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Maple Leafs select Topi Niemela with the 64th overall pick

Through a well calculated move to trade down from the 44th pick, Kyle Dubas added an early third round pick which he used to select Finnish defenceman Topi Niemela. The right handed defender was ranked in the middle of the second round by most major scouting outlets, with some listing him at the back end of the first round. Niemela played 43 games for Karpat in Liiga last season, picking up one goal and six assists as a 17 year old blue liner in Finland’s top professional league.

Niemela is an outstanding skater who plays a very mature defensive game for his age and makes smart plays with the puck on his stick. He has good edges, as well as top speed, allowing him to maintain tight gaps and attack opposing puck carriers. Niemela isn’t a flashy player but he does a great job of keeping things simple and making the smart play. He takes great care of the puck when he has it on his stick and can find teammates to start clean breakouts.

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He has some offensive upside but projects as a modern day defensive defenceman, having already shown the ability to play against much bigger and stronger opponents. Niemela is listed at 6’0″ and 163 pounds so he will need to add strength and muscle as he develops, but the frame is there for him to do it.

We will have more on Niemela and the rest of the Leafs draft picks. Stay tuned.

 

(Statistics from eliteprospects.com)

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