If you don’t know this season the Finnish elite league known as Liiga added a new helmet. The Red Bull Helmet. The RB Helmet will be worn by the player who is leading in points for under 20 year olds.
So far players like Aleksi Heponiemi and Kaapo Kakko have been wearing it. But, they are still eligible to wear the golden helmet, which is customarily given to the player with the most points per team.
In this post, I’ll look at the top 5 U20 point producers in the Liiga and I’ll be grading their potential of becoming a NHL player.
1. Aleksi Heponiemi, Kärpät, Center, Finland
Potential: 4 out of 5 (2nd line center on a good team, 1st on a weak center depth team)
Heponiemi is looking to be a steal for the Florida Panthers. He was drafted in the 2nd round of 2017 NHL Entry Draft (40th overall) and by what he is done so far he seems more like a mid first rounder. Heponiemi is currently Liiga players under 20 in points with 46. So far, he’s put up 16 goals and 30 assists. Not only is Heponiemi leading U20 players in points, he’s also tied for 8th in the point scoring race.
In addition, Heponiemi reminds me a bit of an Elias Pettersson; That lanky nordic guy who everyone will say is too skinny for the NHL but they will prove it wrong with their skill set. But, I’m being careful and not calling him the next Petey.
48 GP, 16 G, 30 A, 46 PTS, +19, 1 PPG, 4 GWG, 15:39 TOI
2. Alexandre Texier, KalPa, Center, France
Potential: 3 out of 5 (3rd line center, great power play quarterback)
Who you might ask? I doubt many people know of the French youngster who was drafted 45th overall in 2017. He is the earliest French draft pick currently in NHL draft history. Texier is the only on this list who is actually holding the golden helmet at the moment. But, unlike Heponiemi, we won’t be seeing Texier in the playoffs as his team had a mediocre season. Plus, Texier is still a question mark as he’ll take a bit longer to fully develop him.
53 GP, 12 G, 25 A, 37 PTS, -12, 4 PPG, 16:55 TOI
3. Kaapo Kakko, TPS, Right Wing, Finland
Potential: 5 out of 5 (Superstar forward who can play every forward position)
Only 18 years old, but still 3rd on the U20 points list. Kaapo Kakko is going to be a great player in the NHL next season. Honestly I can’t pin point a single flaw in his game. He is currently 7th in goals in the league, but its surprising since TPS has been injury riddled at the center position. With injuries at center, TPS has utilized him at center for some games.
It’s safe to say that he is making this 1st overall selection battle an interesting one.
43 GP, 21 G, 14 A, 35 PTS, +1, 7 PPG, 6 GWG, 18:11 TOI
4. Rasmus Kupari, Kärpät, Center, Finland
Potential: 4 out of 5 (2nd line Swiss Army Knife)
He hasn’t been able to get past his teammate Heponiemi, but he’s still a point machine. Kupari is a player who has massively improved and is looking to be trying to break in to a weak Los Angeles Kings offense. But, discipline is an issue for Kupari. So far this season, he has sat in the box for a total of 65 minutes.
42 GP, 12 G, 20 A, 32 PTS, +13, 4 PPG, 3 GWG, 14:19 TOI
5. Jesse Ylönen, Pelicans, Right Wing, Finland
Potential: 3.5 out of 5 (An agile guy who can be used on the 3rd line to spread out talent)
He’s a native of Scottsdale, Arizona, but he is a Finnish citizen. His father, Juha Ylönen played in the NHL with the Arizona Coyotes, Ottawa Senators and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But, Jesse Ylönen is making a name for himself in the Liiga. He’s been quite good and is looking like a good 2nd round pickup for the Montreal Canadiens. Ylönen is a tall agile player who is a great two-way forward, but he still lacks offensive and defensive consistency.
51 GP, 13 G, 12 A, 25 PTS, +11, 2 PPG, 2 GWG, 14:51 TOI
Hope you enjoyed the article and enjoy the rest of your day!
stats from liiga.fl and eliteprospects.com