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Maple Leafs Draft Target: Finnish Defenceman Juuso Valimaki

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He’s 6’2 and scored like crazy this season. Could he help the Leafs on the back end?

Tri-City Americans v Kelowna Rockets Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

Juuso Valimaki is a 6’2 defenceman with the ability to provide value at both ends of the ice. With 61 points in 60 WHL games this year, he owns the best points per game mark for draft eligible CHL defencemen. It is tough to find a major hole in Valimaki’s game, as his strength and long reach allow him to be dependable in his own zone, while his ability to jump up in the play makes him a weapon offensively.

When we took a look at various draft rankings last week, Valimaki finished as high as 12th and as low as 23rd. Whether or not he is available for the Leafs at #17 continues to be a toss up, but there is certainly a chance that he is the best defencemen available at this spot.

Valimaki By The Numbers

Points Per Game- 1st Round CHL Defencemen (2015-2016)

Player GP G A P P/GP
Player GP G A P P/GP
Juuso Valimaki* 60 19 42 61 1.02
Ivan Provorov 60 15 46 61 1.02
Jake Bean 68 24 40 64 0.94
Conor Timmins* 67 7 54 61 0.91
Mikhail Sergachev 67 17 40 57 0.85
Cal Foote* 71 6 51 57 0.8
Jakob Chychrun 68 9 43 52 0.76
Noah Juulsen 68 9 43 52 0.76
Jakub Zboril 44 13 20 33 0.75
Olli Juolevi 57 9 33 42 0.74
Nicolas Hague* 65 18 28 46 0.71
Lucas Johansen 69 10 39 49 0.71
Thomas Chabot 66 12 29 41 0.62
Logan Stanley 64 5 12 17 0.27

A Brief Scouting Report on Valimaki

Despite his impressive scoring numbers, Valimaki is known as a two-way defenceman rather than an offensive defenceman. He is a reliable all-around defender with the size and strength to factor in on an NHL penalty kill, and he does not take a ton of risks in his own end.

He is constantly looking to jump into the play in the offensive end, and his intelligence shines as he picks his spots well. Offensively, he did a ton of damage while quarterbacking the powerplay this season, and led all CHL draft eligible defencemen in powerplay points per game this year. In addition, he trailed only Conor Timmins in terms of 5v5 points per game.

Ultimately, Valimaki looks to be an impressive prospect when you combine his scoring numbers with his defensive reputation. He is not as effective at carrying the puck as Erik Brannstrom, Cale Makar, or Timothy Liljegren, but he offers far more size and strength. Although he is one of the older prospects in this draft class, the same can be said for other potential first round defencemen such as Cale Makar, Nicolas Hague, Cal Foote, and Conor Timmins.

A Glimpse Of Valimaki In Action

Jumping Up On the Rush (Goal):

Mobility + Slap Shot:

Fake Shot:

Wrist Shot Goal From Slot:

Threading The Needle For A Breakout Pass:

Driving To The Net:

Cross Ice Pass:

Jumping Up In The Play:

The Big Picture

Valimaki will be among the best players available if he is still on the board at #17. His combination of scoring and defensive potential provides him with plenty of upside, and his size could allow him to make the jump to the NHL fairly quickly.

He is not quick enough to start a ton of end to end rushes like Morgan Rielly or Jake Gardiner, but he boasts enough mobility for a player of his size. His ability to play in all situations gives him the potential to log heavy minutes down the line, and he is already one of the WHL’s best scorers from the backend.

Ultimately, while it is easier to project forwards who score at will, Valimaki represents an intriguing selection as a defenceman with no clear flaws. If he is on the board when the Leafs pick, he will likely be the favourite to be their selection.