Credit: Vesa Koivunen

The first Fin in our little preview, Ville Pokka comes to us at number 28. Pokka spent his last three years playing for the Oulun Kärpät organization at the U16, U18 and SM-Liiga levels. The 2011-2012 year was Pokka’s first full year at the SM-Liiga level and, while not the most impressive year statistically (3 assists, a -3 rating and 12 penalty minutes), he did average 19 minutes of ice-time a game.

Pokka’s real breakout, however, came at the 2011 U20 World Junior Hockey Championships. When fellow countryman/defenseman Olli Maatta was injured in the team’s first game, the onus was on Pokka to carry the defensive load for Finland. Pokka did not disappoint, putting up 1 goal and 3 assists in 7 games while anchoring Finland’s defense which helped them to a fourth place finish at the tournament.

Vitals

Height: 6’0

Weight: 198 pounds

Position: Defenseman

Born: June 3, 1994

What People In The Know Know

Casey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus via The Hockey Writers

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.

Trent Klatt, Islanders Player Development

Ville Pokka is a puck-moving defender. His passing and accuracy is good. He has a decent shot from the blue line and is a steady player.

The Hockey News

An offensive defenseman with a decent shot and good puck-moving abilities, Pokka played all season against men and impressed the local talent hawks.

“Not too flashy but he gets the job done,” said a scout. “Speed needs work, but he has power play potential and he makes the easy pass.”

His ability to fill different roles and do so with a calm demeanor at the world juniors was appreciated by scouts. And with Maatta busy in the OHL playoffs, Pokka was once again looked upon to step up at the U-18s.

He has understandably made mistakes playing against men back in Finland’s top league.

From The Horse’s Mouth

Pokka has clearly proven himself against top competition which has to be a boon for any team looking to add young talent to their blue line. Any player, regardless of position, that has the ability to step up as Pokka has, especially at his age, is worth at least a look.

Pokka is currently ranked 7th amongst European skaters by NHL Central Scouting and we should expect to see Pokka off the board in the very late first round or early second round.