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DRAFT PROFILE: Top defencemen

Meet some of the highest-ranked defencemen ahead of the 2017 NHL Draft

by Paul Gazzola /

Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting, believes the defence class at the 2017 NHL Draft provide a good range of options.

"A lot of variety, a lot of versatility," said Marr at the 2017 NHL Scouting Combine. "It depends on what type of player you're looking for. They bring different dimensions to the game, different styles, even though their numbers are quite similar. It's just a different package you get with each player."

Meet some of the highest-ranked defencemen ahead of the event.

Callan Foote, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Video: COMBINE | Callan Foote

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 212

Shoots: Right

CSS Rank: 12 (Among N.A. Skaters)

Son of two-time Stanley Cup champion Adam, Callan Foote is expected to be chosen in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft. "Ever since he retired, he was able to coach my brother and I," said Callan about his father. 

The rearguard plays for the Kelowna Rockets along with his younger brother Nolan, a forward. They attribute much of their hockey success to their father. "He's been nothing but great help for the both of us," said Callan.

"For things like this (NHL Scouting Combine), he just wants me to enjoy it. It only happens once so just go out, try your best and have fun."

While Adam was known to be a hard-nosed defender, Callan says he has more to offer offensively. "I think that's our main difference: my offensive ability and my two-way style of play. I want to bring that offensive ability to the next level."


Cale Makar, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

Video: COMBINE | Cale Makar

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 180 

Shoots: Right

CSS Rank: 9 (Among N.A. Skaters)

The Canadian Junior Hockey League's Most Valuable Player in 2016-17 - with 75 points in 54 games - could very likely be drafted in the top 10. Makar believes his best attributes are his skating and hockey sense. "I think that the game is getting a little bit smaller and smaller now," he said. "Guys want speed and hockey sense and I think those are two of my big assets." 

The Calgary, AB, product is committed to UMass-Amherst, a team rebuilding but could become more competitive with the addition of the defenceman. 

"They were one of the first colleges to approach me," said Makar. "I really liked the coaches at the time, they were very personable. I had seen the campus and I thought it was a great place for me. I wanted to be in Hockey East because I know it's a competitive, kind of All-Star conference."

Miro Heiskanen, HIFK (Liiga)

Video: COMBINE | Miro Heiskanen

Height: 6-foot-0

Weight: 170

Shoots: Left

CSS Rank: 4 (Among EU Skaters)

Characterized as a two-way defender that is prone to playing in the dirty areas, Miro Heiskanen's name could be called very early in Chicago, Ill. 

"Skating and puck moving are my strengths," the defenceman said at the 2017 NHL Scouting Combine. The Finn had five goals and 10 points in 37 games with HIFK of the Finnish Elite League and also played internationally at the 2017 World Junior Championship, ending the tournament with one assist in six games. 

"I think I just play my own game and don't look at other players," Heiskanen said when asked about the other young, Finnish defencemen that have carved out NHL careers recently. "I try to just do my best and be as good as I can." 

Heiskanen admits there are facets of his development he must continue to evolve. "I need to get stronger, that's the biggest thing," he said.

Timothy Liljegren, Rogle BK (SHL)

Height: 6-foot-0

Weight: 191

Shoots: Right

CSS Rank: 6 (Among EU Skaters)

A right-shooting, highly-skilled defenceman that could one day quarterback a National Hockey League power play.

That's the report around Timothy Liljegren of Sweden, whose tough season with Rogle hurt his draft stock but his skill can't be denied. "He's a bit of a mess defensively, but he's dynamic and great offensively," a scout told The Hockey News. "His hockey sense may not be where it needs to be."

Liljegren registered one goal and five points in 19 games with Rogle this campaign. "There's a premium on power play defencemen in the game, and he can be that guy," said the scout.

Juuso Valimaki, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

Video: COMBINE | Juuso Valimaki

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 204

Shoots: Left

CSS Rank: 11 (Among N.A. Skaters)

Defenceman Juuso Valimaki talked to 29 teams at the 2017 NHL Scouting Combine. For the past two seasons, Valimaki has been with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League. The 6-foot-2, 204-pound d-man put up 61 points in the 2016-17 season, nearly doubling his output from the year before.

"At the start it was a little tough to leave my family and leave my home country," Valimaki said about moving to North America to play hockey. "I really enjoy my time in Tri-City and they are a great organization with great teammates. They help me a lot."

Like with every prospect, there are areas that can still be refined.

"I think my best assets as a player is my hockey IQ, compete level and work ethic," Valimaki said. "I can still improve my feet. I think I can be a lot quicker and improve my turns, pivots and even my gaps as well. I think skating is the biggest thing for me (to improve)."

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