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Heiskanen An Underrated Draft Prospect

The Finn was one of the best players at this year's Under-18 World Championship

by Erin Hodges / ColoradoAvalanche.com

ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling draft-eligible prospects leading up to the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago on June 23-24. Miro Heiskanen is the No. 4-ranked international skater in the NHL Central Scouting's final rankings. The Avalanche has the fourth overall selection at the draft.

With the top spots in the 2017 draft likely to be secured by forwards, this year's defensemen crop might be overlooked. That is not to mention a blueliner has not been chosen in the top four of the draft since 2014 when Aaron Ekblad went No. 1 overall to the Florida Panthers.

However, Miro Heiskanen might just be the surprise and what NHL teams need the most when clubs start making their selections at United Center.

Ranked fourth on the NHL Central Scouting final list of international skaters, he is one of the most complete and top defensive prospects in this year's class. Coming out of the elite Finnish professional league, Liiga, and as a young star for the team HIFK, Heiskanen has put up some solid numbers the last few seasons to stand out to NHL scouts.

This past year, the 17-year-old played with and against men for HIFK, registering 10 points--five goals and five assists in 37 games. He also only spent four minutes in the penalty box, surprising for a defenseman of his caliber in the rough and fast Finnish league.

Heiskanen also starred on Finland's team that won silver at the 2017 U18 World Championship. He recorded two goals and 10 assists for 12 points, the most by a defenseman in the tournament. He also led in plus/minus (tied, plus-8) and assists. His strong performance earned him the honor of being the top defenseman of the event and a spot on the tournament all-star team.

This came after helping the Finns to a gold medal previous year at the U18 World Championship at the age of 16.

Video: Altitude profiles Miro Heiskanen

Heiskanen was also brought up to Finland's under-20 team during the most recent campaign, where he was able to put up one assist in six games against mostly older players at the World Junior Championship.

His strong offensive movement and puck management as a defenseman is what makes him stand out from other rear guards in this year's draft.

"[Heiskanen] a good puck mover, great skater--probably one of the best skaters in the draft. [His] puck management is very good," said Alan Hepple, Colorado Avalanche director of amateur scouting.

Video: Alan Hepple discusses Miro Heiskanen

Given his talent for his age, Heiskanen has options to either continue to play professionally in Finland with HIFK or come over to North America and play in one of the leagues affiliated by the NHL club that drafts him.

At the recent NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo, Heiskanen did not hold back about his talent, ability and desire to be a professional player in the top tier of the sport.

"I think that might be possible because I'm a good two-way defenseman who can play offense and defense," he said to NHL.com at the combine. "I feel I'm the best of those types of defensemen who are here."

So, while forwards appear to be at the forefront of the news and have secured the top spots, Heiskanen could stay under the radar and be a defensive jewel that comes out this year's draft class.  

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