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2013 NHL Draft Prospect: Teemu Kivihalme

Finland's fingerprints are all over Kivihalme's game.

Fargo Force

Teemu Kivihalme was born and raised in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis, but is also a dual-citizen of Finland,and the influence of that country on him is apparent, from his name, to style of play. His father Janne, who also served as Teemu's coach at Burnsville High School, is originally from Finland, but came over to the United States as an exchange student for high school and college, and ended up settling in the United States. Every summer, Teemu would return to visit Finland with his father, as well as train with Finnish hockey players, giving him the rare experience of learning the game in two distinctly unique places.

As a result, there's some very clear European influences on Kivihalme's game. He's an incredibly smooth, graceful skater, that moves laterally very well, with decent top end speed. The other asset that made him a bit of a darling with NHL Central Scouting this year is that he plays the type of European-style puck-possession game that is becoming more and more popular in the NHL. And while he's still prone to the occasional mental mistakes of youth, he generally seems to have a pretty good sense and understanding of the game, and sees the ice well.

Those assets provide some very nice upside to his game, but Kivihalme still has a lot of developing to do. He's grown from around 5'9" to a Combine-measured 5' 11.25" over the course of the past 18 months or so, and reportedly still has the potential to grow a little more. Remarkably, that quick growth didn't seem to effect his skating ability all that much. His strength still needs to catch up to his height, however, as he weighs in at around 160 lbs., so he's got the potential to add a lot more muscle to his frame. The biggest areas of his game that Kivihalme needs to work on--specifically defending in front of his own net, battling in the corners, and his shot from the point--are all related to that relative lack of strength, and should hopefully develop as he beings to physically mature.

Kivihalme was only a high school junior this past season, so he's got at least another year of high school before heading off to play NCAA hockey at Colorado College. He'll most likely spend next season playing full-time with the Fargo Force of the USHL.

The pro upside for Kivihalme is almost limitless, especially if he continues to get bigger. A reliable puck-moving defenseman is always a valuable commodity at the NHL-level. He doesn't shoot the puck well enough right now to project as a power play quarterback, but has shown potential to be excellent five-on-five, assuming he tightens things up a little on the defensive end.

As for where he'll be selected, NHL Central Scouting seemed to love this kid, putting him at 64th among North American skaters in their final rankings, which projects to somewhere late in the 3rd round. I could see a team falling in love with all that upside and jumping up to pick him that high, but he seems like such a project and such a risk that I would probably wait until the 4th or 5th round before seriously considering drafting him.