logo

Scouting Report: Toronto Maple Leafs’ Roni Hirvonen is making noise after bouncing back from injury

alt
Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Steven Ellis
1 month ago
On July 8, 2023, Roni Hirvonen was motionless on the ice after taking a high hit from defenseman Nolan Dillingham during a Toronto Maple Leafs development camp scrimmage.
It’s a worst-case-scenario type of thing you don’t want to see in a meaningless showcase event, especially in July.
Given he was set to embark on his first season in North America, it was a brutal start. Hirvonen returned in time for training camp, which was a good sign. But on Oct. 15, things turned from bad to worse when the Finnish winger took a stick to an eye in an AHL game against the Utica Comets. Hirvonen was rushed to the hospital, with his season up in the air.
That’s quite a bit of adversity to deal with with only two meaningful games under your belt. But since rejoining the Toronto Marlies in late January, Hirvonen has given the team a nice boost, and helped get his own career back on track.
Despite missing significant time, scouts still view Hirvonen as one of the best prospects in Torotno’s system. The 22-year-old has the makings of becoming a versatile bottom-six winger with decent skill and defensive instincts. Given his 5-foot-10 frame, Hirvonen has had to find ways to become more effective at both ends of the ice, and that begins with the weight room.
“He’s much stronger than you’d expect,” a scout said. “He can hold his own along the boards and he puts some mustard on his release.”
Hirvonen has played on, quite literally, all four lines with a wide variety of linemates. When paired up with veteran Logan Shaw, Hirvonen has thrived in more of an offensive-driven role while Shaw focuses on the two-way game. When playing on the fourth line, Hirvonen’s defensive instincts – picking off lanes, getting in the way, always forcing opponents to make quick moves – allow him to thrive.
“He can play anywhere in a lineup, and that’s what coaches want, especially in the AHL,” another scout said. “There isn’t one specific thing he does better than anyone else on the Marlies, but you can put him anywhere and he’ll get the job done.”
Two specific areas he’s great in is passing and hockey sense. Hirvonen’s moves are calculated – rarely making a pass just to do something. As a center growing up, Hirvonen always had to have his head on a swivel and it shows in his move to the wing. Hirvonen thinks the game is at a quick pace, and that helps get over any deficiencies.
With quick hands, Hirvonen plays a modern, skilled game.  But the biggest improvement going forward has to be in the skating department. He doesn’t have high-end top speed, and that can limit him in the rush. Usually, smaller players have to be much quicker to make up for it, but good coaching can help fix that.
It’s hard to tell if the lost time will have any long-term effects on Hirvonen’s development. There’s still a lot of hoping he’ll return to the level that allowed him to play in the top Finnish league as a 17-year-old. He would have easily been drafted higher than 59th overall in 2020 if he was, say, 6-foot-1 with a bit more muscle. But since then, Hirvonen’s all-around game has allowed him to become such an asset, both in Liiga action and now with the Marlies.
The numbers haven’t followed through just yet, but Hirvonen has the skill set to make it work.

Check out these posts...