Yes, that is no typo. We ranked Heiskanen 10th overall — although not every individual did not rank Heiskanen specifically at 10th overall. While Heiskanen has risen up the rankings, with the infamous U18 bump, we value him slightly less, relatively speaking.
We do view Heiskanen, though, as one of the best defenders available this draft.
- Age: 17-years-old, 1999-07-18
- Birthplace: Espoo, FIN
- Position: LD
- Handedness: Left
- Height: 6’0″
- Weight: 174 lbs
- Draft Year Team: HFIK
Heiskanen is elite skating defenceman with plenty of speed and mobility. Already playing against men in Liiga he is an excellent puck mover and transition defenceman. His offensive ceiling is not too high and he may never quarterback the powerplay but he has good hockey sense, is ahead of his years in his defensive play.
An excellent skater with top notch lateral agility and speed. He shows great confidence with the puck and he processes the game extremely well under pressure. He has great passing skills and vision. A defenseman with a high hockey IQ, he shows good gap control, positioning and awareness.
Heiskanen has all the potential to be an excellent puck-moving defenseman at the pro level. He’s noticeably calm and confident with the puck in all situations, whether it be in the defensive zone under pressure or playing the point on power play. He has very good puck skills, keeps his head up and makes the right decisions on when to pass and when to carry the puck.
An elite two-way defenceman in the making, Miro Heiskanen has a toolbox bursting at the seams. Very smooth skater whose general agility and athleticism is excellent and on display every shift. A confident puck mover with no issues running a play himself and starting a transition up-ice. Solid creativity and impressive puck skills. Always makes the high percentage play and doesn’t put teammates in dangerous or vulnerable positions. Willingness to play a physical game is not an issue, as he is often seen throwing the body. Defensively very diligent and proactive, keeping the opposition to the outside and cutting off open and common lanes.
His hockey sense is so good that he dictates the play due to how effectively he moves the puck. He makes great decisions, understands how to create chances while keeping his plays simple, and overall shows no issues playing at a pro pace. His mobility is pretty good, too, as he can get up into the rush well and close his gaps efficiently.
Heiskanen made a huge leap in most rankings after a dominant performance in the U18s. As one example, Heiskanen was not ranked in ISS’s April edition for their top 31 but flew up to fourth overall in May. To be fair, ranking him fourth was an improvement over not being ranked.
Now, U18s matter. It’s the only time we see the bulk of the top draft-eligible skaters playing similar (note: NOT the same) levels of competition and usage. There is a lot of value to these games, but probably not nearly as much as a good portion of the industry tends to make of it.
Still, Heiskanen put up a dominant performance, including 12 points in 7 games. This placed Heiskanen up there with Ryan Murphy, Jamie McBain, Albert Yarullin, Erik Johnson, Adam Clendening, and Tim Erixon for top U18 scoring defenders. Quite the list… although it does also include Ryan Murray and Matt Dumba.
Heiskanen’s production in the Finnish Liiga was high, with his ten points placing him in a three-way tie for third in historic U18 scoring. The other two, however, came from the 1982-83 and 1990-91 seasons which would be less impressive when adjusting for era.
U18 European scoring is always difficult to analytically project a player’s potential due to multiple factors. Draft eligible skaters in Europe tend to play in depth roles, suppressing scoring. Low scoring means that variance, luck, and usage play a much larger role, especially for defenders. Many non-star European players hesitate to move to North America, as playing in Europe often surpasses the lifestyle quality in the AHL or ECHL.
I’ve said it previously, but scoring in Europe has more to do with whether or not a player was good enough to garner himself the opportunity to score rather than estimating their relative worth.
So, what do we know then?
We are aware Heiskanen has been one of the top producing defenders in Liiga history, but that does not correlate to success as strongly as leagues like the SHL or the CHL. We know Heiskanen has been one of the top producing defenders in U18 history, but that does not correlate as strongly either.
We also know that he carries many of the tools scouts traditionally adore and covet. I highlighted a few more scout notes above than normal for these profiles to help show this.
Heiskanen is an exceptional skater, being able to move with ease in all four directions. His mobility allows him to shift directions easily, which combines with his high-end IQ lending to exceptional defensive abilities, especially in gap control. He defends entries although could use a bit more strength for boxing opponents out for rebounds.
His best tool is his mind. He thinks the game in a way that allows him to win board battles before they start, predicting the play of the puck before its transpiration. His mind also assists him in both the transitional and offensive elements of the game. Heiskanen carries plus-level puck skills and distributes with ease without caving to pressure. Typically I hate the word poise, but it works here.
He is the prototypical two-way, 200-foot defender. He’ll man the secondary power play, with some upside of higher, kill penalties, and eat minutes at even strength.
There are still questions surrounding his offensive upside, but the potential is there. How the next two years transpire, and his performance will hopefully show a better picture of his ceiling.