Heiskanen fronts blue line of NHL Draft

Aaron Vickers2017 Draft Center, Europe, NCAA, OHL, WHL

Photo courtesy Finnish Ice Hockey Association

The 2017 NHL Draft is fast approaching with the first round set to kick-off at United Center in Chicago on June 23. Future Considerations has spent the season in rinks spanning the globe in preparation for FC’s 2017 NHL Draft Guide.

And, according to Future Considerations, these are the top-ranked defensemen the 2017 draft has to offer:

Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (Liiga), 6-0, 174, 07-18-1999
Heiskanen, third overall in Future Considerations’ Final ranking for the 2017 NHL Draft and the top-ranked defenseman, finished with five goals and 10 assists for 15 points in 37 games played this season for HIFK. He also starred internationally, helping Finland capture silver at the 2017 IIHF World Under-18 Championship after recording two goals and 10 assists in seven games. He was named the tournament’s top defenseman and to the media all-star team. “Heiskanen is a mobile skating, puck moving defenseman who became one of the top defenders going into the draft with a strong season,” Future Considerations scout Dennis Schellenberg said. “He plays aggressively with his stick and shows great timing and positioning in his d-zone, and is a strong power play player and quarterbacks with good passing and shooting tools.”

Cale Makar, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL), 5-11, 180, 10-30-1998
Makar, seventh in Future Considerations’ Final ranking and the second-ranked defenseman behind Heiskanen, was amazing this year for the Brooks Bandits. Makar dominated Alberta Junior Hockey League scoring with 24 goals and 51 assists for 75 points in 54 games player. Makar won the AJHL MVP award for his outstanding regular season and continued his dominance into the playoffs, where he scored five goals and 11 assists for 16 points in 13 playoff games. He earned AJHL Playoff MVP honors along the way. Makar, one of the draft’s biggest risers, also made history at the RBC Cup by becoming the first player to capture the MVP and Top Defenseman award in consecutive seasons.

Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City Americans (WHL), 6-2, 205, 10-06-1998
Valimaki, 12th in Future Considerations’ Final ranking and the third-ranked blueliner, had an impressive season with the Tri-City Americans. Valimaki scored 19 goals and added 42 assists for 61 points in 60 games played. His 19 goals led all defensemen for Tri-City and his 61 points finished second. He is described as a very cerebral defender. “He’s a very smart player who has the impulse to join the rush and create plays offensively,” said Justin Froese, Future Considerations’ head Western Canadian scout. “He’s a master at getting the puck out of his zone and up the ice, and is often the smartest player on the ice.” Valimaki also played six games for Finland at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship this year, managing two goals in the tournament.

Erik Brannstrom, D, HV-71 (SHL), 5-10, 175, 09-02-1999
Brannstrom, 18th in Future Considerations’ Final ranking and the fourth-ranked defenseman, finished with one goal and five assists for six points in 35 games played with HV-71. He also represented Sweden at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament, and in his five games played he managed two goals and one assist for three points. Brannstrom’s contributions on the blue line helped HV-71 capture the SHL league Championship, the teams’ fifth title overall.

Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL), 6-6, 215, 12-05-1998
Hague, 20th in Future Considerations’ Final ranking and the fifth ranked defenseman, finished off the season with 18 goals and 28 assists for 46 points in 65 games. He is considered a big rangy defender with impressive mobility by Future Considerations’ scout Dylan Galloway. “He moves the puck very well, and has a very impressive offensive upside to his game.” Galloway said. Hague had 12 points in 18 playoff games for the Mississauga Steelheads on their way to the OHL Championship series.