Roni Hirvonen would be an interesting 2020 NHL Draft pick for the San Jose Sharks.
The San Jose Sharks could very well be calling the name of 18-year-old Finnish center Roni Hirvonen at this year’s draft. He’s projected to be taken late in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, which is where the Sharks will be picking.
In 52 games for Ässät of Liiga, Hirvonen scored 16 points (five goals, 11 assists). This may seem underwhelming, however, playing in Liiga Hirvonen was playing with men in Finland’s top league.
Because of this, he wasn’t getting that much ice-time and didn’t play much on special teams and in key situations.
When competing with players around his age, Hirvonen excelled. In nine games for Finland’s U18 team of international juniors, Hirvonen tallied 12 points (six goals, six assists). He then added three more points (one goal, two assists) in three games for Finland’s U20 team.
Hirvonen is an exceptional skater — having very quick feet, a great first step, and great acceleration he picks up a lot of speed with clean strides. He has the ability to change speeds which allows him to catch defensemen flat-footed and blow by them.
Another way Hirvonen gets around defensemen is his very good agility — he can change directions pretty quickly.
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Hirvonen is also a tough player — he’s willing to go to the dirty areas and take a hit to make a play and won’t shy away from going to the boards.
Once he has the puck, Hirvonen has the ability to make plays and stickhandle at top speed. He also has the vision and creativity to see and make plays and passes that others can’t.
Additionally, he’s very good at reading and anticipating the play and other players’ movements — he often gets himself into a position to block passing and shooting lanes. Hirvonen also uses his quick, active stick to intercept passes and knock the puck away from his opposition.
At just 5-foot-9 and 163 pounds, Hirvonen is fairly undersized for the NHL. This is one of his biggest issues as he lacks the strength to skate through a check — often getting knocked off balance and off the puck.
This issue affects his shot as well. Hirvonen’s shot lacks power — although it’s accurate and has a quick release, he finds himself more of a playmaker because it’s harder for him to score with a shot that lacks that zip.
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San Jose Sharks Prediction
Hirvonen is ranked No. 21 by Future Considerations and No. 29 by eliteprospects.com. Many other scouts have him ranked somewhere in the 20s or even later.
He has the potential to be a top-six forward — but because he’s from Europe and is undersized, it’s hard to tell how he’ll turn out.
Although he played center in the lower leagues and during international juniors, Hirvonen mainly played wing this year because of his size. This could possibly be the case in the NHL.
With Hirvonen projected to be taken in the 20s, there’s a good chance that the Sharks take him, however, I think they should wait and see if he’s still there in the second round.
I think there’s just too many question marks about the Finnish center, especially regarding his strength and goal-scoring ability.
Furthermore, Hirvonen isn’t expected to come over to America for another year or two. And even then, he’ll probably have to spend another year or two playing in the AHL getting familiar with the smaller rinks.