Prospect Report: Jimi Suomi
The 2021 NHL Draft is very, very defense heavy at the top. We could realistically see 7-8 defensemen going in just the top 15, and as of now, those guys are surefire first rounders. That group includes (in no particular order) Brandt Clarke, Carson Lambos, Owen Power, Simon Edvinsson, Luke Hughes, Sean Behrens, Isaac Belliveau, and Aidan Hreschuk. The depth doesn’t stop there though, the next tier of defensemen has a ton of guys who have the potential to be mid-late 1sts, and early 2nds. That group includes (also in no particular order) Corson Ceulemans, Stanislav Svozil, Daniil Chayka, Artyom Grushnikov, Noah Meier, Scott Morrow, Cameron Whynot, and the subject of this report; Jimi Suomi.
Let’s start out with the most fun part about Jimi Suomi, his name. Suomi is the Finnish word for Finland, so technically, his name is Jimi Finland. That’s at least a solid 8/10 on the hockey name rater, and fans will certainly run with that one. He’s from Espoo, Finland, and played with the local Blues club for his entire career up until this season. Suomi now plays for Jokerit in Helsinki, and he’s looked fantastic through their first four games of the season. He’s a left-shot defenseman who’s also played a fair bit of forward, listed at 5’9 and 152 pounds on EP. His official club team website has him listed at closer to 5’8 and 147 pounds, but I think that’s outdated, as he doesn’t look nearly that small. I’ve been high on Suomi for a while now, and I believe he’s got all the tools to be an impact defenseman, even if the size never comes.
Suomi’s skating ability is the first thing that pops out when watching him. He’s quick, agile, and fantastic on his edges, with the escapability of a playmaking winger. On retrievals, he can make it seem like he’s going one way, then cut back in the other direction, leaving forecheckers in the dust. He’s light on his feet, and his near perfect linear crossovers are a big part of his solid transition game. While there are some technical flaws in his straight line stride (such as a slight kick and not a full leg extension), everything else is above average.
For a player his size, Suomi defends very well. His gap control is some of the best I’ve seen from a prospect in a long time. He understands that he isn’t going to be very effective physically, so he uses his skating ability to make up for it. There’s a lot of defensemen who are “one and done” when defending the rush, meaning they back up and wait until making one big push to close the gap and break up the play with their stick or body. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, you’re completely burned with no chance to recover. Suomi isn’t one of these players. From the moment the opposing puck carrier enters Suomi’s territory, Suomi is on him with a stick-length gap, always attempting to make contact with the puck. His linear crossovers come in handy again, as he doesn’t have to commit to a side until he truly thinks it’s the right decision. His rush defense is really, really good, and I hope it gets the attention it deserves this year. In the corners, Suomi is effective with his stick, and does a great job clearing the puck when he gets it, but he can be overpowered by bigger players. Also, his reach isn’t very long, so if he’s tracking a 6’3 winger, it’s tough for him to get the puck. Overall, his defensive game is much more than you’d expect from a player his size with his scoring pedigree, but it will never be the cornerstone of his game.
Suomi is at his best with the puck on his stick. Whether in his own end, the neutral zone, or the o zone, he thrives when in command. His puck skills are quite refined for a defenseman, and when coupled with his skating ability, it makes for a dangerous transition player. He’s shifty and deceptive, but without being overly flashy, which is key. He can carry the puck end to end on his own, but usually prefers passing the puck. I’d like to see him be “the guy” more often, but he’s great at utilizing his teammates, which is a crucial skill that translates to the next level. His passing game is excellent, especially on zone exits. Suomi hits teammates in stride with 100 foot stretch passes like it’s no big deal, and does it with consistency. He also has great peripheral vision in the neutral zone, and especially the offensive zone. He plays a modern style game in the o zone, often finding himself on the half-wall or down behind the net. He’s got the toolkit to play like a fourth forward on offense, an invaluable asset to any coach. Suomi is a true power play quarterback, and has anchored Jokerit’s PP so far this season. When given time and space, he can break the ice open with a pass. Suomi also has a cannon of a slap shot for a player his size, and he uses it often. He’s such a smart shooter from the point, always looking for slap pass lanes and potential deflections when there’s no clear path to the net. Every part of his offensive game is well above average.
When I watch Suomi, I see a player who’s ceiling is somewhere between Henri Jokiharju and Sam Girard. He shares a ton of different traits with each of them, just not near the level of either. He probably won’t eat tough minutes like Jokiharju, or rack up points like Girard, but could he become a second/third pairing defenseman who can quarterback a power play and also move the puck 5 on 5? I can definitely see that happening. He’s someone who I can’t wait to watch more of over the course of this season, and I will come back to this post and update with Suomi’s highlights as they happen.
Thanks for reading!