123023 FIN Konsta Helenius

PRAGUE, Czechia -- Though his experience at the 2024 IIHF World Championship in Czechia has been limited, it has given forward Konsta Helenius the confidence he can make a swift jump to the NHL, and soon.

"You play against men and play against NHL players," said Helenius, a Finland-born forward eligible for the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft, to be held at Sphere in Las Vegas, with the first round Friday, June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and rounds 2-7 on Saturday, June 29 (11:30 a.m. ET; ESPN+, NHLN, SN, SN1).

"You see how they play in the NHL. It gives confidence. It gives confidence that I can play next season."

Helenius, who turned 18 on May 11, is the youngest Finnish player to ever make the senior men's national team for the World Championship, and is just the fourth skater ever to represent Finland in the year he turned 18 alongside Kaapo Kakko (2019), Patrik Laine (2016) and Reijo Ruotsalainen (1978).

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound right-shot center, No. 3 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters for the 2024 draft, is soaking in every minute.

"It's special to play for the National team," Helenius said. "Everybody is watching in Finland. My friends, my family. Everybody. I've learned a lot of things. Not one big thing, but a lot of small things. With NHL players, I watch what they do on the ice and try to take it to my game. A lot of good names. It's nice to join the group."

Helenius has played in three of seven preliminary round games for Finland, which will face Sweden in the tournament's quarterfinals Thursday. He has one assist and a plus-2 rating averaging 12:41 of ice time.

He has impressed in his limited ice time and ample practice sessions.

"I think he's great. He's got a lot of skill," said Detroit Red Wings defenseman Olli Maatta. "I think he's one of the youngest to ever play for the Finnish national team in this tournament. That tells you quite a bit.

"I think it's just exciting to see where he's going to go this summer and how he's going to fare because I think he's a great player. He's got lots of skill. He sees the ice well. He can make plays. He's a pretty good skater. He's pretty strong for his size, too.

"I think he'll be a great player in the NHL one day."

Helenius' journey has been a long one this season.

He had 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists) in 51 regular-season games with Jukurit of Liiga, Finland's top professional men's league, the fifth-highest point total by a draft-eligible player in league history behind Aleksander Barkov (48, 2012-13), Olli Jokinen (41, 1996-97), Mikael Granlund (40, 2009-10) and Kakko (38, 2018-19).

Helenius added six points (two goals, four assists) in six playoff games.

He also had two points (one goal, one assist) in seven games for Finland at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship, and seven assists in five games at the 2024 IIHF World Under-18 Championship prior to his arrival in Czechia earlier this month.

"He's just going to be one heck of a hockey player... you can tell," said Granlund, Finland's captain and a forward with the San Jose Sharks. "What he's been doing throughout the whole season ... he's been playing so much hockey, all the tournaments and everything. He's going to have a really, really good career. When you get to know him he's such a nice guy, funny guy. He's a fun guy to be around, too.

"I'm happy for him. He's done something really right that he can be at the men's World Championship at that age. Good for him. I root for him. I hope for all the good things for him. He's a good dude."

Adding in international friendlies at the junior and senior levels, Helenius estimates he's close to triple digits in games played.

It's made for a bit of a gauntlet as he nears the 2024 draft.

"My season was a long season," he said. "I think I've played over 90 games. Long season. We did the the hard work and I tried to improve my weaknesses. It comes quickly. It's not like a long season. In a couple weeks it's almost over.

"It's a big summer coming."

The biggest moment -- the draft -- still remains.

"It's like the same season because the draft is coming," Helenius said. "Of course you think about the draft, but when it's the game it's your job and you don't think about the draft. It's easy when you come to the rink and you don't think about the draft anymore.

"I just try to show my best and we'll see."

Related Content