EDMONTON, AB – 30 DECEMBER: Topi Niemela # 7, Roni Hirvonen # 22, Anton Lundell # 15 and Kasper Simontaival # 29 of Finland celebrate a goal against Slovakia during the IIHF Junior World Championship 2021 at Rogers Place on December 30th December 2020 in Edmonton, Canada (Photo by Codie McLachlan / Getty Images)

If they didn’t already know the name, Toronto Maple Leafs fans know exactly who Topi Niemela is now. Niemela wasn’t even on our top ten list this year, but his performance will surely get him on our next update Pay attention

Niemela finished 64th in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft from the Leafs Reached the overall rankings and had an exceptional tournament with eight points in seven games for Team FinlandNiemela joins Rasmus Sandin as the second consecutive Leafs nominee to be named best defender in the tournament

This is absolutely fantastic news for the Leafs, and another feather in the cap from GM Kyle Dubas who is gradually building a reputation for being an excellent young talent appraiser

If you’re curious about what it means to win this award, check out the last 15 prospects named the tournament’s best defender courtesy of Carlo Colaiacovo on Twitter:

Topi Niemela 🇫🇮 (Leafs 3 Place in 2020) was named Top-Dman at the #WorldJuniors What does that mean for his development? If you go back to 2005, here are the tournament’s top Dman winners at BildTwittercom / qctiV1n8Tb

As you can see, those who excel at this tournament have incredibly successful NHL careers.It is far too early to say that Niemela (and Rasmus Sandin) turned into someone like Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Alex Pietrangelo or Thomas Chabot, but these are the players they will be compared to for the rest of their careers

Not only was Niemela a point-per-game player at the tournament, but his defensive play was strong too. It’s nice to see a defender add offensively to this tournament but it’s more impressive to have the best young players in the world turn off

Defending these games like it’s no big deal Congratulations to @ leijonats Topi Niemela on #WorldJuniors Best Defenseman! 🇫🇮 BildTwittercom / FYEuBfnWRB

“Niemela’s greatest strengths are his hockey smarts. He always knows where he should be and where his teammates are. He understands when to join the onslaught and support an attack, but also knows when to hold back, to ensure that the opposing team does not get a dangerous chance to score

Niemela is also a great skater that allows him to play this type of role.He can make above average games but isn’t the type of gamer who does flashy high end games all the time.His hands and shot are good but not an elite His tools are good enough to get involved offensively, but he won’t be a big point producer ”

Winning this award is impressive in itself, but the fact that Niemela did it when she was 18 is even crazier given his age, he is still eligible to return next year and play for Team Finland So I would expect it to be even more impressive then

Defense has always been an issue for the Leafs, but the future looks bright. In addition to Niemela, there are at least seven other defenders who have a legitimate attempt to make the NHL squad over the next 1-3 years

Given the evolution of the other potential clients named the WJHC’s best defender, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Niemela in a Leafs jersey within 18 months

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Topi keinelä

World News – FI – Toronto Maple Leafs Prospect named WJHC’s Best Defender

Source: https://editorinleaf.com/2021/01/06/toronto-maple-leafs-prospect-wjhc/