With their third-round draft pick in the 2019 draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs have selected left-shot Finnish defenseman Mikko Kokkonen.
The 5’11, 198-pound Kokkonen recorded the third most points by a U18 player in Liiga history with 19 points in 56 games for Jukurit this season while also representing Finland at the U18s and adding two points in four games at the U20 Four Nations tournament.
Kokkonen finished eighth in points among under-20 skaters in Liiga, second among U20 defensemen, second among all under-18 skaters, and first among U18 defensemen.
Considered a well-rounded defenseman who owns an effective shot from the point and a relatively safe, efficient puck-moving game, Kokkonen could use another step in his skating/footwork if he’s to successfully make the jump over to the North American pro game.
Director of Amateur Scouting John Lilley on Mikko Kokkonen
Intelligent player. He played in the pro league and I think had 19 points as an 18-year-old playing in the elite league. Very smart. Good defender. Can still improve his footspeed, but like a lot of these kids, they all have work to do. Highly intelligent. Good stick. Good first pass.
Mikko Kokkonen Scouting Reports
From MLHS’ Kevin Papetti:
Kokkonen is coming off of a huge year in a pro league and he followed that off by showing off his mature game at the U18 tournament. He’s a capable passer who skates well on his edges but lacks the top gear to be a star offensively. While he’s never been an offensive star for Finland, he’s capable of playing a shutdown role and should be a key player for his country at the World Juniors.
Unlike the majority of players in this class, he may want to drop a little bit of weight in an attempt to get a step quicker. I think he’s clearly behind Heinola and I don’t see him as a top-pairing defender at the next level, but he could have a long and productive NHL career thanks to his well-rounded skill set.
On the weaknesses in Kokkonen’s game from HockeyProspect.com’s 2019 Blackbook:
Kokkonen has always been more physically advanced compared to his peers… He has not grown much since he was 15 years old, as he was already 5’10” or close to 5’11” at that age. He always had that thick body frame that helps him in his puck battles. However, the physical advantage he used to have over his peers is now gone, and he was surpassed by others such as Ville Heinola from his home country this year….
Kokkonen is a player whose numbers in Liiga are a bit odd for us, as they don’t really represent the type of player we see. We see him as someone with limited potential; for example, at the U-18s in April, he didn’t do much, and in some games he barely touched the puck or made any kind of impact. When you look at this development curve, it makes you wonder how much better he will become in the years ahead. He has peaked physically, and usually that’s not necessarily good news for the development path of a player. The biggest drawback for us with Kokkonen: his skating abilities. They have not made a lot of progress in the last two seasons since we first saw him at the U-17s in 2016-2017. His footwork is average to decent, and he makes good use of his active stick to break up some plays in the defensive zone, but his lack of speed hurts him when rushing the puck or when he jumps into the play…
He has trouble creating separation between himself and his coverage. In the years ahead, Kokkonen should continue to really work hard on improving his footspeed; it’s going to be vital for him to do so in order to become an NHL player down the road.
Has an effective wrist shot from the point with a quick release. He distributes the puck well and is well served in the transition game.
Analysis from Kevin Papetti
Kokkonen is a mature player who has already played an impressive 69 games in Liiga, Finland’s pro league. He’s not overly flashy, but he’s a competent defender who has always seemed to be one of the better players on the ice when playing for Finland over the years.
Kokkonen has always been quite advanced for his age. He jumped into his first Liiga game in the 2016-17 season and he played on both the Hlinka and U18 teams a year before he was draft-eligible.
While his numbers probably do not jump off the page to you, it’s important to note that he was playing a pro league. In terms of points per game, he actually outscored Miro Heiskanen’s draft year but came up short of Ville Heinola’s (Winnipeg’s first-round pick) production.
#2019NHLDraft eligible defenseman Mikko Kokkonen scored this PP goal today. He also added a primary assist on the PP.
— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) March 14, 2019
This reminds me a little bit of the Rasmus Sandin pick, although he’s obviously not quite as well-regarded as Toronto’s 2018 first round pick. He’s a smart player and competent defender who lacks standout tools, but he always seems to be one of the better players on the ice. He’s only 5’11” and not incredibly fast or flashy, but doesn’t carry any significant weaknesses.
Relative to other third round picks, I think he has a very good chance to be an NHL player, at least in some capacity. Coaches tend to trust him and he might even end up on a second power play unit. It’s tough to see him being a top-pairing defender, but it’s tough to go wrong with this type of player at #84. I expected him to be an early second round pick, so I’m surprised he fell this far.
Mikko Kokkonen Statistics
|2013-14||Jukurit U16||Jr. C Mestis||1||0||0||0||0||||
|Jukurit U16||Jr. C Suomi-sarja||3||1||0||1||0||||
|2014-15||Jukurit U16||Jr. C Suomi-sarja||1||3||1||4||0||||
|Jukurit U18||Jr. B Mestis||4||0||0||0||0||||
|2015-16||Jukurit U18||Jr. B Mestis Q||13||7||8||15||0||||
|Jukurit U18||Jr. B Mestis||26||16||19||35||12||||
|Jukurit U20||Jr. A Mestis||4||2||2||4||2||||
|2016-17||Jukurit U20||Jr. A SM-liiga||38||6||20||26||20||-2||||
|Finland U16 (all)||International-Jr||5||1||1||2||0||||
|Finland U17 (all)||International-Jr||14||0||5||5||8||||
|2017-18||Jukurit U20||Jr. A SM-liiga||14||0||7||7||4||-10||||
|Finland U18 (all)||International-Jr||25||1||8||9||14||||
|2018-19||Jukurit U18||Jr. B SM-sarja||1||2||1||3||0||||
|Jukurit U20||Jr. A SM-liiga||-||-||-||-||-|||||Playoffs||3||0||3||3||12||3|
|Finland U18 (all)||International-Jr||13||2||4||6||10||||
|Finland U20 (all)||International-Jr||4||0||2||2||0||||
|Finland U20 (all)||International-Jr||-||-||-||-||-||||