Photo Credit: Oulun Kärpät / Iikka Pirttikoski
Samu Tuomaala is a 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who hails from Oulu, Finland. For those who are unfamiliar with Oulu, it’s one of the northernmost cities in Finland and is roughly a two hour drive to the Swedish border.
Tuomaala plays in the Kärpät system and spent the majority of this past season playing U20 hockey for Kärpät’s U20 club. He played with a very talented team which featured Topi Niemelä (Toronto Maple Leafs prospect), Kalle Loponen (Toronto Maple Leafs prospect), Ville Koivunen (2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect), Joonas Lohisalo (2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect) and Aatu Räty (2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect).
He isn’t the only one in his family who is part of the Kärpät organization. Tuomaala’s father, Pasi is an equipment manager for Kärpät U18.
This past season, Tuomaala played in 30 games at the U20 level and recorded 31 points (15 goals and 16 assists). His goal totals were equal to his goal numbers from the 2018-2019 season. In addition to his U20 play, he played in five games at the Liiga level.
Tuomaala will be in Plano, Texas and Frisco, Texas for the 2021 U18 World Championships, which begins on April 26th. He will be suiting up for Finland alongside a great group including Brad Lambert (2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect), Samu Salminen (2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect), Aleksi Heimosalmi (2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect), Koivunen, Jimi Suomi (2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect), Kalle Välsänen (2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect), Verner Miettinen (2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect) and Oliver Kapanen (2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect).
D.O.B – January 8, 2003
Nationality – Finland
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –165 lbs
Position – Right Wing
Handedness – Right
Tuomaala’s Style Of Play
When you watch Samu Tuomaala, right away you will notice how he will remind you of Carolina Hurricanes forward prospect Noel Gunler. Similar to Gunler, Tuomaala loves to drive the rush and be active in the neutral zone offensively. Both forwards have great shot from range and have shown to occasionally struggle on the forecheck.
While Tuomaala has shown similar traits to his Swedish counterpart, if you watch them side-by-side, you will see that Tuomaala’s defensive play is slightly better.
In the defensive zone, Tuomaala does a great job of psychologically trapping you. At the blue-line, the Finnish winger widens and lowers his body to take up more space defensively. By doing so, you feel as if you have far less space to work with the puck and often times you find yourself drifting in low danger situations.
From a positioning perspective, Tuomaala does a good job of staying in position. He will shift to a more centered role if and when the puck ends up going to the left side. Tuomaala will shift to the slot and look to prevent passes heading to medium danger.
Tuomaala will use his physicality in the defensive zone but it’s not consistent. When Tuomaala does implement physicality, he tends to assert dominance at the face-off circle hashmarks.
When it comes to defensive recoveries, you will notice that Tuomaala is quite strong at jumping on loose pucks after his teammates have poke-checked or body-checked to cause a takeaway. But, Tuomaala doesn’t often cause the takeaways have himself. Instead he provides insurance and picks up the loose puck for his teammate.
I would like to see better decision making from Tuomaala. There are shifts in which Tuomaala makes bad decisions on breakout passes. He will either fail to identify the ideal teammate to pass to and/or misread the route of his teammate.
His decision making when stick-handling also needs some improvement. For instance, when Tuomaala sees pressure coming at him, he will play the puck towards them instead of shifting the puck away from the opposition. Instead of being deceptive with the puck and drawing the attacker to one side in order to open up space, he draws the attacker in and if your stick-handling isn’t strong enough it will then lead to a takeaway.
Offensively, Tuomaala reminds me quite a bit of former Montréal Canadiens forward Michael Ryder. Like Ryder, Tuomaala has excellent shooting range especially on one-timers and looks to be physical down low in the corners. In addition, they both like an a nuisance at net-front especially when there is one forward behind the red line. Ryder and Tuomaala both have the drive to crash the net and find the smallest gaps in traffic for their teammates to pass through.
While he likes to be physical in low danger, they are far from explosive and powerful checks. They are light bodychecks. But, his physical issues aren’t the only thing that Tuomaala needs to work on from forecheck perspective. I’ve read quite a few reports that indicate that Tuomaala has blistering speed and I question that. If Tuomaala truly had blistering speed, he would be a lot faster on the forecheck. It’s clear that he wants to be more aggressive on the forecheck as he wants to exert physical play, but his speed is truly holding him back. For example, I’ve seen bodychecks from Tuomaala where he clearly didn’t possess the necessary speed to complete the check and he instead took a face-plant.
As I mentioned above, Tuomaala has shown excellent range with his shot. In the screenshot below from InStat Hockey, you will see that the majority of his goals have come in medium and low danger. Tuomaala has a wide tool-belt of shots from beyond the doorstep. He has proven that he can get quality distance on his wrist, snap and slap shots from range.
Tuomaala is a far better shooter than he is a playmaker. But, we have seen episodes that show that he is capable of setting up electric scoring chances. For example, I’ve seen Tuomaala shift from left to right in the neutral zone, complete a controlled zone entry, wrap the net and then complete a centered pass on the left side of the ice to the right side for an assist. Ultimately, I would like to see more consistency with Tuomaala’s play-making ability.
Tuomaala’s defensive transitional play is solid. Similarly to his play in the defensive zone, he will play more at center ice if the his opponents are in possession of the puck along the left side. In addition, he seems very persistent at getting to the blue-line in order to widen/lower his stance in an effort to limit puck movement.
From an offensive transitional perspective, Tuomaala was far less involved transitionally in his five games at the Liiga level versus playing U20 hockey. When playing in U20 games, I noticed that Tuomaala will attempt to force the puck into well defended areas off of zone entries. For instance, there was one controlled zone entry in which he pulled along four attackers with him. At that point, there was not much that Tuomaala could do except dump the puck. Ultimately, I would like for Tuomaala to either be more deceptive with the puck in transition or button hook to shake off some of the attackers. Also, I noted earlier that Tuomaala does struggle to complete breakout/zone exit passes. Tuomaala will need to really hone in on his decision making when it comes to transitional play.
As mentioned earlier, Tuomaala struggles with speed and it’s quite evident on the forecheck. He doesn’t generate much explosiveness on his stride. Occasionally, we will see a power stride for the first couple of steps, but it is far from consistent.
While we do see Tuomaala struggle with acceleration, we need to point out that Tuomaala does got solid acceleration on his crossovers. His crossovers are tightly placed and thus it allows him to use inside edges to complete tight turns and ultimately get some speed right off of the hop. But, the speed isn’t consistent because he doesn’t possess a power stride.
We’ve talked quite a bit about Tuomaala’s struggles with stick-handling. Tuomaala seems to stick-handle with ease only when he isn’t facing tight pressure or when the defender struggles to read what Tuomaala intends to do with the puck. Below is an example of a situation where the defender just didn’t have a good read on Tuomaala and let him puck-handle around him.
But, in most cases, we see Tuomaala struggle to move the puck around the last defender when on the rush. He isn’t a deceptive stick-handler. So, don’t expect a Matthew Beniers like stick-handler. Additionally, he struggles at realizing how far out he has to stick-handle to beat the defender. There are situations in which he will attempt to go from forehand to backhand, but the puck never gets to his backhand. Instead, the puck gets intercepted by the defender’s skate.
If Tuomaala can truly hone in on his stick-handling, he will a reliable second line/third line winger in the NHL.
Michael Ryder, Right Wing, Former NHLer (Played for the Montréal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils)
Third line winger with second line upside. (NHL)
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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