Every year, a prospect with game-changing potential seems to fly under the radar of NHL scouts. Whether it is due to a prospects lack of height or because their perceived weak skating ability, there are prospects that get overlooked every year, and every year, a team comes out of the NHL Draft looking like bandits.
Honka has all the tools to become a modern two-way defensemen in the NHL. The Finnish defensemen possesses elite offensive skills but usually remains defensively conscious.
Offensively, Honka might be the best defensemen in the draft. Honka regularly demonstrates his offensive abilities both internationally and at club level for JYP Jyväskylä.
The key to the small defenseman’s offensive ability is his silky smooth skating. Honka owns a calm fluid stride that allows him to reach a nice top speed. Honka also uses his amazing skating capability to his advantage defensively, by frequently carrying the puck out of his own zone and transitioning the play up offensively.
Anttoni Honka spent a big chunk of his year playing against men in Liiga where he excelled. This is exemplified by Honka leading all Liiga defensemen in pts/60 last season with 2.34.
#2019NHLdraft top prospect Anttoni Honka led the defencemen in points/60 last season in #Liiga.#RedWings Sulak, #DallasStars Heiskanen and #Canucks Juolevi were all in the top 10 as well. pic.twitter.com/Lem1B4b8qj
— FinnProspects (@FinnProspects) August 13, 2018
After his astounding rookie season, no one should be surprised if Honka plays the entire the season with the big club in Finland. Defensively, Honka still exhibits some holes. He can be easily outmuscled, and often just swats at pucks with his stick.
Although his hockey IQ is high all over the ice, his defensive game as a whole is in need of some improvement. Honka’s analytic scores are excellent. He led all defensemen eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft last year in NHL-translated points with 16.67. Honka also had an 83.3% Controlled Zone Exit percentage in a pre-season game recently tracked on the 15th of August.
A defenseman, especially one with the offensive skillset of the Honka brothers, naturally needs more time to hone their skills. If Anttoni Honka were rushed into the NHL, there is no doubt in my mind he would flop. Young defensemen need to build confidence. They need time to learn how valuable their skills are.
That being said, Anttoni Honka’s potential is quite possibly the highest of all the defensemen in the 2019 draft class. Knowing all of this, it will be interesting to see how Honka’s ranking changes between now and June.