I n the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft on Sunday, the Nashville Predators selected 18-year-old defenseman Teemu Kivihalme from Burnsville High School in Burnsville, Minnesota, with the 140th overall pick.
Teemu Kivihalme just completed his junior year, which means that when he walks back on campus in August, Teemu Kivihalme will be walking down the halls as an official NHL prospect.
“It’s pretty exciting – words can’t describe it,” Kivihalme said. “Being in this situation is great. It’s awesome. Ever since I was in the second grade I’ve been dreaming of being drafted. It’s pretty memorable, for sure.”
Going back to high school having been drafted by a professional team is not the norm in the United States. Kivihalme, however, doesn’t really think it will change too much.
“It will be a little different, probably,” Kivihalme said. “The kids there will probably be like, ‘Oh, that kid got drafted!’ I really feel like everything will be the same…besides I’m drafted into the NHL.”
Kivihalme has a little time to develop, with a year of high school left and likely 4 years at Colorado College coming up. Right now, however, he has one more season left at Burnsville playing for a head coach who also just happens to be his father.
“He’s definitely harder on me than the other kids, which I feel like is good for me,” Kivihalme said. “He taught me everything about hockey and being a good person off the ice, too.”
Kivihalme, whose father came to the United States as a high school exchange student before deciding to stay and play hockey for Wisconsin-Superior, is a purely American kid, despite his Finnish name.
“I was named after Teemu Selanne,” Kivihalme said. “I watched him a lot when I was younger. He was my favorite player.”
“My life is all about hockey,” he adds. “If I come home and there’s no NHL, I’m probably playing NHL video games.”
Growing up in Minnesota, a veritable hockey hotbed that has developed everyone from legendary coach Herb Brooks to current Nashville assistant Phil Housley, Kivihalme does not even remotely deny rooting for his home team, but does admit that his rooting allegiance will probably shift to “his” team now.
“My best friend’s family has season tickets (to the Wild) so we try to go there quite often.” “Obviously, Nashville is going to be my favorite team now.”
Most importantly, Kivihalme is a talented, young defenseman.
“I’m an offensive defenseman that can play solid in the d-zone and can play special teams, too,” Kivihalme said. “I’m a good skater, a good puck mover. I like straight offense. I enjoy watching (Eric) Karlsson and Duncan Keith. I try to model my game between those 2 players.”
At 6’0″ and 161 pounds, virtually all scouting services – and David Poile – agree that he needs to put on some serious bulk. Luckily, since he’s still in high school, he’ll have time to put on the “freshman 15″ and then some. As for his upside, scouts praise his speed and his puckhandling ability. In fact, the International Scouting Service, who ranked him as the 149th best prospect in the 2013 NHL Draft, gave Kivihalme their highest grade of “Excellent” for his skating ability, while their scouts refer to both his hands and his skating as “tremendous”. Literally the only knock on him appears to be his need to seriously bulk up which, again, he has about 5 years to do.
“He’s a little on the small side, but he has tremendous talent,” Nashville Predators general manager David Poile said. “There’s always a little bit of strategy when you draft. He’s a kid that we’re going to have 4 years to look at him because he’s going to go to college. He certainly needs to get bigger and stronger, but he’s a very skillful player.”
Photo: Sarah Fuqua