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2021 NHL Draft: ‘Best Of’ Series – Skating – Hughes, Eklund, Lysell, Zellweger, Heimosalmi


With the 2021 NHL Entry Draft just a few weeks away, it is time to take a deep dive into the class and examine the different player archetypes that are going to hear their name selected sometime over the weekend. In this series, we are going to be analyzing five of the most vital attributes - intelligence, goal scoring, skill, skating and physicality -  and acknowledging five of the highest graded players by McKeens in each trait (plus a few of my own favourites here and there).

We have reached part four of the series, centered around the 2021 draftees with the greatest skating abilities. I find that a lot of the discussion surrounding skating is falsely equating the best skaters with the fastest skaters. While speed is a vital component of skating, there is a lot more that has to be factored into the conversation than just raw velocity.

In other sports, athletes are free to manipulate their momentum with general ease. They wear shoes that provide complete control over both the placement and movement of their ankles/feet, while also playing on surfaces with a higher friction coefficient, meaning the ground responds to their every movement with greater accuracy. The same cannot be said for hockey, as navigating a sheet of ice wearing boots that limit foot and ankle mobility with knives strapped to the bottom results in less control of your momentum. The opportunities provided by careful foot placement are more limited due to the constraints skates provide, and the lowered resistance from the ice means committing your weight forward in any direction is more difficult to overcome.

In hockey, losing directional control of your momentum at the wrong time can be catastrophic.

Long gone are the days where players with lackluster skating are able to ascend to NHL stardom. With the game faster than ever, mobility is now arguably the greatest asset you can enter the NHL with.

That being said, there is more to being an elite skater than top speed and raw explosivity. While those traits carry obvious value, I believe the ability to change and alter your momentum with minimal resistance results in more opportunities around the ice. The most dangerous weapon in the NHL is not how fast you move or how tightly you control the puck when stick handling, but how well you can deceive your opponents. Being able to read what is happening while understanding what to do next, all while playing at an Olympic pace, is what separates the good from the great. Complete 360 degree maneuverability from any position provides more opportunities to feed false information to the opposition and deceive them into making a mistake for you to capitalize on.

The game is trending in a direction where the priority is to keep possession and attack open space. Constant, calculated off-puck movement and clever support routes around the perimeter provide opportunities to pull defences away from the slot, giving the offence a chance to advance play into dangerous areas for brief windows with minimal defensive resistance. In fact, the best offences are being designed around players constantly moving with purpose, covering as much ground in the OZ as possible to stretch defences thin, before contracting as a unit to make the most of the open space provided. A five man unit making efficient passes while cycling between expanding and contracting throughout the offensive zone is a nightmare for defences to deal with as it constantly forces them to make decisions as to what to do next. The more decisions forced upon the opposition means a higher likelihood of a critical mistake being made, thus improving your chances of scoring a goal. This is where the ability to navigate small spaces with no directional limitations comes into play, as you are forcing a defender to accomplish two tasks at once: position himself relative to his teammates so that the open space available to the offence cannot be turned into dangerous chances, while also covering his overly-mobile assignment who is navigating around the OZ with ease. Slipping up during either of those tasks can end in disaster very quickly.

Skating abilities provide more opportunities than those created by clever movement in the offensive zone. In fact, any action that requires the creation of open space before performing benefits greatly from enhanced mobility. This includes, but is not limited to: transitioning the puck with control, denying controlled transitions, breaking out the puck from the DZ, managing defensive gaps, etc. Just about anything that requires open space is easier when you are able to move better than those around you.

Now, not every player in the 2021 NHL draft is an elite skater, and some of the ones with lackluster abilities are still capable of forming very successful NHL careers. Exceptions to the claim that great skating is a requirement do exist, but they are becoming rarer with each draft that passes. Nearly every draftee with a great toolkit but limited mobility is selected with the intention that the development staff can fix their mechanics and bolster their skating by the time they reach the NHL. It is not as tall a task as developing other skills either, as skating is frequently cited as one of the easiest traits to improve on. Whether or not these players can be developed to the very peak of skating abilities is a different matter entirely, and not one you should bet on. There exists a few players in every draft with skating abilities so advanced that you cannot possibly expect to develop someone else to that level. You cannot teach someone to be Cale Makar.

In the last series entry about skill, I went on a tangent in the introduction about the difference between macro and micro objectives. A quick recap - micro objectives are the challenges and variables that the opposition forces upon players to overcome as they intend to complete their macro objective, which is scoring a goal without having one scored on themselves. The best play drivers are the ones who complete micro objectives in ways that make the team closer to scoring a goal than they were prior to solving the problem. How a player achieves that solution is up to them, and as we focused on last time, one of the ways a player can approach these micro objectives is by applying various skill moves in ways that overcome the variable in front of them. It should not come as a surprise at this point that another method of solving those problems is to apply skating abilities in practical ways.

Speed, acceleration, balance, sharp angle changes, foot feints, pace changes, lateral movement, proper weight shifting, and the freedom to control and alter your momentum in any direction - these are the near-essential skills you evaluate when assessing a player’s NHL potential. All of these traits are tools to be used when solving micro objectives around the ice, especially when they are used in conjunction with one another. Blending in skill moves with your agility creates layers of deception as you encounter variables, providing you with the means to manipulate your foe the way you want, challenging them to properly solve the puzzle you are forcing them to solve. The best macro play drivers are routinely combining deception and comprehension to efficiently overcome variables all over the ice.

At this point it should come across clear as day that I, as well as many scouts, believe quality skating abilities are one of the key foundations in terms of NHL success; however, I find it interesting the varying evaluations scouts have regarding skating. Just about everyone can acknowledge both the sheer amount of value that skating provides, as well as the relative ease to which it can be developed after the draft, yet if you look at the different rankings across the top public outlets, you find players of various skating abilities ranked all over the place. That makes sense, as scouts can have an infinite amount of subjective thoughts over objective analysis, but sometimes I question the methodology.

Full disclosure: I am not an expert of the finer details that make up superb skating form. I understand the basics (the relationship between knee and ankle bending, hip rotation, posture, moving your shoulders, back and arms in sync with your lower body, etc) but I cannot break down the finer details that either work against or for someone’s skating abilities.

As a scout, I am not entirely sure that I want to. My job is to analyze the current state of players at the time of the draft, project what they could be by leveraging their strengths and mitigating their weaknesses, and assess the likely probability of each outcome coming to fruition. It is up to the development staff to work with the player and iron out the details along their journey to the NHL. I care more about how the player utilizes their mobility around the ice, the opportunities that additional mobility provides them, and the projectability of their game both with and without skating improvements.

So while the details are, admittedly, important, I think scouts can subconsciously fall victim to biases that they may not be aware that they have. You open up the possibility of losing focus on the greater picture of what a player can be by over/under-valuing certain mechanical details based on preconceived notions that a player needs this to change in order to find NHL success. There are players finding various levels of success in the NHL with various mechanical strengths and weaknesses in their skating, so while I do believe that there is a threshold of skating mechanics that must be met in order for someone to be an effective NHL player, that threshold is very flexible. Some players can get by with less, others require more. I find when you're caught up analyzing the finer details of someone's skating mechanics and trying to project how they will work in the NHL, you leave a lot of room for situations where you are looking at a tree instead of the whole forest.

The reason this elongated introduction exists is so readers have a complete understanding of my approach to measure skating. As always, it is not about the sheer talent these skaters possess but how practically they apply them to generate positive results; however, in this case I would not be surprised if a few of these players end up surpassed by those who are currently behind in terms of skating abilities but, with the right post-draft developments, have the means to be more practical skating threats in the NHL. So without further ado, here are five of the most lethal skaters in the 2021 NHL Draft.

.Jack Hughes. Photo by Rena Laverty/USA Hockey

Luke Hughes

I do not think a single person should be surprised to find out that the youngest member of the Hughes family possesses the same otherworldly abilities his brothers are currently using to dance around NHLers. Like Jack and Quinn, his maneuverability can not be described as anything less than a beautiful work of art.

Hughes’ skating, which has received the highest grade out of any player for McKeen’s with a 70, is the foundation to which his NHL career will be built on. What I said about skating details sometimes being overvalued does not apply here as his form is, for all intents and purposes, flawless. Any flaw that exists is miniscule, and focusing on it could be more or less described as over-evaluation. Every aspect of Luke’s game - carrying the puck up ice, quarterbacking play in the offensive zone, defending the rush, navigating pressure, facilitating a breakout as the last man back, as well as everything else that I did not mention - is built around his skating.

Starting with defence, Hughes’ fleet of foot provides him the opportunity to take risks when defending the blue line. He can play overly aggressive on his man without sacrificing the open space behind him due to how quickly he can recover and take that space back. As the tallest brother, he is also awarded with extended reach and size which should make defending easier.

When in the defensive zone, Luke is able to track his target down with zero difficulty. He is provided more recovery time than other players since he can close distance so fast. Even on the chance he misreads the attacker’s intentions, his agility covers so much ground that the puck carrier is forced to make a quick decision with what time and space they managed to steal.

Defensive recoveries and initiating breakouts while navigating pressure are key properties that high end NHL defenseman require. Heavy forechecks can catch unsuspecting defenders out of position and result in dangerous turnovers, especially if the defenceman retrieving the puck was doing so away from the net-front. There is not one person in this draft that can slaughter the first layer of a forecheck the way Luke Hughes can.

He is comfortable baiting forechecking pressure from anywhere in the DZ. He has an innate sense that maps the location of all the forecheckers and how close they are to his vicinity. Hughes’ leads them one way, threatening a legitimate breakout option, before combining his close quarters maneuverability and deceptive tendencies to spin around the first wave of pressure with comical ease. Even if the defenders know his intention is to draw them in and escape into the space they left behind, they have to respect the initial breakout threat. By having the ability to orchestrate two different breakouts at the same time, both of equal danger, he is able to toy with attackers and create space where he sees fit.

Hughes shines in transition as well, as his feet provide him a near endless amount of routes as he traverses through the neutral zone. Whether it is in between the dotted lines or the perimeter, Hughes has the means to gain access to the offensive zone from anywhere via explosive lateral movement and brilliant crossover usage. When combined with his breakout abilities, you can get a more complete image on how impactful Hughes can be leading attacks out of his own zone.

Offensively, Hughes is able to play aggressive and jump deep into the zone without sacrificing his ability to get back and play defence. He is comfortable attacking anywhere in the OZ with the puck on his stick, and shows no fear when it comes to circling the perimeter hunting for threatening options.

It may be accurate to go as far and say that Hughes’ skating is the single most leverageable skill that any player has in the draft; however, he is still a ways away from fully realizing the opportunities this level of agility provides him. As of now, he could be described as over reliant on being the best skater on the ice.

Even though his skating provides opportunity for aggression when defending, he can still be caught overextending to such a point where he cannot recover before a play is made. This goes for defending the rush, as he can sometimes be seen closing the distance before the attacker is even past the blue line, but it can also be seen in the defensive zone where Luke appears to hyperfocus on certain players and sacrifice team-based positioning without fully accounting for how the play is going to unfold. The ability to recover defensive positioning quickly is a key skill to have, but not if the player aggressively approaches every defensive situation with the hope that his recovery can save him if he is burnt. It is fair to question how this projects to the NHL without improvements as to how he anticipates, reads and reacts to opposing deception.

While Hughes’ ability to beat forecheckers in the defensive zone while carrying the puck is second to none, the utility of that does not mean much if the first thing you do is skate directly into pressure with the intention to dangle through them. How practical is beating F1 if you plan on turning the puck over to F2 or F3 immediately after? Hughes has what it takes to manipulate NHL defenders and slip into the most narrow of pockets left behind, so he would be better off applying his skating in ways to lead pressure one way to prepare the space behind them for entry.

Even offensively, Hughes seems to miss lots of chances to advance play in lieu of skating around the zone hoping he can identify a dangerous passing chance. Like Kent Johnson, Hughes misses lots of opportunities to advance play in smaller, more meaningful ways as he hunts for the best scoring play that can come off of his stick.

Lateral mobility and deception linked together here. Upon approaching F1, Hughes shows the value of crossovers as he escapes the pressure w/ lateral acceleration. Once cleared, Hughes attacks the dotted line, feinting as if he is to move closer to the perimeter, but he sees F2 with his weight committed forward in an attempt to cut him off. Instead, Luke keeps his right leg on the ground and just slides behind F2 before slipping the pass to a teammate along the boards.

As Hughes tries to transition the puck out of the zone, he is met with pressure from an aggressive forward in the NZ. Hughes skates directly towards him and changes his direction once the opposition enters a glide. He rides his edge around the player, forcing a desperate reach with his stick to no avail, before using crossovers to shift his direction back towards the blue line with no loss of speed.

Luke Hughes pretty much fits the description of an extremely advanced micro-play driver, capable of adapting and overcoming to any variable that opposes him, but the way he solves these problems can call into question just how much Luke Hughes can actually drive macro play. The good news is that he is extremely young for his class, has access to professional developmental resources that other players do not, and has shown considerable improvement in almost all of his flaws already. I have Luke Hughes rated as the top defenceman on my board because I am of the belief that these flaws will diminish over time. What will be left over is a highly manipulative play driving defenceman that can play on an NHL first pair.

Sweden's William Eklund during the ice hockey match in the training match between Sweden and Denmark on April 28, 2021 in Malmö.
Photo: Mathilda Ahlberg / BILDBYRÅN

William Eklund

Look who's back for a third time around. Unsurprisingly so, considering he is the first overall pick on my board.

By now, we know Eklund is a highly skilled and deceptive player. We also know he is smart enough to solve any problem in a wide manner of ways that efficiently drives the bus for his team offensively. Now it is time to examine the final piece of the puzzle - how Eklund’s maneuverability is the glue that holds both of those valuable traits together.

As mentioned in the last piece, Eklund combines his puck control skills with footwork feints, body fakes and look-offs to constantly feed false information to the defence. His intentions do not often match up with the story his body tells, as Eklund is always thinking one or two steps ahead. Guessing wrong and committing momentum in that direction means defenders have handed Eklund the space he wants. What makes Eklund so dangerous is the speed and shiftiness that he can attack these spaces with, meaning even those who are considered elite skaters might not be able to recover and initiate a second challenge before play has moved on.

His pace changes are what really sets Eklund apart as the most dynamic attacker the 21’ draft has to offer. Some players may have the means to deceive someone into giving them space to work with, and some may also have the means to explode into that gap and continue their attack, but none of them have the same propensity for changing their pace while doing so that Eklund does. Because he can burn defenders with pure speed in open space, Eklund must be respected as a significant rushing threat and accounted for; however, he is entirely comfortable slowing down and seeing what options are available if he recognizes that the defence is preparing for a speedy attack.

Because Eklund can vary his paces from minimal movement to extreme quickness, and everything in between, all while being clever enough to assess which pace works best for what he wants to do, the defence is left unsure of his intentions at all times - a terrifying, yet projectable quality that is bound to lead him to NHL stardom.

I have already shown Eklund's processing and puck handling abilities, so this is an example of Eklund carrying the puck back along the dotted line before scanning and seeing open space in the weak-side of the NZ. Using crossovers to build acceleration, Eklund circles back and flies up through the deserted NZ towards the opposing dotted line, forcing the defence to quickly move back and protect their zone.

Shiftiness in its most pure form. Again, as he is carrying the puck back to his own zone, he is met with pressure from two opposing forwards. He feints on both of them to escape back to his blue line with minimal pressure, circles back to attack towards the perimeter but knows there is open space to his left. After baiting a defensive stick, Eklund rides his edge around the forward altogether and passes it for a controlled entry.

There is not much more to speak on Eklund that I have not already covered in the entries preceding this one. The completeness of his offensive skillset and the way he applies it means Eklund is as good a pick as anybody in the 21’ class to consistently drive efficient, yet elite, offensive results in the NHL.

Luleå's Fabian Lysell during the ice hockey match in the SHL between Luleå and Linköping on 2 January 2021 in Luleå.
Photo: Simon Eliasson / BILDBYRÅN /

Fabian Lysell

Like Eklund, this piece will be a bit shorter as we had already covered this player before this, but there was absolutely no way that Fabian Lysell was not showing up on this list. After all, Lysell is the most dangerous player at full speed in this class.

More than his puck control, it will be Lysell’s skating abilities that lay the foundation of his NHL success. We know why his rush attack potential is astronomical, but his maneuverability also lays the foundation for a highly equipped NHL attacker in both forechecking and cycle based offences, not to mention the limitless potential he carries as a transitional threat.

I am confident in saying that Lysell’s skating abilities are every bit as good as Eklund’s. He explodes from a lull and is at top speed in the blink of an eye, flying by defenders hopeless to stop him. His crossover usage and lateral mobility provide sudden directional changes without any velocity droppage, providing him with endless possibilities as he alters his route with ease. He zig-zags up the ice, always forcing defenders to not just be focused on moving backwards but also left and right. He preys on those who cannot defend with non-committal footwork.

The most beautiful part of Lysell’s approach to the game is the simplicity of it. While there are lots of agile attackers who mix up every move in the book, Lysell accomplishes so much more as a rushing threat as a result of completely mastering just a few tricks. It really is an elementary concept - get their feet moving one way and then go the other way - but there exists very few players in the world who can threaten that with such consistency and get away with it so regularly

Lysell could certainly stand to improve the practicality of his approach to the game. After all, always rushing the puck for every single attack cannot possibly yield more consistent results than mixing up your paces. Yet, I am not sure that there is much more practicality to add to the way Lysell capitalizes on the opportunities provided by his skating. He rips micro objectives to shreds with his speed, and then follows it up by making good decisions that tend to advance macro play far more often than not, even if the solutions are a little selfish. In fact, Lysell is so efficient when attacking with speed that the discussion surrounding what could restrain him from NHL superstardom is mostly centered around his refusal to solve micro objectives in a wide variety of ways instead of the results he generates after surpassing the variables. That is certainly a unique scenario that is pretty much opposite from the usual problems you see with advanced skaters/puck-handlers at the draft.

The fact that it is not outlandish to expect Lysell to begin solving problems in a variety of ways makes him even more exciting. He tracks and follows play off-puck at slower paces and makes the correct read as to where to move as play develops far more often than not. His anticipation shines in these scenarios, correctly timing the perfect moment to jump in and insert his will on the play. As he waits for that time, he is actively moving in sync with the play, pathing around the ice with good support routes, while demonstrating a willingness to backcheck as hard as he can the second the puck may be turned over. It is only when the puck is on his stick does Lysell begin to forget (or ignore) the value of varying your paces as he takes off like a greyhound.

Nothing overly fancy, but the perfect example of Lysell's dynamic threat level on the rush. He attacks the dotted line, committing no weight in either direction until the Canadian defender at the blue line *ever so slightly* commits his weight to the outside, then Lysell flies around him like he was not even there. His speed, control, and timing before moving laterally is second to none.

Both of these clips are just examples of how deceptive and hard to read Lysell is, even when he is not at full pace. The first clip shows Lysell approach a defender in a glide, waiting to reveal his intentions to shoot instead of pass until the defender reaches out with his stick. Lysell merely glides around and shoots anyways. The second shows how easy it is for Lysell to use his edges and redirect his point of attack around defenders after they commit their momentum in any direction.

I really, really do not think it is outlandish to expect Lysell to incorporate his clear ability to read and understand slower paced play with his already dominant high-octane approach. On the chance that he does not, then you have a player who is as talented as anybody in a rush-based offence that can contribute to a forecheck and contribute defensively through sheer will and determination. On the chance that he does, there is a very real possibility that he ends up the best player in this class and a legitimate NHL first line superstar.

Zellweger_Olen - photo by Chris Mast

Olen Zellweger

I absolutely adore Olen Zellweger. This defenceman slipped by me for a long time as it took me way too long to get eyes on him. Even then, my initial evaluations were mediocre.

That impression did not last past the third viewing.

While I have a pretty strong idea why, I am shocked that Zellweger is not a first round lock on every board out there. It baffles me considering the value placed on mobile defenders, but I suppose there are still a lot of scouts who do not like taking smaller rear-guards early in the draft. I can understand that point, especially as I have expressed similar sentiments over different players. But that was because those players did not move the way that Olen Zellweger moves.

In terms of describing the ease to which Olen gets around the ice, I would say he is pretty much Luke Hughes-lite. The same capacity for being able to spin around F1 like it is nothing, the same endless opportunities as a puck carrier through the NZ, the same freedom to overextend knowing he can recover if need be, and the same penchant for creating offensive opportunities with his feet.

The most projectable part about Zellweger driving results with mobility is the fact that he makes all of his plays in motion. The pace of play in the WHL is not fast enough to require players to constantly make plays without breaking stride or entering a glide, and as a result some of the more agile junior players can develop the tendency to be comfortable slowing down a bit as they try to read the ice. That cannot be said about Olen, as his pass retrievals, as well as his facilitation, can all be done without breaking stride. Zellweger’s willingness to create in motion will serve him extremely well when he graduates from the WHL and the pace of the game increases dramatically.

Where Zellweger lags behind Hughes is deception. Not to say that he lacks deception, quite the opposite actually, but he certainly needs to both use what deceptive tendencies he has with more frequency, as well as add more of it if he wants to be a constant manipulator of spaces at the NHL level. As of now, he does not need that level of deception to generate offensive results as all that is required for him to slip through players is a bit of space. His innate ability to find separation through his feet afterwards does the rest of the job.

He can be caught giving away his intentions by staring right at his intended recipient, not using foot feints as he assumes that he is fast enough to just speed through pressure, not mixing up enough body fakes to make defenders uncomfortable engaging him in the first place.

The good news is that Zellweger has already shown the propensity to do all of those things, just in little spurts. Bringing them together with consistency is the key here, and it is not an unreasonable ask, especially when you remember that he is mere days away from being a 22’ eligible player.

More important than anything is the fact that Zellweger has really, really good habits in the offensive zone. Every single play is made with the purpose of funneling the puck through the middle of the offensive zone. He shows great comfort playing close to the wall or along the blue line, daring a foe to engage before spinning around them in the same manner he and Hughes beat forecheckers. If the risk is too high, he shows no hesitation moving the puck to an open target, but if he has the sense that he can beat the pressure he will dance around the opposition and immediately put the puck in play towards the middle. Whether it be a pass, a shot or simply him carrying the puck to the middle, he finds ways to be effective. Problem solving in ways that drive good offensive results is a common theme here, and Zellweger fits that description like a glove.

Speed, speed, speed. My only purpose with this one is to look where all three forwards are relative to where Zellweger is at the start of the clip. Then, watch where they are after Zellweger gains the blue line. His speed is ridiculous.

Zellweger showcases his lateral mobility and deception here, gathering the puck with a single touch as he approaches the red line. He initially angles himself as if he is going to attack the right dotted line, shifting three defenders at the blue line over to that side of the ice. Then he uses one crossover to re-shift his direction back to the middle, causing the blue line coverage to hesitate, before exploding back towards his left with crossovers. The hesitation by the defence

opens the space for Zellweger to gain the zone with.

While Zellweger is certainly a bit more “raw” than you would hope, it can be easily justified with his lower age. The foundation of leverageable skills here is immaculate, and the potential of what Olen Zellweger can be relative to the names likely to go around him at the draft is out of this world. Bob McKenzie’s rankings say that Olen Zellweger is estimated to go around the 45th pick, but I personally have him at 15.

Alexi Hiemosalmi. Photo by Dan Hickling, HIckling Images

Aleksi Heimosalmi

Another smaller defender with a big plus in the mobility category, Heimosalmi has certainly ended up a worthy competitor in the discussion for best skater in the draft. The Finnish defender shot up draft boards after a mesmerizing U18 performance where the fluidity of his movement became apparent to all.

Unlike Zellweger, there is a lot of risk taking this player in the first round. While he may whip around the ice in impressive fashion, much of what he sets out to accomplish on the ice can be described as impractical.

Starting with the good, Heimosalmi is able to fly through tiny gaps and soar through open space in ways that almost make you want to forget about the bad. He has every tool you want from a good skater - acceleration, top speed, angle changes, lateral movement, the whole works. When faced with an abundance of open space, Heimosalmi combines these traits in ways that result with him being uncatchable as he takes charge and leads offence.

In transition, Heimosalmi can be lethal. The speed forces defences to back up rather quickly, providing a large amount of space for Aleksi to work with. His puck handling abilities are often understated as well as he is certainly capable of besting foes in one-on-ones strictly through puck control. His skill moves with the puck are not executed with precision when attempted at full speed, but there is enough there that you hope a few years of practice will result in dynamic puck control when trail-blazing up the ice.

The problem with Heimosalmi is that there is not a whole ton of projectability with him in his current state. Despite having the ability to accelerate to full speed while moving laterally, he rarely ever chooses to do so. Instead, he elects to skate north towards pressure with minimal deception and just hopes he can make it past the defender. Even at the U20 level in Finland, this did not work nearly as much as one would hope, but it is particularly concerning when you realize the frequency to which he attempted this. Sometimes he could make his stick handling work well enough at speed to actually make a dangerous chance, but the success rate of this working is directly tied into opportunities the defence provided him.

It is not enough to be able to be a dangerous, skilled and fast attacker when the defence happens to give you the conditions you want to work with. The NHL will hardly, if ever, provide him with the opportunities he currently needs to properly make use of his skating. There are a lot of question marks when it comes to the projectability of how Heimosalmi solves problems.  Defensively, Heimosalmi makes good use of his stick and shows that he can angle attackers away from dangerous areas, but he does not manage to do this with any amount of consistency, which, once again, muddies the projection of what he can be.

For the most part, I actually believe Heimosalmi is pretty good at advancing play when he is not faced with the task of solving upcoming variables with efficient solutions. He seems to have a good headspace for knowing what the team needs to do to advance play, but then seems to struggle with knowing what he needs to do as an individual to get to that part. Heimosalmi can fix this by being a threatening offensive player, but it involves adding deception, being more willing to adjust his rush patterns up the ice when he detects pressure, and combining those two skills to dynamically solve problems as they arrive without inhibiting the macro objective of the team.

Heimosalmi should attack laterally more frequently. You can see him angle his initial attack towards center to bait F1's momentum and stick that way, before a slick little feint that allows Heimosalmi a lane to carry the puck outside the dotted line. Heimosalmi reshifts his attack back towards the middle and soars up the ice, gaining the zone. After seeing the pressure, he

routes himself back to the perimeter where there is space.

While initially another example of the opportunities provided by Heimosalmi attacking the dotted line with the threat of lateral mobility, it actually becomes an example of his habits that are not projectable. Here, it proves effective, as no one has the speed required to catch him when he's flying up ice along the perimeter, allowing him to score a goal. However, without building in any deception to this attack, it's easy to see how NHL players can efficiently handle the threats Heimosalmi creates, such as this one.

At the end of the day, it is really hard to imagine what type of player Heimosalmi can be without notable improvements to how he rushes the puck. That being said, in the second round the likelihood of most players making the NHL is slim enough that it can be a good gamble selecting a player with the tools that Heimosalmi possesses, hoping that with years of refinement you can trim the fat and add additional weapons to work with.