2014 NHL Draft Prospect Profile #14: Julius Honka
The next prospect on the board is Finnish defenseman Julius Honka.
Team: Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Date of Birth: December 3, 1995
Place of Birth: Jyvaskyla, Finland
Height/Weight: 5'11" / 175 lbs
Ranked eleventh among North American skaters, Honka thrived in his move to play in North America this past season. After receiving an "A" in preliminary rankings from NHL Central Scouting, he delivered on the ice as coach Mark Lamb tells Adam Kimelman of NHL.com, "He's been as good as advertised," Lamb said. "He was just so good in training camp. His skating and his puck handling and his shot, he was way ahead of everybody. ... You wonder, can he take it into the regular season and do it, but the biggest thing is how he practices and what he can do in practice, that's where you really get a good look at this kid. He's got some God-given talent that a lot of kids don't have. He's very high end."
An offensive-defenseman whose favorite player is Erik Karlsson, Honka will certainly have teams interested. Adding a high impact player on the blue line can never be understated, as we saw in Columbus what Ryan Murray's presence did to the Jackets roster. Honka also had to have gained a great deal of experience winning a gold medal with Finland at the 2014 World Junior Championship.
Due to his size, physicality at the NHL level could be an issue, and teams may be scared off at the prospect of getting the next Kris Russell rather than Erik Karlsson. Due to that, there's certainly a chance he could still be on the board when the Blue Jackets pick at number 16.
EliteProspects.com: "Honka is a small offensive-minded blueliner who skates very well with strong lateral movements and agility. He's extremely elusive and hard to contain or catch. He possesses good recovery speed and quick on the transition from defense to offense."
MyNHLDraft.com: "A tremendously gifted skater possessing four-way dynamic mobility, Julius Honka gets up and down the ice more efficiently than any other defender in his class."
THN: "When the defensive side of the game catches up, he'll be a load to handle."
Good fit for the Blue Jackets?
Every Finnish prospect will be linked to the Blue Jackets during Jarmo Kekalainen's tenure as general manager, and Honka should be no exception. I could see him going to any team in the 15-17 range, those teams being the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Philadelphia Flyers. All seem to be good fits, as he wouldn't be rushed to contribute in his draft year, allowing him to fill out his frame and the defensive side of his game.
Columbus has made it no secret that they're looking to add speed and skill to the roster, and Honka would provide that. He may very well be couple years from being an NHL contributor, but the allure of grabbing a player in the mold of Erik Karlsson is tempting and doesn't come along very often. That said, if the Jackets were to target a defenseman, I could see them going more for size and toughness as they look to possibly replace Nikita Nikitin and are unsure of the future of Dalton Prout.
Still, Kekalainen's mantra is to take the best player available and Honka could be that player. It would certainly be appealing to see him opposite Ryan Murray on the top power play unit.