The first of three selections in the second round, Antti Tuomisto is a big-bodied, puck-moving defenseman. The 6’4″ blue-liner is skilled with the puck on his stick but is a bit of a project player. He has some obvious flaws that could prevent him from reaching his full potential should they not be addressed. The young Finn is yet another addition to the growing stable of rearguards that the Detroit Red Wings are attempting to stockpile. Selected 35th overall, Tuomisto was ranked 70th by Future Considerations and 39th by Dobber Prospects which makes it seem like a bit of a reach at that point in the draft, especially considering that the Red Wings had multiple picks in the second round.
Playing primarily in the Jr A SM Liiga, Tuomisto put together a solid season of offensive production and made strides in his defensive game. He was a member of the Finnish team that won the silver medal in the World U18 Championships. He will likely return to Ässät U20 in the Junior A SM-Liiga again this season and there he has a chance to be among the best defenders in the league.
Playing within the Ässät organization since 2015-16, Tuomisto has done a very good job at advancing through the ranks from playing U16 in that first year with the organization as a 14-year-old to playing at the U20 level last season as a 17-year-old. Tuomisto will again suit up for Ässät U20 in the fall. He has previously declined a spot on a Liiga roster because he would like to keep his eligibility for the NCAA in the future, despite no commitment. This season he could change his mind and accept a spot in the Liiga should his future outlook change.
While he hasn’t been particularly productive in his limited experience with the national team, he was often relied upon in a defensive role and he tended to play lower in the lineup. He was a member of the Finnish U18 squad in the spring at the World U18 Championships where he pitched in two assists in five games. He was a key member of the penalty kill and secondary power-play unit. Those are likely roles that Tuomisto will continue to fill with Ässät and whenever he makes his way overseas, likely for a stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins before being a serious threat to make the Red Wings roster.
To best analyze and evaluate a player, we will go through a series of videos that were clipped from videos that are courtesy of Prospect Shifts. We will look at various aspects of his game defensively, offensively and in transition. Looking at both where he excels and needs work, the following videos will aid in fully understanding who Antti Tuomisto is as a player.
Above we see a very simple and subtle play. Tuomisto (#7 in for Finland in blue) understands that with his defensive partner Ville Hienola (#25) pinches in from the point in an attempt to play the puck. Noticing that Hienola was not going to be able to make the play, Tuomisto retreats towards the defensive end of the ice. This is an important trade for a player like Tuomisto who can not rely on high-end skating as he is about average at best, especially in terms of acceleration.
Below we see an example of how his average skating can at times affect his defensive play. Here Tuomisto (#3 in white for Ässät) is caught flat-footed as the defender gets behind him on a long stretch pass. He can’t recover from a standstill which leads to a goal against early in the contest. His defensive game has struggled at times on against the rush and if he doesn’t identify the play as he did in the first video, he can get burned.
In the following clip, Tuomisto (#3 in white) receives a pass at his blue line and stops up before getting too deep into his defensive zone. At that point, he makes a crisp pass to a forward in stride who drives up the ice and enters the offensive zone. Following the play up the ice, Tuomisto takes his position on the offensive blue line. When the puck comes free towards him, the young Finn steps up and fires a shot on net despite being challenged by a defensive player. This isn’t a flashy play but its an effective one.
His struggles with first-step quickness are evident in the next video as well. As the forward approaches Tuomisto (#3 in white) he is met with the decision to go for the man or the puck. He waits for a second too long to make the decision and is left lunging at the puck before being turned around. This cuts off his defensive partner and creates an open lane for the forward to the net. For him to improve and advance to the NHL level, he will need to work on his skating, particularly skating backward while defending on the rush.
While his backward skating is going to need work, his skating with the puck on his stick is decent. While he lacks acceleration, he does a good job of staying patient and waiting for a passing lane to open up to advance the puck down the ice. In the video below, he receives a pass behind the net and then turns back against a forechecker twice before making a good first pass that would have led to a good scoring chance if the forward was able to control the puck. This is an excellent skill for a defender to have because oftentimes young defenders will force a play before anything opens up.
At 6’4″, Tuomisto is going to be looked at for some physical play. The blueliner can be seen battling in front of the net below and then he does an excellent job at disengaging and moving towards the shooter on the backside. He is then able to block a shot and recover the loose puck and make a crisp pass out of the zone, advancing the puck to a forward across the ice. Tuomisto does an excellent job of making strong, efficient passes to forwards up the ice.
Tuomisto’s (#7 in blue) skating limitations are primarily based on his weak acceleration. When given time to wind up, he has a good top-speed and can be a force in transition when he can gather himself. Below he can loop around his net and then exit the defensive zone with control of the puck. He then passes off to a wing and continues into the offensive zone. When the puck is turned over he does an excellent job of backtracking and lifting the stick of the offensive player breaking up a scoring chance.
Below we see Tuomisto on the powerplay. His shot is strong and creates a rebound for the forwards around the net. He shows the ability to make quick, efficient passes. He does a good job of maintaining the zone and not allowing the puck to sneak out of the zone. Once recovering the puck on the point he can decide to turn down into the zone and keep the puck in deep.
The final video in this series of clips showcases Tuomisto’s (#7 in blue) ability to jump into a rush and get his shot through the crowd onto the net. He trails the play originally to stay defensively responsible before jumping into open ice and firing a shot on the net. This ability to be an offensive contributor, even if it is to create rebounds in front of the net and create havoc in the slot, is important for any modern-day rearguard.
Tuomisto is a tantalizing prospect because the offensive tools are clearly evident. He has a bomb for a shot from the point and he makes quick and efficient passes. His offensive IQ is high-level and he can exit the defensive zone with the puck on his stick or with excellent passes that advance the puck to the forwards. Defensively he doesn’t make the best decisions at all times because he is often caught in “No-mans land” because he wants to make the aggressive play but his back skating isn’t up to par for that to be an option. With some added work and development, his acceleration and pivoting ability should become stronger. The young Finn is a project player that may have been drafted slightly higher than he should have been but the raw tools are there. If he can get all of his tools together, fully develop his skating and work on his defensive positioning, he can become an effective top-four defender who plays on the second power-play unit where he can utilize his hard, accurate shot.
Why Tuomisto is 14th and Future Projections
Tuomisto is among a group of players such as Gustav Lindstrom and Oliwer Kaski. He may not be quite on the level of Moritz Seider or Jared McIsaac but he is certainly less of a question mark than the group behind him. His defensive play needs work but his offensive IQ is high-end. He can be a physical presence when he engages in the play and he does a good job of clearing out the front of the net. His physicality is a welcome sign for a blueline prospect group that lacks real bruiser. While Tuomisto is much more than a physical presence, he is the type of skilled physical presence that the NHL has favored over the last half-decade.
He is likely at least two years away from coming to North America. When he does come over, he will likely need some seasoning in the AHL with the Griffins. The best-case scenario for Tuomisto is that he develops into a high-end second pair defender who can play a second powerplay and be an excellent support player on a good roster. The worst-case scenario is that he remains in Europe and the Red Wings don’t sign him because his skating hasn’t developed the way that the team had hoped. Realistically, the 35th overall pick will likely end up somewhere in the middle and be a solid top-four defender who brings an edge and the ability to effectively and efficiently move the puck up the ice.