The wait is finally over! The Calgary Flames have selected Finnish defenceman Juuso Valimaki with the 16th overall draft selection.
We can finally breathe a sigh of relief Calgary Flames fans. Don’t worry, the Flames didn’t do something dumb. And there may have not been any exciting blockbuster trades for the Flames, but they got a solid pick! The Flames right now really need a solid top-four defenceman if they don’t re-sign Michael Stone.
Now, of course, they won’t find that in this year’s draft, however loading up on defenceman, especially when they’ve been drafting forwards in their first round draft selections in the last few years may shape out to be a good choice! That being said, let’s meet the Flames first round draft pick, Juuso Valimaki.
(Psst: Feel free to read our draft profile we wrote on him found here).
Who is Juuso Valimaki?
Name: Juuso Valimaki
Birth place: Nokia, Finland
Height: 6’2” / 188 cm
Weight: 91 kg / 201 lbs
Team: Tri-City Americans
Stats from 2016-2017
Stats with Tri-City Americans, Regular Season (From eliteprospects.com):
Stats with Finland U20 (all), International-Jr (From eliteprospects.com):
Among the WHL
- Seventh among all defencemen in points (61)
- Eight among all defencemen in powerplay assists (22)
- Fourth on the team in points
- Second on the team in PPA
- Round 1, 14th overall: Tri-City Americans, CHL Import Draft
- Round 6, 87th overall: Madison Capitols, USHL Entry Draft
Rankings for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft
- #12 by Future Considerations
- #14 by ISS Hockey
- “Underrated offensive upside. Very good shot/gets it to the net rarely using a slap shot”
- #14 by McKeen’s Hockey
- #17 by Hockeyprospect.com
- #11 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)
Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek ranked him at 14th overall in March, which is one spot lower than their previous rankings in January, claiming that he is “A good all-around blueliner who’s enjoyed great experience at the junior and international level. Not huge, but possesses great awareness. Has drawn comparisons to Olli Juolevi (VAN).”
NHL.com’s Mike Morreale put him at 7th overall in January.
"The two-way defenseman has brought more assertiveness to his game in his second WHL season. Valimaki (6-1, 204) has 39 points (12 goals, 27 assists) in 38 games and has shown more offensive drive and confidence in his game."
"A strong, minute-munching, two-way, dependable blueliner. Not a lot of high-end offensive flash or dash to his game, but just makes the right play consistently. Good vision and puck moving ability, has no panic to his game and waits for his options […] His hockey sense allows him to read and react to the play well in advance. Very committed to blocking shots. Big, rangy and covers a lot of ice, but his pivots and transitions are a little bit choppy […] Plays with a good mix of aggression and poise, stepping into lanes to take the puck away from the opposition. Just a good, poised, smart player who is not flashy, but consistently makes the right play and helps his team win games. (Future Considerations)."
Where does he fit in with the Flames?
In our initial draft profile on this kid, I said that he’s an offensive-defenceman that isn’t flashy is exactly what most teams strive to get out of their top-four d-men. He definitely has big potential to be a top-four NHL defenceman in a matter of years. I can definitely see him with the Calgary Flames in a couple of years, maybe when captain Mark Giordano starts getting past his prime.
However, a con I saw is that the Flames have a few defencemen already waiting in Stockton for their chance with the NHL. I genuinely thought the Flames may pick a forward for their first pick, however, there were a few solid options of defencemen still left available at that 16th overall pick, including Timothy Liljegren (which the Toronto Maple Leafs took with the next pick).
A point I brought up is that between him and Timothy Liljegren, I would have somewhat preferred Liljegren. He’s been compared to Erik Karlsson several times and seems like an extremely solid pick. I also said that I’d love for this guy to have a spot with the Flames, but they already have guys like Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson whom Calgary Flames fans are confident in. I also mentioned how he’s also highly ranked and one of the best defencemen in the draft this year, so I thought he may be gone by the time the Flames draft at that 16th overall pick.
However, he wasn’t! And since he’s been drafted, let’s look at some positives about him! He had a solid season last year and is a pretty big guy. He does remind me of Dougie Hamilton in a way that he isn’t flashy but is still a smart shooter and knows when to go to the net. This is a solid pick for the Flames and a safe pick.
Plus, he looks good in red, right?
Let’s all give a warm welcome to Juuso Valimaki to the C of Red!