ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling draft-eligible prospects leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21-22. Defenseman Ville Heinola is the No. 4-ranked International skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings. The Avalanche has the fourth and 16th overall selections in the first round of the draft.
From the strong pool of Finnish prospects, Ville Heinola is projected to be one of the top defensemen in this year's draft.
At 5-foot-11 and 178 pounds, the 18-year-old has established himself as a strong defenseman. The Honkajoki, Finland, native has highlighted his ability against opposition that is his own age and has continued his success on the professional stage against older competitors.
Heinola played against men last season in the Liiga, the top professional hockey league in Finland. He played with Lukko and he collected 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) and a plus-7 rating in 34 games during his rookie season.
His impressive performance this past season led to him being ranked No. 4 among international skaters by NHL's Central Scouting final rankings for the upcoming draft.
Playing against the fully developed players in Liiga, Heinola was forced to quickly transition to play in a faster, stronger and more physical environment.
Lukko qualified for the playoffs and won its first round series in three games but fell to HIFK in the quarterfinals. During those playoff games, Heinola scored four points (one goal, three assists) and logged an average of 19:49 of ice time per game.
Heinola's play with Lukko showed how much confidence his coaches had in him. He was fourth on the team with an average ice time of 18:54, which also ranked first among all rookies in the league.
"The 18-year-old is an excellent skaer with hockey sense and playmaking ability," the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's Mike Morreale said to NHL.com "Heinola plays in all situations as an 18-year-old in Finland's top pro league, has good hockey sense and the patience to make plays with confidence."
In addition to playing against older competition, Heinola represented his country at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship and put up two points (one goal, one assist) in five contests to help Finland earn the gold medal. He again wore the colors of his homeland at the Under-18 World Championship in April, finishing with four points in five games at the tournament.
"The left-shot defenseman was part of a very strong group that helped Finland win the gold medal at the WJC," Guillaume Lepage of the NHL Central Scouting Bureau said to NHL.com. "His intelligence and his understanding of the game allow him to stand out."
Heinola is projected to be selected in the first round of the upcoming draft in Vancouver and should be one of the first defenseman chosen at the annual selection event.