2017 Draft Profile:
Born: June 1, 1999
Hometown: Helsinki, Finland
Team: Frolunda (Sweden)
CSS Rank: 7th among European Skaters
When a player is named the MVP of the U18 World Junior Championship, teams and scouts will take notice. Kristian Vesalainen was that very prospect, scoring six goals and adding seven assists in seven tournament games.
During the season, Vesalainen split time between Sweden with Frolunda and Finland with HPK Hameenlinna. His offensive skill does not match his production from 2016-17. He only had six points in 26 games in Sweden and one goal in nine contests in his homeland. But the international tournament is where he put the spotlight back on himself.
Vesalainen's name joins Clayton Keller, Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid as prestigious draft prospects to earn that MVP nod in recent years. He now heads into the 2017 NHL Draft with all the tools to become a successful power forward.
Vesalainen made the jump to the senior level in Sweden at just 16, becoming one of the youngest foreign players to step into that league. He won U18 gold in 2016 and silver in 2017.
"You can see he has everything to be a top-six forward," one scout said, according to The Hockey News. Once he gets drafted, he can relax."
The scouting report on Vesalainen is he has a good combination of size (6-3, 207) and speed and projects to be a good top-end forward in the NHL, who can carry the puck up the boards and beat defenders to the net. Puck possession figures to be a good part of his professional game as he can shield the puck from defenders with his frame. The winger lacked consistency in his offensive game in 2016-17, but shined at the U18s. More production moving forward is expected of him.
Some scouts think a lack of production is just a sign that Vesalainen is still growing into his frame and learning to use his physical tools to their full extent.
Ranked seventh among European Skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Vesalainen figures to be right in the mix of players available in the Oilers range - should they keep the 22nd-overall pick. ISS ranks him 19th overall, while he ranges anywhere between 19th and 25th by various draft publications and prognosticators.
Vesalainen has an Oilers connection from this season, having been teammates with Edmonton's 2016 draft pick Aapeli Rasanen at World Juniors.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
- A big and strong winger who has the ability to impact the game in many ways… plays a versatile, high-tempo offensive game… battles for pucks and space… a beast along the wall and difficult to move in front of the net… mixes a heavy game with very soft, skilled hands… possesses a very hard shot with quick release… makes soft, easy-to-control passes to his teammates… dangerous anytime he has the puck in the offensive zone." - Future Considerations