Did I hear someone say the Montreal Canadiens need more size up front? Well, here you have it: a young, tall winger with a knack for finding the net. You could certainly do worse with a second-round pick, right? Well, let’s not be too hasty here. There are reasons to dive deeper and evaluate whether Roby Järventie is truly worth the hype.
Birthplace: Tampere, Finland
Date of birth: August 8, 2002
Weight: 185 lbs.
Team: Ilves (Liiga)
A Tampere native, just like Kasper Simontaival, Järventie grew up playing for Tappara’s rival, Ilves. As you can see from his numbers below, he has always had a knack for finding the net. At age 15, he dominated the under-16 league and scored just below a goal per game with the U18s.
As a 16-year-old, he had already outgrown the U18 team and moved on up to the U20 team, where he continued to produce points. He had a much harder time making his presence known on the international stages. His plus-minus column from this year also demonstrates possible deficiencies in his defensive game.
Last year, he was loaned to KOOVEE in the Finnish second tier to gain valuable senior team experience. KOOVEE is yet another team from Tampere, meaning that Ilves could evaluate him from close range. Järventie quickly settled in with a 23-goal season, much thanks to his shot, which is by far his biggest asset. It is both quick and accurate when fired, and young Roby certainly knows how to use it to his advantage.
On paper everything looks great. He is one of the youngest prospects in the draft and has already gained experience by playing in a top-six role against men. Twenty-three goals in 36 games would no doubt be an impressive feat for any winger, let alone a 17-year-old rookie. However, there are several signs pointing against him being able to develop much further at the senior level.
Almost everything besides his sniping shot is a work in progress. He may be tall, but he isn’t particularly strong. He has physical tools, but doesn’t know how to use them. He’s a reasonably fast skater, at least against lower-level competition, but then he doesn’t possess great skating technique. He may have enough offensive intelligence to expose holes in opponents’ defences, but severely lacks defensive awareness himself. He finds the open ice near the opposing goal, but is a liability in his own zone. Is he at least a great playmaker then? Not at this moment, but he has shown flashes of playmaking skill throughout his young career.
Lassi Alanen’s Tableau chart demonstrates the difference between Järventie and a prospect like Simontaival. While Simontaival produced an impressively complete offense in the U20 Liiga, Järventie embraced his role of sniper in Mestis.
If he plays a full-time role in Liiga this upcoming season, it will likely be in a smaller role than he had in KOOVEE. This means that he will need to up his defensive game and strength to continue to be an asset for his team. In Liiga, he will be exposed if he continues to just be a one-trick-pony.
Elite Prospects: #44
Future Considerations: #65
Hockey Prospect: #74
McKeen’s Hockey: #61
NHL Central Scouting: #18 (European skaters)
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #57
With this review of Järventie’s skill set, I am sure that many expect me to be completely against Montreal drafting him, but you would be wrong. Much like late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, I have a thing for shiny new toys with obvious flaws but potentially huge upside if a few stars align properly. Järventie is that kind of guy. He has the tools to become a great scoring threat in the NHL. What he needs is help along the way. If he gets the right tutoring and ends up in an organization that understands what he is and recognizes how to make him take the next step in the next few years, things could quickly turn from ‘okay’ to ‘good,’ and from ‘good’ to ‘great.’
Järventie is the kind of guy who can score you a hat trick after having been invisible or even a liability for two periods. Would you want that type of player in the Canadiens system? I imagine some would say ‘absolutely,’ while others would scream a resounding ‘NO!’ Therein lies the beauty of a prospect like Järventie.
The further you get from the top of the draft, the more risk will be involved with every pick. Every player selected in the second or third round will have some brilliant aspects of their game and some clear red flags. At least in Järventie’s case, you know where the upside lies: he can score goals.
Even if his shooting percentage was on Joe Pavelski levels last season, you can’t attribute 0.64 goals per game in Mestis just to pure luck. He has demonstrated his goal-scoring ability at every level he has played at thus far, so why would that suddenly just wear off?
With that being said, it would be natural to see a regression this season, as Järventie tries to take on the big boys in Liiga. If the setback does happen, it is important to remember that Järventie won’t turn 20 until August, 2022. He is still very young, and every young player will inevitably experience adversity at some point in their first few years.
In 2012, Filip Forsberg played his draft year with Leksand in the Swedish second tier. He was also one of the youngest guys of his draft year, born in August, 1994. He posted slightly better numbers than Järventie in his draft-minus-one year, where he was on a point-per-game pace in the Swedish under-20 league. In his draft year, however, he had eight goals and 17 points with the senior team. Forsberg ended up being selected 11th overall and has emerged as one of the best players from that year’s draft.
I’m not saying that Järventie is Filip Forsberg, or that he will have the same ability to put it all together and become an NHL star. Forsberg was considerably more well-rounded from an early age, and that’s why he was a consensus top-10 pick, while Järventie is a second-rounder. Still, there are tools to work with here.
A more recent, and probably more accurate, comparison is Carolina Hurricanes prospect Patrik Puistola, who was selected with pick 73 last year. Incidently yet another Tampere-born, Puistola had scored 15 goals in 22 games in Mestis in his draft year. He had, and still has, a lightning-quick release and true sniper abilities, but was considered an average skater with defensive woes.
This season, Puistola had zero goals in 24 Liiga games for Tappara, while dominating on the international stage against his peers. He did manage to score a total of six Liiga goals, but that was during two loan spells throughout the year. It will certainly be interesting to see if Puistola and Järventie continues to follow the same development path, or whether Järventie moves on ahead with a good draft-plus-one season.
For a second round-pick, you could either pick someone with limited upside but a well-rounded, solid, all-around style of hockey, which will work well in the AHL and perhaps bring a limited NHL role. The alternative is to raise the stakes, bet on your development team, and go for the home run. If you do choose the latter, there are worse things to bet on than a 6’2” winger with good skating ability, solid playmaking sense, and a great shot. I would argue that with the current talent pool the Canadiens have in place, they are in a position to swing for the fences.
No matter which team ends up picking him, I am excited to see what the future will hold for Roby Järventie.