With the 59th overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs have selected 5’9, 164-pound Finnish forward Roni Hirvonen of Assat in the SM-Liiga.
After a trademark Kyle Dubas trade-down to grab this late second-round pick (originally NYI’s but traded to the Senators in the JG Pageau deadline deal) plus an early third-rounder (64th overall) in exchange for the Leafs‘ 44th overall selection, the Leafs have grabbed an under-sized but competitive left-shot forward who was ranked higher than this draft slot by all but TSN’s Craig Button and the 2020 Blackbook:
- Ranked #40 by MLHS’ Kevin Papetti
- Ranked #82 by HockeyProspect.com
- Ranked #35 by eliteprospects.com
- Ranked #22 by Future Considerations
- Ranked #65 by TSN’s Craig Button
- Ranked #35 by McKeen’s Hockey
- Ranked #10 by NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters)
- Ranked #54 by TSN’s Bob McKenzie
The Espoo native spent the entire season in Finland’s pro league and carries a long history of being one of Finland’s best players at international tournaments. His quick hands make him fun to watch as he can pull off highlight-reel moves to dance around defenders. He’s also a crafty playmaker who also isn’t afraid to go to the net despite being undersized.
There’s a good chance that Hirvonen ends up on the wing, as he’s undersized and not a great north-south skater. He’s quick rather than fast, and while he has good edgework, his top speed is fairly average. He also doesn’t seem to offer much of a shot; most of his goals are scored in the dirty areas. However, his skill is evident, he protects the puck and distributes well, and he’s a surprisingly effective net-front scorer.
MLHS’ Kevin Papetti argued in his pre-draft rankings that he could be a bit of a steal if he fell to the late second round, which is exactly where the Leafs grabbed him. His skating limits his upside, but he’s a skilled undersized forward who plays a hard-nosed style.
The 2020 Blackbook projects Hirvonen on the wing over center at the NHL level, grades his hockey sense and compete level as his best attributes, and notes his need to gain strength and an extra skating gear in order to take the next step.
Like Amirov yesterday, Hirvonen is currently playing in a men’s league in Europe (he was actually in the middle of a game for Assat when the pick was announced), meaning he’s playing games in a pro league at a time when a lot of prospects in Canadian major junior and American college are stuck on the sidelines in terms of competitive game action.
Director of Amateur Scouting John Lilley on Roni Hirvonen
He played last year as a 17-year-old in the pro league. He is back there again. He’s a really smart, cerebral player. He can improve his outright speed, but he has good edges. He is a very smart player and has good offensive instincts. He’s another player that plays on the Finnish national team that we’ve seen a lot with them. He is really smart. He has good offensive upside, and he is a competitive kid. I know he is not a bigger kid, but he is certainly competitive and hard on pucks.
Roni Hirvonen Scouting Report
courtesy of the 2020 Blackbook (buy now)
Hirvonen is a slightly smaller forward who played his whole draft year against men in Finland’s top league with Assat. He finished the 2019-20 regular season with five goals and 16 points in 52 games, playing in various international tournaments at both the U-18 and U-20 levels.
Hirvonen is a smart player with above-average vision and playmaking abilities, which are his best assets. He has good stickhandling abilities as well; he is capable of beating defensemen one-on-one with his quick hands and is also quite good at making quick changes in direction. He’s a shifty player who can make some shoulder fakes to effectively win those one-on-ones.
He’s undersized, but he’s got a good compete level; he doesn’t play scared and he’s not afraid to get involved. Unfortunately, at his size, he’s limited in terms of what he can do physically, especially along the boards. More often than not, he’s going to get pushed off the puck easily. He doesn’t have a powerful shot, as it lacks the right amount of velocity to beat goaltenders from far. This is a big reason why the goals he scored this year in Liiga always came from close to the net (five feet or less). However, his shot is pretty accurate. We like the fact that he gets his nose dirty in front of the net, but there’s a difference between Liiga and the NHL. We wonder if he will be able to have the same level of physical involvement at the NHL level.
Hirvoven has average speed for his size and that’s also a big concern for him; with a short stride that lacks power and is a bit ugly, he’s very far from the elite level needed to have success at higher levels. Overall, he’s not a pretty skater, he’s not big or fast, and there are no dynamic elements to his skillset, but he sees the ice well and plays hard.
His stats don’t exactly jump off the scoresheet; one might think he was a fourth-liner this year, but the reality is that he regularly played over 14 minutes per game. Defensively, he makes good reads away from the puck and can create some turnovers. However, in his own zone, he will lose his man at times due to his lack of strength when battling one-on-one.
Hirvonen has some good skills, smarts and compete level, but his lack of size, speed and dynamic qualities make it difficult for us to be too high on him. We don’t expect him to be a center if he does make it to the NHL, but to do so, he’ll definitely need to get much stronger and faster.
Roni Hirvonen Video
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