Player: Julius Honka
Drafted By: Dallas Stars (14th overall)
Final Central Scouting Ranking: No. 11 North American skater
Height/Weight: 5'10'', 180 lbs
DOB: December 3, 1995 (18 years old)
Most Recent Affiliation: WHL, Swift Current Broncos
While Julius Honka was born in Jyvaskyla, Finland, he is listed by Central Scouting as North American because he played for Swift Current of the WHL last season. Honka is a bit undersized for a defenseman, but few scouts question his puck-handling skills or his offensive abilities.
During the regular season, Honka scored 16 goals and accumulated 56 points in 62 games for the Broncos. He also had a plus-10 rating.
Honka added one assist and six penalty minutes in seven games while playing for Finland at the World Juniors.
Broncos coach Mark Lamb told Adam Kimelman of NHL.com that Honka had "the most skill on our team" last year.
Full Scouting Report
Honka is an undersized defenseman, which is the biggest challenge facing him if he is to be successful in the NHL. He stands only 5'10" and weighs 180 pounds. He needs to improve defensively and learn to be more physical to thrive at the next level.
Scouts have few doubts about Honka's ability to contribute offensively.
Peter Sullivan of Central Scouting had this to say about Honka before the draft:
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.
Scouts have also been impressed with his ability to handle the puck. One scout told The Hockey News in their draft preview issue that Honka is a "Terrific skater, handles the puck extremely well. He's not too afraid to exit the zone with the puck. Great vision, solid escapability."
Before the World Juniors, one scout called Honka "a Reijo Ruotsalainen copy," per NHL.com. Ruotsalainen was a highly skilled but undersized Finnish defenseman who won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers in 1987 and 1990.
NHL Player Comparison
Mike Green of the Washington Capitals. Like Green, Honka has great speed and hands and is dangerous anytime he handles the puck. He is also limited defensively. Green has a bit more size than Honka, but both defensemen play a similar style and have similar skill sets.
Honka adjusted well to playing in North America, but he still needs time to bulk up and play against men rather than teenagers. Once he improves his strength and defensive play, he should be a solid offensive defenseman. Expect him to reach the NHL in 2016-17.
At his top potential, Honka can become a productive offensive-minded defenseman who will see extended power-play time. Honka should be able to score 10-15 goals and accumulate 60-65 points, with most of his goals coming when his team has the extra attacker.
Honka could be a top-pair defenseman if he isn't a serious defensive liability. He should be a top-four defenseman for certain.