The Vancouver Canucks hold the No 10 pick in this year’s draft. In the time leading up to the draft, we’ll profile the top 2019 draft prospects. Next up is Ville Heinola.
The amount of elite blueliner prospects in this year’s draft for the Vancouver Canucks to choose from are low. After Bowen Byram, there probably isn’t any top pairing defence left. However, there are a number of potential top four defencemen available after him. One of them is Finnish rearguard Ville Heinola.
Heinola has been on the rise over the last few months. He could potentially go in the 15 to 20 range. So in all likelihood, the Canucks will have to trade a pick or player to acquire another first round pick to select him.
If they are able to do so, Heinola would be a solid pickup. Often compared to Dallas Stars young star Miro Heiskanen, he could become a fixture on a top pairing or a solid contributor on the second pairing and on the power play. The thing that could hold him back is his skating, which will have to improve for him to succeed in the NHL.
*Stats provided by EliteProspects
Height: 5-foot-11/181 cm
Weight: 181 lbs/82 kg
Birth Date: Mar 2, 2001
Team (league): Lukko (Liiga)
#17 by HOCKEYPROSPECT.COM
#43 by FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS
#24 by Bob McKenzie
#22 by Craig Button
GP G A Pts
34 2 12 14
Taking a look at the rankings, Heinola is slated to go late in the first round by most. Future Considerations puts him in the mid second round.
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He could be a bit of a wild card in this draft because of his boom or bust quality. His ceiling is top pair, because of his smarts and two way qualities. His skating is what could make him a bust.
This past season, Heinola split time with Lukko of the Finnish senior men’s team and the junior A team. His 14 points was fourth best all time for under-18 Finnish defencemen, and was more than Heiskanen put up in his rookie season.
He also put up nine points in nine games in junior A. Most of the season he played in the senior league with men and looked comfortable playing over 18 minutes a game, seeing time on both the power play and penalty kill.
In international play, Heinola made the cut for Team Finland in the 2019 World Junior Championships. He played over 20 minutes a game on the top pair, accumulated two points in five games and walked away with a gold medal. As a 17-year-old, that’s pretty impressive. Unfortunately, a dirty hit by Maxime Comtois of Team Canada in the quarter finals knocked him out of the tournament.
Jokke Nevalainen, Dobber Hockey
"Heinola is a talented offensive defenseman. Despite not having blazing top speed, Heinola is a great skater. His edge work is amazing. He’s a very smart player with good vision and passing skills. He also has pretty impressive one-on-one skills. Because of these talents, he can move the puck and also skate it up the ice himself. His shot isn’t the most powerful you’ll see out there but it’s good, and he’s very good at finding open lanes to get pucks to the net.His defensive game is pretty good but there’s still room for improvement. He needs to add more muscle to win more puck battles, and he needs to improve his defensive zone coverage. He’s good at defending against rush attacks already, and his high hockey sense allows him to become a good two-way player."
Steve Kournianous, The Draft Analyst
"(…) brilliant puck mover, who played a composed, mature game as a pre-draft teenager in the Finland’s top circuit. Heinola is an elusive, one-man breakout who passes the puck with flair and accuracy."
Looking at the scouting reports, Heinola presents as a solid two way defenceman who could be a good complement to any top pairing. He still needs to bulk up to contend with forwards on the boards, but that will come with natural physical development. His hockey IQ and vision is what stands out, and that is the most important in the NHL right now.
If the Canucks can somehow acquire another first round pick, he would be a great addition in a couple years to a defence core in transition. Led by Quinn Hughes, Olli Juolevi and Jett Woo, Heinola would be a perfect fit with what the Canucks are trying to build.
Because of his hockey IQ, Heinola has a future in the NHL. He may not get to the ceiling of a top pairing blueliner; but with time and development, I believe he will be a solid top four defenceman, capable of putting up 30-40 points while playing in all situations.