With their final pick in the 2019 draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs have selected right-shot Finnish defenseman Kalle Loponen out of Hermes Kokkola in the Mestis league.
After recording three points in four games for Team Finland at the Hlinka tournament, Loponen split his 2018-19 season between the Mestis league and Karpat’s U20 team while also making one appearance for Karpat of the SM-liiga. His 12 points in 30 games for Hermes is certainly respectable production for a 17-year-old playing against professional men in second-tier Finnish hockey.
Despite physical limitations (5’10, 185 pounds), Loponen is described as a highly-competitive kid who doesn’t shy away from contact and offers heads-up puck-moving skills, an ability to quarterback a power play, a decent shot from the point, and high hockey IQ.
Loponen is the second Finnish defenseman the Leafs drafted in their 2019 class after grabbing Mikko Kokkonen in the third round. All six of the Leafs‘ draft picks came in under 6’0 and their six picks fit consistent themes carrying forward from last year’s draft under Kyle Dubas: small, skilled forwards with high offensive upside to dream on and a handful of intelligent, undersized mobile puck movers on the blue line.
Director of Amateur Scouting John Lilley on Kalle Loponen
Skilled. He played in the U18s. He played for the national team in several of the tournaments we attended. Ari Vuori, our European scout, really liked him in the late rounds there. He moves the puck well. He can skate. He is just another guy who is just going to get physically stronger. It’s probably his biggest hurdle right now.
Kalle Loponen Scouting Report
An excerpt from HockeyProspect.com’s 2019 Blackbook:
He’s not afraid to put pucks on net from the point, as he does a good job finding shooting lanes and getting pucks through… He’s an average-sized defender but he’s very competitive, and not afraid to engage physically along the boards in addition to having good timing with his hits. For his size, his skating and footwork are average…. When he’s rushing the puck from his own zone, he doesn’t create enough separation between himself and the forechecker. That size and lack of speed combination is a bit problematic for Loponen, and he’ll need to work hard in the years to come in order to improve his chances of playing in the NHL. He’s a good puck-mover, has a good first pass out of his zone, and quick transition out of his zone… At his size, he can have problems against bigger players in front of the net or along the boards
Loponen shows 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. His positional game is still a work in progress, though.
Kalle Loponen Statistics
|2015-16||Kärpät U16||Jr. C SM-sarja Q||10||3||1||4||6||||
|Kärpät U16||Jr. C SM-sarja||25||9||13||22||12|||||Playoffs||4||0||1||1||2|
|2016-17||Kärpät U18||Jr. B SM-sarja||43||6||23||29||34|||||Playoffs||5||0||2||2||0|
|Finland U16 (all)||International-Jr||11||3||5||8||8||||
|2017-18||Kärpät U18||Jr. B SM-sarja||40||13||24||37||38|||||Playoffs||5||1||1||2||2|
|Kärpät U20||Jr. A SM-liiga||6||3||0||3||2||5||||
|Finland U17 (all)||International-Jr||19||5||5||10||10||||
|2018-19||Kärpät U18||Jr. B SM-sarja||2||0||4||4||2||||
|Kärpät U20||Jr. A SM-liiga||18||2||7||9||8||3||||
|Finland U18 (all)||International-Jr||25||3||15||18||28||||
|Kärpät U20||Jr. A SM-liiga||-||-||-||-||-||||
|Finland U19 (all)||International-Jr||-||-||-||-||-||||