Earlier this week, I released my latest ranking for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. A month away, we’re starting to develop a better picture of which prospects could be available when Nashville picks in the early rounds.
Samu Tuomaala—a smaller forward—could be a reach at 18th overall and may not be on the board at 51st overall. But if Nashville could nab him, he’s a player who would add a creative offensive profile to the organizational pipeline.
Samu Tuomaala — RW
Kärpät U20 [U20 SM-sarja] — 18 — Oulu, Finland
Samu Tuomaala is a dynamic scoring threat skating for Kärpät’s U20 squad this season (plus a five-game stint with the parent club in the Liiga). Throughout his youth career, he’s displayed a knack for scoring, including a 56-point season in 41 U18 games at just 15 years old.
In 2020-21, Tuomaala finished fourth on his team in scoring with 31 points in 30 games—partially overshadowed by teammate and fellow draft-eligible prospect Ville Koivunen. But it was Tuomaala who bested Koivunen at the U18 World Junior Championship, leading Finland with 11 points in seven games. Somewhat shockingly, Tuomaala ranks just 10th among draft-eligible skaters in the U20 SM-sarja this season with 0.667 primary points per game (although he did have the second-worst shooting percentage, 13.04%, among that top ten).
Tuomaala’s Scouting Report
|Has great skating pace and is skilled at collecting pucks in transition and maintaining speed||Can be a tenacious forechecker but won't always attack with consistent angles or effort|
|Excellent shooting talent who can fire an accurate, deceptive wrist shot from nearly anywhere||Dead-stop accelerating gear is average and it forces him to stickhandle into dead ends in transition|
|Maintains great puck support position and can cover lots of ice in the defensive zone||Sometimes relies too heavily on teammates to chase pucks and win 1-v-1 battles in the o-zone|
Tuomaala is a fascinating player to scout. In most games you review, you come away with few major flags in his game. He certainly has his deficiencies, but in my evaluation, his strengths are much more dominant than his weaknesses are crippling.
On his best nights, I love how active Tuomaala (#27, black) is in the offensive zone. Take the shift above as an example. Off the face-off, he immediately finds four different puck support positions for his teammates and is constantly moving his feet. After missing on a high-danger scoring chance, Tuomaala collects the puck with his patented cycling skills, oscillating between manning the half wall, looking for passing lanes, and screening the goalie.
On the forecheck, Tuomaala can generate good pressure but sometimes defaults to a glide when chasing a defender. His angles can be good but too stagnant as well. What impresses me is the vast amount of ice he can cover without being the fastest skater. He also excels at quickly collecting loose pucks and moving in transition immediately, as we see above.
When moving his feet, Tuomaala can weave effortlessly in transition, stickhandle the puck well, and pull defenders out of position. Above, we see his pace and skill pull two defenders with him, opening up the back door where he delivers an excellent cross-ice pass.
Here’s another example of Tuomaala’s transition skill. He moves between handling the puck in front of him and to the side, allowing him to carve through defensive pressure and launch into his excellent shooting release.
Here’s one more example of the speed Tuomaala can generate off the wall, his puck protection skills using his frame and reach, and his top-notch shooting skill.
Defensively, Tuomaala does well to cover large swaths of the defensive zone. At times he can be too reactive in his positioning, but he often displays great elasticity between the blue line and the face-off dot, pressuring opposing cycles. Where he can run into trouble is his lack of dead-stop acceleration, which can be mitigated by effective neutral zone defense.
There is certainly some tidying up to do in Tuomaala’s game, and teams will wish for more consistency shift to shift. But relative to this class, he is a unique scoring talent who could grow into a phenomenal middle-six winger.
Expected Pick Range
Bob McKenzie: #37 — 2nd Round
OTF: #21 — 1st Round
Elite Prospects: #46 — 2nd Round
Like much of this class, Tuomaala has his supporters and his critics. Ranked by some as high as the teens, they salivate over his top-of-the-class shooting talent. Ranked by others in the forties, they see a player who may not be able to produce at an even-strength NHL pace. Regardless, Tuomaala should be a lock for the late first or early second round.