Prospect Report: Kalle Väisänen
My favorite part of covering the NHL draft has to be when I’m incredibly impressed by someone I’ve never seen or heard of before, and the subject of this report is one of those players. On my preliminary list of Finnish players to watch coming into the season, Eetu Liukas was my only player on TPS. He hadn’t been in the lineup to start the season, so TPS games were pretty much write offs for me unless they were against other players of interest. On the 12th, I watched the TPS - Jokerit game for Jimi Suomi and Samu Salminen, and they were barely on my mind when the game was over. TPS’s Kalle Väisänen completely blew me away in that game, and he firmly planted himself in my head as one of the top Finnish forwards in the 2021 draft. After the Jokerit game, he exploded offensively, scoring a goal and 6 (!!) assists in the next two games, 5 of them coming in just one. I went back and watched his previous two games as well, and he was equally impressive in each.
He’s a big kid, standing at 6’4 but still yet to fill out, and already knows how to use his body to his advantage. For a tall player, Väisänen is an exceptionally mobile skater, and has a pretty nice top speed. His puck handling skills are also very impressive for a player his size, especially his ability to stickhandle through traffic. Väisänen plays on the left wing, and as a right handed player, it gives him more opportunity to cut to the middle of the ice, and to be more dangerous when doing so. I have to tip my hat to Väisänen’s coach for his utilization so far this season, as Kalle plays a big role at all strengths. On the power play, he sets up in the left circle and everything runs through him. He sees the ice very well, and is equal parts passer and shooter, but I’d give the edge to his shot at this point. That’s no knock on Väisänen’s playmaking ability though. He has the ability to make seam passes, no-look passes, and always seems to make the right play. His shot is just wicked though, and once he puts on more weight, it’ll be even more of a threat. Just look at the two goals he’s scored so far this season:
As for his aforementioned playmaking ability, Väisänen has completed 80% of his passes so far this season (via InStat Hockey), and many of those have resulted in assists. Quite a few of them have happened on the power play, where he’ll look off a defender and slip a pass to a wide open teammate, or hold onto the puck until he draws in a second checker:
Check out this hand-eye coordination as well:
He knocked that puck out of mid air directly onto his teammates stick.
In his own zone, Väisänen doesn’t bring a ton to the table, but he’s relentless on the forecheck. He’s averaging 10 offensive zone challenges per game, and winning 9 of those (via InStat Hockey). He’s got a high motor and uses his big frame and long stick to create turnovers at a very high rate, and lots of them lead to chances like this one:
Väisänen is an all situations type of winger who truly seems like the full package. I haven’t noticed any glaring flaws in his game, and I’m suspecting he’ll get a few games in the Liiga this season if he continues to play the way he has been. Aside from the possibility of Aatu Räty being the first ever Finnish 1st overall pick, this is shaping up to be a fantastic draft for the country of Finland.
Thanks for reading!