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NHL Draft

Miro Heiskanen believes he's 'best of the defensemen' for 2017 Draft

Finland-born player exceling against men in Liiga, could be first at his position to be selected

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Defenseman Miro Heiskanen of HIFK in Finland believes he could be the best at his position in the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas.

"I think that might be possible because I'm a good two-way defenseman, and I think I'm the best of the defenseman who can play offense and defense," he said.

The 2017 Draft is at United Center in Chicago. The first round is June 23 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). Rounds 2-7 are June 24 (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

 

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Heiskanen (6-foot-1, 172 pounds) could be the first defenseman selected in the draft. He is No. 4 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters after having a strong season in Liiga, Finland's top professional league

NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said Heiskanen is "by far the best European defenseman in the draft."

He was named the best defenseman at the 2017 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in April, with 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) and a plus-8 rating in seven games to help Finland win the silver medal.

Heiskanen also had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 37 games with HIFK. He played on the top pair at even strength and saw time on the power play and the penalty kill. He returned from missing four weeks in March because of a virus to average more than 20 minutes of ice time in eight playoff games.

HIFK coach Antti Tormanen said Heiskanen, 17, was his team's best defenseman this season.

Video: Miro Heiskanen - Prospect Profile

"I think it's his ability to play the game and basically all the time making the right decisions," Tormanen said. "When the game is coming really fast he understands how to release the puck by the glass or rim it away, or make a quick turn. That's what is needed in the NHL, on a smaller rink. I think that's definitely the key aspect of his very good game."

During the NHL Scouting Combine, Heiskanen interviewed with 28 teams, showing the level of interest he's earned.

Tormanen isn't surprised NHL teams want to know more about Heiskanen.

"When he came to us in May 2016, the thinking was he would play one more year in juniors and get a few games," he said. "But right away when we saw him we knew this guy for sure would play for us and have a great chance."

Heiskanen is considered more of a reliable, poised defenseman rather than a risk-taker, but Tormanen said with Heiskanen it's more calculated gambles with the puck.

"I think he takes risks but he can foresee and solve problems before they happen," he said. "He can adjust right away to the situation. That's what I mean with his hockey sense."

Heiskanen is a left-handed shot but played the right side. That allowed him to take advantage of having the puck on the inside and away from the boards when he's handling it.

"He can make those D-to-D [defenseman-to-defenseman] passes very quickly," Tormanen said. "He knew in advance that maybe the opponent is coming, and if he's coming I'm going to deke, pass right away to the wing or skate to the middle. It doesn't matter if he turns on the backhand or the forehand."

Heiskanen's opponents also have been impressed.

Defenseman Timothy Liljegren (5-11, 188), No. 6 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters, has seen and played against Heiskanen with Sweden at international tournaments.

"[Heiskanen] barely makes a mistake and has real good flow to his game," Liljegren said. "He makes great passes and is good in both zones."

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