Kris Baker is once again counting down his list of top prospects available in the NHL Draft for Sabres.com. The first round of the 2017 NHL Draft will take place on June 23 in Chicago.
Team: HIFK (Liiga)
A steady riser all throughout the year, Miro Heiskanen is a smooth two-way defender with very few flaws in his game to represent another high-end talent in the long line of recent quality products of the Finnish development pipeline.
Heiskanen is a left-shot rearguard who can control the pace of play when possessing the puck. He sees the ice extremely well from the back end, calmly skating it up ice and adding motion at the top of the box in the offensive zone.
He gets simple shots through from the point and high-percentage areas between the faceoff circles, but isn't afraid the shoot down the wing to get defenders chasing and find a better angle to feed his teammates around the net.
Video: 1-on-1 with Miro Heiskanen
The draft always has questions marks attached to each prospect. In the case of Heiskanen there are very few, as his polished two-way game and fluid skating stride should offer any suitor great confidence in selecting him as the first or perhaps second defenseman off the board.
Heiskanen made the leap to Liiga this past season, notching five goals and 10 points in 37 games for HIFK. He held his own defensively against bigger, stronger forwards, battling in the corners, smartly using his stick and showing keen awareness in his areas of coverage to limit the attack.
Heiskanen posted a somewhat pedestrian performance at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship with one assist in the tournament's six games, but he simply owned it at the Under-18 World Championship, notching 12 points (2+10) and a plus-8 rating to earn the award of Best Defenseman as part of Finland's march to the silver medal.
Heiskanen has two years remaining on his Liiga contract, but the thought is that his drafting team could try to get him to North America before then, perhaps following one more year of seasoning overseas.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker's website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects).
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