Photo Credit: Mikko Taipale / Jokerit
Scouting Report written by Alexander Appleyard
When you superficially examine Samu Salminen’s game he has all the hallmarks of a player who should find himself near the very top of the 2021 NHL draft. Domestic statistics?
Check. In both 2019-20 and 2020-21 he out produced each and every one of his Finnish peers in the u-20 league. Aatu Räty, Samu Tuomaala and Ville Koivunen are all talented players who may well go in the first round… but their production over the two years paled compared to Salminen. In fact, in the last 15 years the only Finns to produce more than Salminen’s 1.53 P/GP at under 18 years old? Mikael Granlund, Joonas Donskoi, Teemu Pulkkinen, Teuvo Teräväinen and Jesse Puljujärvi. Four/five have gone on to NHL success.
International play? Check. At the WHC-17 and WJC-18 he was over P/GP, played a strong two-way game, and was even named his nations captain at the u-18 World Juniors.
Physical attributes? Check. Salminen is already 6’3 and over 190lbs.
So why is it that the consensus has him going in the mid-to-late second round?
D.O.B – April 9, 2003
Nationality – Finland
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –190 lbs
Position – Center/Left Wing
Handedness – Left
Salminen’s Style Of Play
Unusually we will talk weaknesses first. Afterall, why is it that a man with the stats and frame that Salminen has does not seem in serious contention to go first round?
First is a big one. His skating. In the modern NHL there is more emphasis on skating that ever. The league is fast and furious, and it is therefore rare to find players who are visibly sub-par in this area to even suit up for a team. Salminen’s skating is not pretty. Not only is his stride short and choppy, he also skates in a very upright manner that seems to even further limit both his acceleration and top speed. But it is not just his technique that is a concern. He struggles to keep his feet moving and often glides in every zone. It is hard to say that this is due to any innate level of laziness, as he constantly tries to get into the right spots, but nevertheless going forward there needs to be more intensity to his skating alongside improved technique.
There are some positives to his skating ability though. He uses his edges nicely. This is especially noticeable around the net and on the boards. For a big man he pivots well and has some elusiveness to his game in tight spaces when the pace of the game is slower. Therefore, it may be that with some technical corrections alongside adding more strength to help move his big frame, his skating could round out to an acceptable level quickly.
Another negative is that for a player who has spent a lot of his career at center, his defensive game can be inconsistent. That is not to say he is “poor” defensively, he has some excellent games where he shuts down the oppositions top players. But for a player with a high IQ, who is excellent and reading lanes and utilising his long stick to break up plays, there are too many games, periods and plays where he gets out of position or does not pick up a trailer. For a big man he can also be reluctant to use his body in the defensive zone in situations where it would be more appropriate than a stick-check. Some of this inconsistency though is certainly linked to his skating. And if that improves his defensive work with become more consistent as well.
Now for the positives, and there are many with Salminen.
First comes his IQ. Especially in the offensive zone. He understands coverage in a way most NHL forwards don’t, and as a result creates space for himself near the net or in shooting lanes from no-where. This leads to both tap-ins for himself, as well as high-danger shots on a regular basis from inside the circles. This IQ is also utilized when picking out team-mates. He seems to have an instinctive knowledge of where his line-mates will be at all times, and can also manipulate opposition players into doing what he wants them to in order to open up lanes for his passing. When it comes to his passing ability he does not lack confidence, and is very comfortable on either his fore-hand or back-hand when it comes to threading passes through coverage.
But he is not just a play-maker. In-fact Salminen might be more dangerous as a shooter than a passer. He has great hands that allow him to get a puck in a position to shoot extremely quickly. He rarely double-clutches and even a pass behind his body or in his skates cannot be dismissed by a goalie, as he is still able to get it on goal quickly. His wrist-shot is impressive, but his slap-shot from the right side is one of the better ones in the draft class.
On the power-play Salminen is a menace, and it would seem that in this game-state any team would love to have two of him on the ice. Not only is he a fantastic net-front presence, who uses his size and high-end hand-eye coordination with aplomb to out-battle defensemen and get tips and re-directs on pucks that many NHL power-forwards would be proud of, he also plays well on the right half-boards. When playing on the right side, he uses IQ to find free lanes and sneak into the circles, before unleashing his howitzer of a shot to leave goalies frozen while the net ripples. He has ran the power-play at junior levels from this spot as well, and done a great job with his passing ability dissecting opponents with regularity.
While Salminen can penalty-kill, and has been used the both for the national team and Jokerit u-20’s, his speed limits his effectiveness up ice. He anticipates lanes extremely well, just like at 5v5, and often intercepts cross-ice passes as a result, but such plays often fizzle out in the neutral zone due to his lack of explosivity. However, when he does get an opportunity he can create something special due to his combination of shot and IQ.
If Salminen can improve his skating and clean up some inconsistencies in his game he could be a middle-six forward at the NHL level, either at center or at left wing. As such, it would not be a shock to see an NHL team fall in love with his game and potentially take him early in the second round.
Artem Anisimov, Center, Ottawa Senators
The Russian and the young Finn share a lot of similarities. Both are high-IQ, high-skilled players who are fantastic around the net, and don’t only score but also dish out nice passes to line-mates. Additionally, while both possess big bodies, neither are the most physical player. They also both have great releases and a knack for popping up in high-danger areas without a defenseman in sight.
Salminen has the potential to be better defensively that Anisimov has been over his career if he can be more consistent.
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Alexander Appleyard. If you would like to follow Alex on Twitter, his handle is @alexappleyard.
Looking for other scouting reports? Check out the Prospects tab for our other scouting reports.
Need a scouting report on a particular prospect, contact us today!