Grading the Maple Leafs’ 2020 NHL Draft Class: Roni Hirvonen

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Here’s my analysis and scouting report for Leafs draftee Roni Hirvonen. If you’re interested, check out the full article here.

Roni Hirvonen

Drafted: Round 2, 59th overall
Age: 18, turning 19 on January 10th
Height: 5’9
Weight: 170 lbs
Position: LW/C
2019-20 Season: 5g/11a/16p in 52 games with Assat (SM-Liiga)
2020-21 Season as of October 7th: 0g/1a/1p in 3 games with Assat (SM-Liiga)
Projected Draft Position: Late-First Round to Early/Mid-Second Round

Hey, Kyle Dubas, what’s “steal” in Finnish?

Roni Hirvonen is just a fantastic pick for the Leafs. He’s also exactly what comes to mind when you think of a guy who Kyle Dubas would draft.

At 5’9, Roni Hirvonen is undersized, but that hasn’t been an issue for him up to this point.

He’s flashy, he’s skilled, he’s fast, he’s pretty much the prototype of the future NHL star model.

Let’s get into his game.

Offensively, Hirvonen is DYNAMIC. His stickhandling is his greatest asset and it’s on another level. He utilizes his silky, smooth handling skills and his creativity to make plays that no one can expect.

This is a lethal duo along with his skating skills. He’s a very agile player, and he’s able to use his lack in size and abundance of speed to just turn defensemen inside out.

His shot suffers a bit, presumably due to his lack of size and strength, but he doesn’t use it often at the pro level. When he does, it’s when he’s closer to the net.

That’s one interesting part of Hirvonen’s game. You don’t expect a 5’9 guy to get into those spaces, but Hirvonen uses his exceptional speed, deceptiveness, and hockey IQ to get into the right places, making him a finisher to be feared.

Defensively, while he does lack due to lack of strength (and age compared to his peers), he isn’t a liability at all. He makes an effort to get back and make the smart play. He can use his speed and quick decision-making skills to make the right play, usually using his stick effectively. It hasn’t landed him in the penalty box often though, which I think is a helpful skill.

Hirvonen had the opportunity to play with some great players in Finland last season, however, it doesn’t make his performance less impressive. Hirvonen became a full-time Liiga player at the age of 17 this season. Among all U19 SM-Liiga players, Hirvonen, who was 17 for most of the season, finished just second in points and assists behind 10th overall pick Anton Lundell. He was first in points, goals, and assists among U18 SM-Liiga players.

What’s interesting about Hirvonen is his abilities when it comes to battling others for the puck. He doesn’t shy away from contact at all, the definition of a pain in the rear to play with. While he’s generally outmuscled, he’s able to use his smarts to win battles, whether it’s along the boards or in front of the net.

The tricky part thing with Hirvonen is that I’m not actually sure what his next steps are. It’s easy to say that he should bulk up, but then comes the question of how that affects his agility and deceptiveness.

However, I do want to see him gain some more strength, enough for his shot to have more power to it and for him to be able to continue to hold his own against players much bigger and older than him.

The fact that he’s already performing in a high-level professional league is promising, but he’s likely a long-term prospect.

I also feel as if he could benefit from developing the explosiveness you see in many elite-level skaters. If he can develop that, I think it’ll suit his game very well. I also see the concern with the mechanics of his stride, although it doesn’t limit him right now, he should work with the Leafs team (Barb Underhill) to make sure it doesn’t affect him later.

Grade: A

Originally, I had a couple of other targets in mind for this pick, but the more I watch him, the more I love Roni Hirvonen.

Roni Hirvonen comes off as a boom or bust prospect, but I don’t think his “bust” is all that terrible.

He projects to be a middle-six player at the NHL level, but that all depends on how he continues to progress at higher levels. Hirvonen can become a skill player at the NHL level, he’s able to drive play, he isn’t a defensive liability, and he won’t be knocked off the puck easily.

Hirvonen feels like one of those guys who can develop and just come out of nowhere to become a star. That’s the feeling I get from watching him play. A centre during junior, Hirvonen has played the wing more often since he started playing professionally, and I think that the wing could be his place in the NHL. As of right now, he looks like a good 2nd line LW or a fantastic 3rd line LW. If all goes to plan, though, Roni Hirvonen could become a 2C at the NHL level.

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Spencer White is an Editor of Hockey at Overtime Heroics. He writes about hockey, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Marlies, Newfoundland Growlers, and the Toronto Six. You can find him on Twitter at @FreeNylander, @MagicianMarner, and @LeafsMoves.