#13: Juuso Valimaki
Team: Tri-City Americans (WHL)
Drafted: 2017 #16 (1st Round)
Last Year Rank: N/A
The Calgary Flames somewhat surprised their fans at this past draft by choosing to draft a defenceman despite having an already stellar prospect pool. However, Valimaki was definitely the best player available and it already looks like he has very high potential after seeing him play over the summer.
Valimaki already has a wealth of international experience, suiting up for Finland at last year’s IIHF World Junior Championship, as well as captaining the Finnish U18 team to a Gold Medal at the U18 Worlds in 2016. Valimaki has already been named captain for Team Finland at the upcoming World Junior tournament, and will play an integral role for Finland to find success.
Valimaki took a big offensive step forward in 2016-17, nearly doubling his point total which included going from 7 goals to 19. In only his second WHL season, Valimaki scored 61 points in 60 games. His 61 points were seventh most by a defenseman in the WHL and he was one of only six defenseman with more than a point-per-game. In fact, he was the only CHL defender drafted in 2017 that had more than a point-per-game.
While his offensive game is stellar, his defensive game could still use some work (as is the case with many draft picks). He’ll have all the time needed to develop his game as he could have his ELC run for five seasons with a contract loophole. As long as he doesn’t get into nine NHL games in either of the next two years, his contract will slide and he’ll get a free AHL year in 2018-19. What this means is that he could play on his ELC through the 2021-2022 season.
There’s a lot to like about Valimaki and he could be a very good defender in the not too distant future for the Flames.