Colorado Avalanche: Anttoni Honka Brings Strong Skating and Good Stick Handling

VICTORIA, BC - DECEMBER 31: Anttoni Honka #36 of Finland versus the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championships at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on December 31, 2018 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
VICTORIA, BC - DECEMBER 31: Anttoni Honka #36 of Finland versus the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championships at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on December 31, 2018 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /

Finnish defenseman Anttoni Honka could be a draft option for the Colorado Avalanche in the second round.

As the Colorado Avalanche ready themselves for the 2019 draft they probably have a good idea who they want for their two first round picks. Who they’ll choose in the second round and beyond is a little more interesting. Lower picks require more development, and may never make it as far as the NHL, but they’re still a worthwhile investment. Tyson Barrie was picked in the third round back in 2009 and now holds several franchise records with the Colorado Avalanche. With later picks the key is the ability to see potential and then to provide the right development opportunities for those players.

The Avalanche have one pick, #47, in the second round this year. Here is a full list of their picks:

More from Draft

#4 (from Ottawa)
#63 (also from Ottawa)

Finnish defenseman Anttoni Honka is one option for the Avalanche’s 47th pick. If the name sounds familiar it’s because he’s the younger brother of Dallas Stars defenseman Julius Honka.

Anttoni Honka

2018-19 Team: JYP (Liiga)
Date of Birth: Oct 5, 2000 (18 years old)
Height: 5’10″
Weight: 176 lbs.
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Right

Ranked #53 by ISS HOCKEY
Ranked #80 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #22 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (EU Skaters)
Ranked #32 by TSN/McKenzie

As you can see there is a broad range of predictions on where Honka will get picked in the draft.

Jokke Nevalainen of Dobber Prospects actually comments on the fact that no one agrees on where to rank him:

"Some scouts seem to be big fans of the younger Honka, ranking him comfortably in the top ten and not budging from that stance. Others have more doubts about his game and rank him in the second round. Some are saying he’s underrated whereas others think the opposite. Pretty much everyone can recognize his upside and see the talents he has but there are definitely varying opinions on his chances to reach that upside."

Judging by these rankings, however, there’s no reason to think that Honka won’t be available when it comes time for the Avalanche to make their 47th pick. The question is whether they will want to take a risk with him or not. If no one can agree where to rank him that means it’s not clear exactly what sort of player your team is drafting.

Let’s look at what we know, starting with the good. Ben Kerr of Last Word on Hockey has positive things to say about Honka’s skating.

"Honka makes up for his lack of size with his strong skating ability. His speed and acceleration going forwards are excellent. While his backwards skating is very good, it is not quite at the level as his forward movement. Honka also has very good footwork. His agility, edgework, and pivots allow him to transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa."

Nevalainen agrees with this assessment and says:

"The first thing everyone should know about Anttoni is that he’s an amazing skater. As an undersized defenseman (he’s 5-foot-10), you need to be a good skater. But he’s not just good, he’s great. And I’m not just talking about his speed either. He has great acceleration, amazing ability to change pace, and unbelievable agility as he can twist and turn like most people can’t. That skating ability allows him to join the rush, and that’s something he loves to do. He will also happily lead a rush if needed."

Offensively Honka also has a strong game, being praised for his stick handling and puck movement. Kerr calls him “a creative playmaker” and Nevalainen says he has “high-end puck-skills”.

Unfortunately what seems to let Honka down are his defensive skills, which is not ideal in a defenseman.

Kerr says:

"Honka does a decent enough job in the defensive end of the ice but most continue to improve moving forward. He needs to work on his positioning without the puck. Honka can sometimes watch the puck a bit too much and stops moving his feet."

Nevalainen goes more in depth with his critique of Honka’s game:

"The bad things are that he takes too many risks to create offense, loses too many puck-battles, and his defensive ability is questionable at best. He’s not just thinking offense first, he’s only thinking about offense in every situation. Often times those risks pay off but many times they also end up being costly mistakes. And when he turns the puck over, he’s not really capable of making big defensive plays to cover his own mistakes."

As I’ve already mentioned not every player who gets drafted is going to make it to the NHL, but with a second round pick you would hope for a player who is willing to learn and enhance their game to the best of their ability.

Something to keep in mind, as well, is Honka’s age. Being born in October he is one of the oldest in his draft class. In fact there’s only a couple of months difference in age between him and the youngest members of last year’s draft class. You would expect to see someone his age to have a more developed game than those who are younger than him.

As it is Nevalainen raises some points which caused serious alarm bells to start ringing for me.

"Even after Team Finland lost defenseman Ville Heinola (2019) to injury, they were often playing with five defensemen instead of using Honka. Finland won gold in the tournament but Honka wasn’t really a part of it because he was unable to earn the trust of his coaching staff. He didn’t follow the team’s system, so he was benched for the entire third period in the gold medal game."

Of course this is just one person’s opinion, and there are plenty of players out there who weren’t a good fit with one team’s coaching style only to go on and thrive on another team.

This is just something the Avalanche will need to consider if they are thinking of drafting him.

Anttoni Honka in action:

Anttoni Honka and the Colorado Avalanche

Drafting Honka sounds like a risk to me, and I’m not sure it’s one the Avalanche should take. They would need to be very confident in their development system and that Honka would be a good fit with the team’s coaching style.

A second round pick is a high one to waste on someone who isn’t going to gel with the team and whose defensive game is weaker than others in his draft class. Personally I don’t think it’s worth it.

Next. Moritz Seider Brings Physicality and Mobility. dark

The 2019 NHL Draft takes place in Vancouver, with the first round on June 21 and the second round on June 22. The time for the first round hasn’t been announced, but I’m expected last year’s start time of 5:30 pm MT.