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2021 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Samu Salminen is a big-bodied center who can score

The Finnish center is a project, but has huge upside as a late round pick

Credit: All Over Press

We are less than a week away from the 2021 NHL Entry Draft (July 23-24), so it’s time to start researching the prospects likely to be selected in the first round. The Columbus Blue Jackets currently hold three picks in that round: #5, #24, and #31.

Samu Salminen

Position: C/LW
Team: Jokerit U20
Date of Birth: April 9, 2003
Birthplace: Helsinki, Finland
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 190
Shoots: Left

Rankings

Ranked #44 by ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
Ranked #112 by FCHOCKEY
Ranked #72 by TSN/BOB McKENZIE
Ranked #98 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #66 by TSN/CRAIG BUTTON
Ranked #12 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (EU Skaters)
Ranked #71 by RECRUIT SCOUTING
Ranked #48 by DOBBERPROSPECTS
Ranked #37 by DRAFT PROSPECTS HOCKEY
Ranked #36 by SMAHT SCOUTING
Ranked #39 by THE PUCK AUTHORITY

2020-21 Stats

Games Played: 17
Goals: 10
Assists: 16
Points: 26
PIM: 10

Samu Salminen is a pure scorer, having been a point-per-game player at nearly every level in which he has played, including International tournaments. At 18 years of age, he already has prototypical size at 6’3”, with room to grow and fill out as he gets older. There is a lot to like in the young Finnish center.

He is a cerebral player and thinks the game at a high level with or without the puck, and uses his strong instincts to find open ice either for himself or his teammates. He does the little things well, including a remarkable, league-leading 70.2% face-off percentage. Salminen has also demonstrated leadership skills. He wore an “A” for his Jokerit U20 team, and captained the Finnish team at the IIHF U-18 World Championships.

In a league that is getting increasingly faster every year, skating will be Salminen’s biggest obstacle to overcome. He skates in an upright manner with “short choppy strides” that hinders his top speed and acceleration. However, this is a deficiency that can be remedied with a good skills coach, so it shouldn’t have a huge affect on his draft positioning, considering most scouts agree he is good on his edges.

Although his rankings say otherwise, he should absolutely be in consideration at #32 if he is still on the board (as Corey Pronman predicts in his final mock draft.) Like most 18-year-olds, Salminen is still a few years away from reaching the NHL. He is committed to play hockey at the University of Denver next season. One can only imagine Jarmo Kekalainen has had the Finnish center on his radar for quite some time.

Scouting Reports

The hallmark of his game is his intelligence. Salminen sees plays developing several steps in advance and plans his every step accordingly, whether he has possession or not. He has that goal-scorer’s knack for finding the right place to set up shop, and his one- and two-touch finishing game never fails him. He’s every bit the credible shooting threat without the puck as he is with it. -EliteProspects

Salminen is a pure goal scorer. He has an outstanding one-timer. He is smart enough to find the soft spots in the opposing defence and set up for the shot. Salminen is able to adjust his feet and get his shot off even when the pass isn’t quite perfect. He also has a very good wrist shot with excellent power and accuracy. His release is quick and deceptive as well. Salminen can also score close to the net, with his quick hands able to pounce on rebounds as well as deflect in teammates’ shots. With his size and strength, Salminen is difficult to move out of the dirty areas of the ice. He is also good at winning battles on the boards. Salminen controls the puck down low and keeps possession in the cycle game. - Ben Kerr, Last Word on Sports

A talented and smart forward who can affect the game all over the ice. He is a more than capable offensive player who can dish the puck with soft hands and pick corners with a nice shot. His skating is the issue but the 6’3″ center could be a steal in the second round.- Tyler Ferrari, Dobber Prospects

First comes his IQ. Especially in the offensive zone. He understands coverage in a way most NHL forwards don’t, and as a result creates space for himself near the net or in shooting lanes from no-where. This leads to both tap-ins for himself, as well as high-danger shots on a regular basis from inside the circles. This IQ is also utilized when picking out team-mates. He seems to have an instinctive knowledge of where his line-mates will be at all times, and can also manipulate opposition players into doing what he wants them to in order to open up lanes for his passing. When it comes to his passing ability he does not lack confidence, and is very comfortable on either his fore-hand or back-hand when it comes to threading passes through coverage. - Alex Appleyard, Smaht Scouting

Highlights