NHL Draft profile: Julius Honka
He's not the biggest, strongest or most physical defenseman in this year's draft class, but few can do what Julius Honka does with the puck on his stick.
And no, he's not one of the "pure offense" types of defensemen, either. In his first year competing in North America, the 18-year-old native of Jyväskylä, Finland, stepped right into the Swift Current Broncos' lineup and made an immediate impact.
Good first pass? Check. Accurate shot from the point? Check.
Honka can lead the rush or join the rush and there's a lot to like about his game. He's got experience in three major junior tournaments representing Finland - the IIHF U18 World Junior Championship, the Ivan Hlinka Tournament and the IIHF U20 World Junior Championship - and his game really elevated once he decided to move to North America.
His first season in the Western Hockey League was good enough to vault him into the first-round conversation, and some draft experts believe he could be selected in the Top 15 of Friday night's first round at Wells Fargo Center.
Those who have watched Honka play speak highly of his offensive game and his hockey sense, but if there's one thing they'd like to see improve, it's his explosiveness. Though not big in stature - Honka checks in at 5-foot-7 and 180 lbs. - he could work on his quickness and make decisions at a brisker pace.
Among the accolades garnered in his first year in Swift Current, Honka earned the first WHL Player of the Week award of 2013-14 season, racking up six points in his first two games. He finished the season tops among all Broncos defensemen in goals (16), assists (40) and points (56).
Here's NHL Central Scouting’s Peter Sullivan on Honka:
“Let’s just say that when you go to a game and you see his name in the lineup, you’re excited to watch the game because he’s got about four or five different gears. You think he’s just skating normally and he puts it in another gear, then another gear. Excellent vision and on-ice awareness. He reads the play so well sometimes he’s two or three steps ahead of his own teammates.”