While this draft has been touted for its perceived weakness, perhaps Joni Ikonen is reminder the absence of an Auston Matthews or Connor McDavid at the top doesn’t mean that the depth is lacking.
Despite owning high-end skill akin to first rounders, Ikonen has been consistently ranked outside the top-31.
He was over a point-per-game with Frölunda HC’s J20 SuperElit club, and earned 10 games with the big club. After a disappointing playoff exit, he went to the J18 Allvenskan where he absolutely torched the playoffs and terrorized goaltenders with his cannon of a shot.
And if more proof of a his skill is needed, Ikonen finished off the season with a great showing at the U18s, racking up eight points and a silver medal.
Birthplace: Espoo, Finland, 1994-04-14
Weight: 176 lbs.
Ikonen ticks off all the boxes when it comes to skills: Skating, stickhandling, shooting, and playmaking.
A quick, elusive skater with a separation speed, he attacks the offensive zone in a variety of manners. He’s slippery in tight confines, and can easily turn explode past defenders and into open space. Most importantly, he keeps his feet constantly moving and is consistently engaged, making him the quickest player on any given shift.
Ikonen combines his fast pace with high-end stickhandling ability and an arsenal of one-on-one moves at the top of the draft class. In stride, few are better with the puck on their stick. He’s a truly a dynamic stickhandler, and uses all shots of quick drags and flashy moves to gain the upper hand on defenders.
After creating space himself with his elusiveness, separation speed, or a dazzling move, Ikonen is an immediate threat to score thanks to a top-notch shot. A quick release and serious power make him a long-range threat, and he shoots in stride. Once set up, he demonstrates an equally as lethal one-timer from the top of the circle.
Not limited to just shooting, he’s also a playmaking threat. By drawing so much attention to himself, he creates space for his teammates, which he exploits with his playmaking. He loves to throw the puck into high-danger areas, sometimes a bit too much. And while Ikonen does display great passing skills, he’s often individualistic and look off teammates to make that one extra move.
What really separates Ikonen from other similarly skilled and sized prospects is the pace at which he plays. He skates and stick-handles quickly, but he reads and executes even faster. He goes into the corners guns blazing, even when physically outmatched. He’s a dedicated backchecker and forechecker, but has plenty of room to improve his defensive duties at centre.
With a player of such high skill, there’s always a trade off. In order to make the plays that he does, turnovers will happen. His decision-making, particularly regarding when to make pass or fire a shot, will need improvement. Nothing too out of the ordinary for a highly-skilled 17-year-old, but still enough to keep a dynamic talent out of the first round.
Hockey Prospect Black Book
Joni is a highly skilled forward with great skating and creativity. He does a great job of mixing up his puck decisions, not being labelled as a player who leans towards passing or shooting, making him a little more unpredictable.
An undersized, yet disruptive presence in all three zones, Ikonen is one of a growing number of strong Finnish prospects plying their trade in Sweden. A point per game scorer in Sweden’s top under-20 league. Fast and mobile, he can seemingly score from anywhere.
He is very crafty, possessing great hands and puck-handling skills. His soft hands are good for more than just dangling through a maze of opponents as he’s a creative passer with natural abilities. He’s a quick, darting skater who moves around the ice with ease. His size and speed make him elusive and he demonstrates an ability to spin off checks in the corners. One of his best assets is his wrist shot.
Hockey Prospect: 32
Future Considerations: 62
Central Scouting service: 17 (European skaters)
Bob McKenzie: 45
Craig Button: 36
Ikonen is the type of gets undervalued because of his size and the necessary downsides to high skill (like turnovers). With that said, there are real concerns.
Ikonen is inconsistent and by no means was a dominant scoring force at the J20 SuperElit level. His decision-making needs plenty of work, particularly his passing/shooting balance. I don’t feel his size is particularly concerning, but it’s something that the scouting community does take into consideration, which could help explain why he’s generally on the outside of the first round.
Despite these concerns, Ikonen’s skill level is high-end, and he has plenty of tools that give him top-six upside.