When the 15th pick comes up on Friday, the Canadiens could find themselves in an enviable position, as an organizational need could be addressed while still picking one of the best players available. A left-shot defenceman should be a high priority for the Habs, and with the likes of Philip Broberg, Cam York, Thomas Harley, and Ville Heinola potentially available, they’ll be in a good position to address a weakness.
Heinola is a smart puck-moving defenceman who played pro hockey last year in the Finnish SM-liiga and was a member of the Gold Medal-winning Finnish team at the World Juniors. He would immediately bolster the defensive prospect pool and give the team two high-end left side prospects along with last year’s second rounder Alexander Romanov.
DOB: March 2, 2001
CSB: 4 (European Skaters)
Hockey Prospectus: 16
Future Considerations: 21
The Hockey News: 20
TSN (Button): 36
The Athletic (Pronman): 28
Heinola is an undersized puck mover that will need to add strength in order to thrive at the NHL level. While he is not an elite skater, especially considering his size, he is quick and handles the puck calmly and with confidence. Heinola is a very intelligent player who thinks and sees the game at a very high level, making him an exceptional distributor of the puck. He is an effective power play quarterback and has a good, accurate shot that he consistently gets on the net. There is an intriguing offensive upside to his game and with continued work, his defensive prowess should improve as well.
The expectation will be for Heinola to return to Lukko of the SM-liiga for the 2019-20 season. As he was already playing in Finland’s top men’s league as a 17-year-old, he may not be that far away from making an impact at the NHL level. Though his offensive game is quite advanced, he could use some time to polish his defensive work, improve his skating, and bulk up in order to deal with defending NHL-calibre forwards. Realistically, Heinola is likely at least two seasons away from cracking the lineup, however, he would join a growing group of Finnish talent in the Canadiens organization that could aid in the transition.