the USHL, with the plan of returning to Finland next season, like Lassi Thomson. Maccelli put up 72 points in 62 games for Dubuque in 2018-19, his second campaign in North America, and it has allowed him to rise on some draft boards, though he is generally in the early third round range. Pronman is one of the highest on Maccelli, complimenting his puck skills and hockey IQ in particular, noting that Maccelli was relied on big time by Dubuque, logging over 20 minutes a night and he largely excelled in that capacity.

As a lower ranked prospect, there’s not nearly as much on Maccelli as there is on other players, though this USHL scouting roundup talks about Maccelli as an every situation guy with the skills to play on both the power play and the penalty kill in addition to praising his skating and quickness. At 5-11, he’s a tad undersized and is going to rely more on skill than strength to play. While likely not an option for Detroit’s early second rounder, a selection in the 50s or 60s is very reasonable.

Vladislav Kolyachonok, D, Flint (OHL)

Kolyachonok has one of the most distinctively Eastern European names in this draft, but he is not Russian. Actually, he is Belarusian, but has been playing in North America for the past year, specifically with the Flint Firebirds of the OHL.

The story of Kolyachonok’s career in the past year is that he is consistently asked to perform herculean tasks for very bad teams. First, Flint is one of the worst teams in the OHL and he was asked to be an all-situations star for them, playing top pair minutes at age 17, surrounded by largely lousy teammates (with the exception of Ty Dellandrea). He still managed to put up 29 points in 53 games, although offense is not the feature part of his game.

Then at the U18’s, he had a dazzling showing by lifting a ton of weight for yet another bad team, helping Belarus avoid relegation despite having a team of precisely 0 talent. And again, all of this happened to him at age 17 (he just turned 18 a couple days ago), even though he looks 12. As a result, scouts rave about Kolyachonok’s maturity and hockey IQ, and there is agreement that he is a generally strong skater. On the downside, he needs to fill out his 6’0” frame and become more physical and some have raised questions about his defensive positioning and consistency.

Lastly, Pronman was generally complimentary about Kolyachonok, but posed the question as to whether the young Belarusian has the tools to be a plus offensive player in the NHL. All that said, as someone who values hockey sense, IQ, and leadership highly, Kolyachonok happens to be one of my favorite 2nd round defensemen in this draft and so I’m a tad biased in saying I’m very much hoping he ends up in the Winged Wheel.

Moritz Seider, D, Manheim (DEL)

This is another one of those “if he falls it will be a coup” kind of picks, because it is not at all likely that Seider makes it to pick #35. That said, some scouts still rank him as a second round caliber player, so I included him on this list.

Seider is the rare German prospect, and while it is true that hockey is growing in Germany (Leon Draisaitl), it is still not nearly the talent producing area of a Sweden or Finland. As for Seider, he’s a big, big boy, a towering 6’4” defender who is a strong skater, as nearly every scout points out his skating ability as a clear plus. Seider was a bit of a late bloomer, spending most of this year as a firm second round prospect even though he was playing starter minutes in the German men’s league (DEL), though his big breakthrough came at the World Juniors back in December, when he was named the best defenseman in the Division I bracket, and then had another strong showing in the last few weeks at the World Championships.

Most scouts praise Seider’s defensive game and he plays a very physical game, though some have worried about a lack of discipline when Seider goes to lay hits. As for his offense, that’s where the divide between scouts really is. Those who see him as a first rounder talk about his slap shot and call his puck skills okay, while those who see him as a second rounder question whether he will ever be able to play on a power play in the NHL. There is a general consensus that Seider will need to beef up to fill out his large frame, but that he has high upside. Again, likely a first rounder, but if he’s somehow on the board at 35, it’s time to celebrate.

Maxim Cajkovic, LW/RW, Saint John (QMJHL)

Cajkovic is the only prominent Slovak prospect in this draft, and also one of the few prospects who looks older than he is. He started his career in the Czech league before moving to Sweden, and then again to Canada prior to this season. He just completed his first year in the QMJHL, scoring 46 points in 60 games for the Sea Dogs, which led the team (Saint John was awful again this year).

Cajkovic also got lots of international exposure and put up good stats in several tournaments on Team Slovakia in the past year as well. The first thing on Cajkovic’s scouting report is that his speed is universally praised. He’s viewed as a good skater with plus acceleration, allowing him to convert on the rush. The flip side of that is that he produced few high danger chances close to the net, partly because Saint John was so bad but it’s also an area of question for his game.

Some scouts have legitimate worries about the rather small Cajkovic’s (5-11, 187) ability to get gritty in the corner and in front of the net. He has a good shot and hockey IQ, though some, like Pronman, have questioned his effort level and consistency. All in all, Cajkovic is a high skilled winger who is a bit of a gamble but he could pay off in a big way. If he doesn’t, he’s probably more of a “Tomas Jurco but small” type. While some grade Cajkovic as a first round prospect, he generally falls more firmly into the second round picture, so he should be available for the Red Wings to have a hack at if they should want.

Mads Søgaard, G, Medicine Hat (WHL)

The last prospect on the list is the only Danish guy in contention, and is also the only goalie on this list. He just got done playing in the WHL for Medicine Hat and posted solid numbers there. Søgaard is an absolute monster of a man, standing 6’7”, though he is distressingly skinny at just 196 pounds and has lots of room to get bigger and fill out.

Pretty much every scouting opinion remarks that Søgaard is agile in his crease, especially so for a big guy, moving well left-to-right, and Pronman also ranks his hockey IQ as a plus. Some of the questions that come up for him is about his glove, as well as consistency, and sometimes his frame bails him out in a way that probably won’t at the next level. He’s generally ranked all over the place, with some having him as high as the second round, while some as low as the sixth or seventh round. It seems likely that Detroit will pick at least one goalie this draft and taking a swing at a high ceiling project like Søgaard does not seem like the worst idea ever, though perhaps it is not justifiable with any of the three seconds.