Finnish forward Eetu Tuulola is a real force. At 6'3" 225 lbs, he's basically a linebacker on skates. His combination of a power forward-style of game with ability to move around the ice makes him an intriguing prospect, and helped him play a key role on Finland's third line at the recent World U18 Championships, where Finland took home the gold medal.
Tuulola got some time in Finland's top pro league this past season, and is definitely an NHL prospect. Here's what to expect when he gets selected this June.
Player: Eetu Tuulola
Team: HPK U20(Jr.-A SM Liiga)
Position: Right Wing
Height: 6'3" Weight: 225 lbs.
Stats: 29 games, 9 goals, 5 assists, 14 points, -3
Final NHL Central Scouting Rank: 19th among European skaters
What I Like:
-Power Forward Game
Tuulola is a big kid and plays the definition of a "heavy" game. He uses his size and strength to win battles and dig pucks out along the boards. He's also a net-front presence on the man advantage that is extremely difficult for the opposing defense to clear out. When he gets moving with the puck, he's a real force that is difficult to stop. Here's an example of him on the forecheck using his combination of size and speed to steal a puck and score a nice goal.
-Can Snipe the Puck
When Tuulola gets time and space, he's got a wicked snap shot:
With his size and his speed, Tuulola can be a big hitter if he needs to be. Here he is laying the smack down on 2017 top prospect Timothy Liljegren:
-Good Defensive Effort
Tuulola competes on all 200 feet of the ice. He's very strong on the backcheck, and can be reliable in his own zone.
What I Don't Like:
-Slow First Step
Tuulola isn't a terrible skater once he gets going, but he's a big guy, and it takes him a while to get moving. That lack of acceleration can often leave him a step behind the rest of the play, especially when he has to defend in tight areas.
Tuulola sometimes struggles to handle tough or hard passes. He's also not very likely to make a high-skill play handling the puck. His game is pretty much meat-and-potatoes, straight line hockey.
Already standing at 225 lbs., Tuulola doesn't have a lot of physical development left compared to a number of other prospects in this Draft. It's hard to imagine him getting much stronger or playing any heavier than his current weight. That suggest he might not have as much upside as some other players available. What you see is likely what you're going to get from him.
With just 14 points in 29 games in his Finnish junior league this past season, Tuulola didn't rank in the top-100 in league scoring or points per game, finishing behind a number of other Draft prospects. Combine that with his early physical development, and there likely isn't a lot of high-scoring upside to his game.
Tuulola is ranked 19th on the Central Scouting European list. That's low enough that it's pretty tough to project what round that equates to. He's 60th on my list, which projects to about a fourth round pick. That feels about right to me. Somewhere in the fourth round is likely where he is taken. There's a lot to like about his game, but the lack of quickness really concerns me in terms of how his game projects at the next level.
As I said above, what you see is likely what you're going to get with Tuulola. He's never going to be a huge scorer, but he was outstanding in his third line role for Finland at the U18s, and he could potentially fill that role at the NHL level. He likely won't be fast enough to play on a shutdown defensive line, but his physical tools will make him very tough to play against.