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Experts Talk: Ranking the Top 3 European D-men in the '17 NHL Entry Draft

Check out what the top NHL Draft analysts are saying about this year's prospects

by Brian Born @BrianBorn / newjerseydevils.com

Day 4 of the NHL Scouting Combine will take place on Thursday, one day ahead of the gauntlet of physical tests that the prospects will participate in. Let's take a look at the top rated European defensemen according to NHL Central Scouting's Final Rankings for the 2017 Draft, and what the draft analysts are saying about the highly-touted platers.  
 

1. Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK, Finland
HT: 6-0, WT: 170
Shoots: Left
DOB: 7/18/99 (17)
Espoo, Finland

"Heiskanen is elite skating defenceman with plenty of speed and mobility. Already playing against men in Liiga he is an excellent puck mover and transition defenceman. His offensive ceiling is not too high and he may never quarterback the powerplay but he has good hockey sense, is ahead of his years in his defensive play. Heiskanen needs to add some bulk to his slight frame to be effective in North America but he is already proven at the pro level and may have a shorter path to the NHL than some other draft eligible defencemen." - Peter Harling, Dobber Prospects

"He not only played in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, at 17, he earned key minutes on the power play and penalty kill. Heiskanen (6-0, 170), a left-handed shot, is a smooth, effortless skater with a good understanding of the game. He had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 37 regular-season games." - Mike Morreale, NHL.com

"The Finnish blueliner has been rocketing up the scouting charts, moving from No. 13 on our list to No. 4, effectively replacing Swedish defenceman Timothy Liljegren, who went from No. 3 at mid-season to No. 12 on the draft lottery rankings list. Heiskanen is the consensus top defenceman available in this draft." - Bob McKenzie, TSN

"Has had just about all the teams picking in the top 10 following him lately. Could be a big riser come draft day." - Jeff Marek, Sportsnet

"An excellent skater with top notch lateral agility and speed. He shows great confidence with the puck and he processes the game extremely well under pressure. He has great passing skills and vision. A defenseman with a high hockey IQ, he shows good gap control, positioning and awareness." - Dennis Schellenberg, Hockey Prospectus
 

2. Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle, Sweden
HT: 6-0 WT: 191
Shoots: Right
DOB: 4/30/99 (18)
Kristianstad, Sweden

"A strong Five Nations Tournament alleviated all fears that his game was slipping. For most teams he is the best defenseman in this year's draft." Jeff Marek, Sportsnet, 3/8/17

"Liljegren (6-0, 191) missed two months because of mononucleosis earlier in the season but is a solid prospect with great upside. He's calm, smart and creative, and can move the puck with authority." - Mike Morreale, NHL.com, 1/20/17

"Very strong and matured puckmoving skills, delivers at both ends of the ice, has a booming shot and competes real hard in his own zone. A leader on the blue line who is competing against men in Sweden for the second season." Dennis Schellenberg, Hockey Prospectus, 11/9/16

"An active, offensive-minded rearguard who likes the puck on his stick…skates with strong fluidity and agility, getting from one point to the next effortlessly as his feet always seem to be in motion…can take the puck end-to-end a la Erik Karlsson…his offensive IQ is off the charts as is his creativity…makes strong breakout passes to move along the attack to his forwards before jumping into the play himself…has a strong wrist shot that is quick off his blade, strong and accurate, and he gets some solid velocity on his slap shot" Future Consideration scouring report
 

3. Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYP, Finland
HT: 6-0 WT: 185
Shoots: Left
DOB: 1/1/99 (18)
Joensuu, Finland

Jeff Marek of Sportsnet - Mar. 8th: "Shines on the defensive side of the puck at even strength and PK. Has an uncanny ability to get his stick in shooting and passing lanes. Just don't expect offence. He won't be out there late in a game to tie it up, but you'll love him out there protecting a lead."

ISS Hockey - Feb. 22nd: "Good two-way mindset. Sees ice well & anticipates transition. Active in all zones."

Mike Morreale NHL.com - Jan. 20th: "An intelligent, two-way defender (6-0, 185) who can read the play well, has good vision and a strong skill set that includes skating, passing and an accurate shot. He is a reliable team player and has a sound defensive game."

Dennis Schellenberg Hockey Prospectus - Nov. 9th: "A very complete two-way defenceman who does not have a lot of flaws in his game. Vaakanainen is a very good puck mover, has great poise and makes crisp, accurate passes. He's a very mobile skater with impressive edge work and fluid strides."

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