PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 7: A statue of Mario Lemieux stands in front of the Consol Energy Center during the unveil of the Mario Lemieux statue on March 7, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
With the 27th pick in the 2012 SB Nation Mock Entry Draft Five For Howling selects Defensemen Ville Pokka from Karpat in the Finnish Elite League. Who is the kid and why did we select him? Pokka is a young, he just turned 18 on June 3rd, Finnish defensemen who can play both ways. He performed well at the U-20 World Juniors this past Winter. In addition, he spent the last year playing against adults unlike most of the other prospects in the draft. The one drawback in his game appears to be his skating.
We selected him in part because he fits the mold of previous GMDM draft picks like Connor Murphy and Brandon Gormley. While not as big as either of the two other guys mentioned and not as offensively skilled as Gormley was at his age, Pokka seems like a solid blueline prospect standing at six feet tall and weighing just under 200 poundsthat would fit nicely into Dave Tippett's system. Plus, we think he's got a great name. We can see "Pokka Check" shirts flying off the shelf in the Coyotes Den in a couple of years.
If you want to see what Pokka looks and sounds like below is a video of comments he made at the recent NHL Combine in Toronto.
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 198 pounds
Central Scouting: 7 (among European skaters)
Hockey Prospectus: 29
International Scouting Services: 41
TSN's Bob McKenzie: 31
The Hockey Writers' Christopher Ralph: 32
The Scouting Report: 32
What the scouting experts are saying about Pokka:
Pokka is a pretty advanced young defenseman, as he's played beyond his age group the last two years, including getting a good amount of games in Finland's top men's league at 17 years of age. He also was a key member of Finland's blue line at the World Juniors, an unusual feat at his age for an eventual top-four team. Pokka's hockey sense is certainly impressive as it is at the least above-average but I could certainly argue that it is plus as well. He has a really cool demeanor with and without the puck on the ice. With the puck, his panic threshold is very impressive, which allows him to move the puck well as he won't turn it over, can consistently make long passes, and his decisions are quick. Pokka's defensive work is impressive for his age, as he reads his assignments well, closes his gaps efficiently, and makes all the right reads that allows him to shut down good players. Pokka still needs work in a few areas if he wants to be a truly effective two-way player, though. He will engage physically, but he's not overly threatening in that area, be it with his battle effort or his size/strength combo. He's also a fringe skater who can easily get turned around by faster players.
Ville is a player despite what the stats read, should be considered a two-way defenseman. He has very good offensive instincts and makes good plays with the puck. He's capable of jumping into the attack and creating advantages on offense, especially in the offensive zone when he sees offensive opportunities. He has a good shot and the puck gets directed to the net very well. His skating is decent but by improving his quickness, it would give him a better opportunity to impact the game. He finds himself in challenges at times defensively because of the quickness in terms of beating the pressure and fore-check and being able to move the puck out of trouble. To his credit, he uses his body effectively to hold off defenders and he competes in 1-1 situations defensively to force opponents to earn a chance. He plays the game with very good awareness and playing in the Finnish Elite League may have hurt his offensive numbers but it helped him in his overall game knowing and understanding how to play to his strengths.
Pokka falls just out of our Top 30 as we are a little concerned with the fact that he doesn’t have a defining quality that solidifies his projected role at the NHL level. Despite these concerns, there’s no doubting the fact that Pokka is extremely refined for a 17-year-old defenseman. He does a good job defensively and anticipates the play very well. Pokka moves the puck well and doesn’t take unnecessary risks and also does a good job of handling the forecheck and making smart decisions. This season Pokka answered some doubts about his level of conditioning and asserted himself well internationally.
If you want to check out what players our fellow SB Nation sites took with their picks head over to the SB Nation NHL Mock Draft Story Steam page.