Hailing from Finland, Juuso Valimaki made the decision to come to North America early to get adjusted to the smaller ice rink and to make himself more visible to NHL scouts for the draft. The Tri-City Americans of the WHL selected him in the first round, 14th overall, in the 2015 CHL Import Draft. Unfortunately for Valimaki, the Americans have not been a very good team and he’s only played in four playoff games over his two seasons in the WHL.
Valimaki is a strong skater that is effective at both ends of the ice. He doesn’t have a powerful slap shot, but his wrister is strong and accurate. He has a good knack for defending the rush and has enough size to hold his own in the corners battling for pucks. He has good hockey IQ that will be an asset to him as he moves into the professional game.
Only five of Valimaki’s 19 goals and 22 of his assists this season came on the power play. That suggests that he was effective in creating offense at even strength and that his offensive numbers, particularly his goals, have not been greatly inflated by power play success.
Valimaki is left handed and brings both the size and the offense that the Lightning have been looking for on the blue line. Since the departure of Anthony DeAngelo last summer, the Lightning have not had any great offensive-defenseman prospects. Valimaki is certainly an intriguing prospect. It’s also possible that he could be lower on the draft board than the Lightning’s draft position. It may be smart of Steve Yzerman to trade down in the first round and pick up an extra second or third round pick and still get a future impact player in Valimaki.
Valimaki is on the older end of this draft with a late 1998 birthday. He’ll turn 19 in October and that means he’ll only need to play one more season in the WHL before being eligible to start full-time in the AHL.
Juuso Valimaki career statistics
|2012-2013||Ilves U16||Jr. C SM-sarja Q||8||3||3||6||2|
|Ilves U16||Jr. C SM-sarja||27||2||10||12||10|
|Team White||IIHF Dev. Camp||6||1||5||6||4|
|2013-2014||Ilves U16||Jr. C SM-sarja Q||1||0||0||0||0|
|Ilves U16||Jr. C SM-sarja||9||2||8||10||6|
|Ilves U18||Jr. B SM-sarja||44||7||26||33||22|
|Finland U16 (all)||International-Jr||5||0||3||3||4|
|Finland U17 (all)||International-Jr||7||0||1||1||6|
|2014-2015||Ilves U20||Jr. A SM-liiga||44||5||15||20||20|
|Finland U18||Hlinka Memorial||4||0||1||1||0|
|Finland U17 (all)||International-Jr||3||0||2||2||0|
|Finland U18 (all)||International-Jr||23||0||5||5||8|
|Finland U18||Hlinka Memorial||5||1||0||1||4|
|Finland U20 (all)||International-Jr||15||4||1||5||16|
Table via Elite Prospects.