The Toronto Maple Leafs have selected another Finnish defenseman in the 2019 Draft, taking right-handed pivot Kalle Loponen in the seventh round.
Loponen was loaned to Finland’s version of the AHL last year from the Karpat organization. In those 30 games, Loponen put up four goals and 12 points in 30 games, including three in six playoff games.
Loponen also had a strong U18 tournament for Finland, putting up 18 points in 25 games and getting on the U18 World Juniors squad, getting two points in five games.
Finn Prospects scouted him for a few games, including against Team Canada at the U18 World Championship:
Loponen was listed as the seventh defenceman in Finland’s tournament opener against Canada, but he was used a lot at even-strength and got some shifts on the penalty kill.
Loponen showed good mobility and overall skating ability. For the most part, he was able to keep up with the pace of the game and didn’t panic under pressure. Loponen delivered multiple good breakout passes and was once able to show his powerful slap shot. Defensively, Loponen isn’t afraid to take risks and play physical while defending against a rush, as he laid one big hit onto a bigger Canadian forward. His positional game is still a work in progress, though.
Dobber Prospects’ writer Lassi Alanen describes him as follows:
Smallish defenseman who thrives in transitions and on the power play. Has a powerful slap shot and likes to throw his body around. Needs to work on his defensive game.
June 2019 – Loponen started the season with Kärpät’s U20 team until he got loaned to Mestis club Hermes where he played for the remainder of the season. He put up 12 points in 30 Mestis regular season games and three points in six playoff appearances. He signed a contract extension with Kärpät in May.
Loponen is a 5-foot-11 defenseman with good skating abilities. He is mobile, good at evading pressure and making opening passes from his own zone. Loponen is not afraid to join the rush either when the opportunity presents itself. He has a bomb of a slap shot which makes him a shooting threat on the power play. At Mestis level, his defensive game was an issue at times and is something he needs to work at. Loponen likes to execute open-ice hits once in a while and he can be relatively physical in his own end, too.
Bill Plascezk describes him in his scouting report:
Undersized defender who plays with the jam of a bigger man due to his core strength. Good skater with good hands who is skilled in both receiving pucks and passing them on at full speed.can spin away from forechecking pressure and use his strong wrists to quickly get the biscuit up ie in transition. Can make thread the needle to the long pass out. Know when to pinch on the attack, and will join rushes. Will walk the blue and get the puck to his forwards. Can place pucks over shot blockers and has a hard pass. Long term developmental guy.
Lastly, Finnish Junior Hockey blog scouted him at one of his games and had this to say:
Loponen had the second most ice-time on his team (22:05) in a 4-3 win. He recorded an assist in the second period as he jumped into the play and took a wrist shot that generated a rebound. The 17-year-old defenseman was very active and consistently joined the attack. He also moved the puck well out of the zone. An agile skater, he showed nimble footwork and strong straight-ahead speed. He was quick to put pressure on the opposing forwards and he maintained good gap control. He had a strong physical presence, he was competitive and tough to play against. In one of his best plays of the game, he separated an opponent off the puck in the defensive end. Loponen may not be the most dynamic defenseman but he played a well-rounded game.
Here’s some highlights of his play:
#U18: RHD Kalle Loponen (Ranked No. 82) is having a great game. He scores his second of the game off a feed from C Roni Hirvonen (2020 Draft), who blew past Tobias Bjornfot. Not only does Loponen use his speed, but he hits the bullseye upstairs off the pass. pic.twitter.com/IAG4PRrLC5— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) February 9, 2019