Colorado Avalanche: Miro Heiskanen Offers 2-Way Defense

Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; A general view of the podium on stage before the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; A general view of the podium on stage before the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

If the Colorado Avalanche draft for need, they may select defenseman Miro Heiskanen with the #4 pick. That is, if the Dallas Stars don’t get him first.

The Colorado Avalanche have the #4 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Now that we’re sure of their pick, we can endlessly speculate about who the team is going to choose.

It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier are going to be the top-two selections. After that, it’s something of a crap shoot. While it’s true that Central Scouting has released its ranking, there really is no clear ranking among scouts.

The #3 pick was won by the Dallas Stars. Center Casey Mittelstadt is scouted to go third-overall, but the Stars could well choose center Gabriel Vilardi — that’s who Bleacher Report has Dallas selecting.

However, the Stars, like the Avalanche, need defense. Finn Miro Heiskanen is ranked as the top defenseman in the NHL draft. Indeed, both and My NHL Draft have Dallas choosing Heiskanen with their third-overall pick.

NHL drafting is usually a combination of selecting the best player available as well as selecting for need. Since this year’s draft is such a crap shoot beyond the top-two, it seems teams will select for need from #3 on.

I think whomever the Dallas Stars choose will dictate whom the Colorado Avalanche choose. And if the Stars don’t choose Miro Heiskanen, the Avalanche might do so.

Miro Heiskanen is scouted to go between #3 to #11.

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Miro Heiskanen

Embed from Getty Images

2016-17 Team

: HIFK (Liiga)

Date of Birth

: July 18, 1999 (17 years old)


: 6′


: 174 lbs


: Defenseman


: Left

Miro Heiskanen is different from some of the other top-rated defensemen in that he’s not an offensive dynamo. Indeed, he’s renowned for his two-way play — Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports compares him in style to Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler.

All scouting reports praise Heiskanen for his mobility, speed and awareness. Dennis Schellenberg of Hockey Prospectus remarks on his “top notch lateral agility and speed.” Kerr elaborates by pointing out his edge work and quick pivots enhance his transition game. Heiskanen’s skating ability shouldn’t be surprising since European players are often known for being elite skaters. However, Kerr explains that his skating ability is an essential aspect of Miro’s two-way play.

Scouting reports typically mention his speed, too. Future Considerations says the following about Miro Niskanen’s skating:

"“possesses excellent lateral agility and straight ahead speed…starts and stops very quickly and possesses a very smooth overall stride.”"

However, the young defenseman is also known for having good puck skills and ice vision. More than one report mentions that he shows great confidence when he has the puck. Schellenberg adds that Heiskanen “processes the game extremely well under pressure.” Miro Heiskanen certainly is being tested — he’s playing in the top men’s league in Finland.

Heiskanen is also known for having an accurate pass, which helps him move the puck up the ice. He’s great with using his stick in defense, especially when cutting down the passing lane. However, all reports consider Miro doesn’t have a high offensive ceiling — he’s strictly two-way.

That said, his defense is good. Kerr remarks that he’s already good in his own end. He observes of Heiskanen:

"“He has excellent gap control and is very tough to beat one-on-one. Positioning is a real strength, as he gets himself into good positions and uses his stick and his body to cut down passing and shooting lanes.”"

In fact, every scouting report I read remarked on Heiskanen’s good gap control.

In typical Euro fashion, Miro Heiskanen is not known for being overly physical. Indeed, most scouting reports consider he needs to add bulk to his 6-foot frame. That said, the kid is only 17 years old — he could well grow another inch or two and pack on 20 pounds of muscle just in maturation.

Miro Heiskanen in action:

Miro Heiskanen and the Colorado Avalanche

More from Mile High Sticking

While many fans and pundits value offensive, puck-moving defensemen the most, I prefer two-way guys. I like defensemen who are responsible in every zone and who don’t let defense be the first part of their game to leave. However, I also like when a defenseman can join the rush and contribute some offensively.

In other words, Miro Heiskanen is the kind of defenseman I like. What’s more, he’s the kind of defenseman the Colorado Avalanche need. The team needs more players capable of back checking and reducing the ridiculous number of shots opponents get to the goalie.

Heiskanen is an elite skater who already has great ice vision. He would be a huge boon to the Avalanche blueline.

Here’s the thing — stud defensemen are prized assets to teams because they’re so rare. It’s difficult to predict a defenseman’s ceiling when he’s still so young — especially if you’re not counting on a lot of offensive production. The NHL is the fastest, grittiest hockey league in the world, and success on other stages doesn’t always predict success in the NHL.

In short, selecting a defenseman with the #4 draft pick is a gamble. The Avalanche picked a defenseman with the #11 selection (Duncan Siemens), and that hasn’t worked out.

It may seem safer to choose a forward with #4 and keep looking for defensive jewels in the second round. Scratch that — it is safer.

However, if the Dallas Stars don’t choose Miro Heiskanen, I’d be satisfied if the Colorado Avalanche did. If he could provide for the Avs the kind of benefits he provides for HIFK, he’d provide a distinct improvement to the team’s blueline. That’s what drafting for need looks like.