Anaheim Ducks Lockout Prospect Report: Sami Vatanen

SUOMI!

Name: Sami Vatanen

Age: 21

Hometown: Jyvaskyla, Finland

Position: Defenseman

Draft Story: 2009 Round 4 (106th overall)

How did he become a Duck? Drafted, signed entry level deal with Anaheim in May 2011.

Where did the Ducks send him for the lockout? Norfolk Admirals (AHL)

2011-2012 League & Team: JYP (SM-Liiga, Finland)

Other Hockey Ventures: Played for Finland at the U-20 WJC in 2010 and captained the Finish Juniors 2011, also represented Finland at the Senior World Championships in 2010.

Key Stats Last Season: Named SM-Liiga defenseman of the year for the second year running with 14 goals and 28 assists (11 G, 31 A in 2010-'11)

Scout's take: Vatanen is a small (5'10", 176 lbs) offensive defensemen. All scouting reports speak glowingly of his skating (speed and fluidity) puck handling, passing and shooting, but the few comments on the defensive side of his game range from "has not been any sort of liability" to "need to show notable improvement," and all consider his size (or lack thereof) a negative.

Is he a work-in-progress, future trade-bait, or a keeper? The 2009 Fantasy Prospects Report from dobberhockey.com wasn't on the Vatanen bandwagon that formed after the 2009 U-18 WJC, but still ranked him as a solid second round pick in the '09 NHL Entry Draft, and he's only improved since. So, Murray seems to have gotten good value with a fourth round pick. I'd like to see how his defensive game comes along with some time in Norfolk, adjusting to the physicality of the North American game and the smaller ice surface, so I'll say work-in-progress.

[Correction: Thanks to reader dkk for spotting that Vatanen does in fact shoot right. The comments below are updated to reflect that.]

Should we be excited: 3 out of 5, additional production from the blue line is exciting, but it's difficult to tell whether his defensive game will be up to NHL standards. It could work if he's paired with a stay at home veteran like Toni Lydman (and a fellow Finn). However, Lydman is only under contract through this season and Vatanen may not be ready for the physicality of the North American game yet.


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