Kivenmaki Still Trying To Measure Up
Finnish world junior coach and former NHLer Raimo Helminen is one who believes that forward Otto Kivenmaki measures up just fine.
An undersized center, the 5-foot-8, 154-pound Kivenmaki, selected 191st overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2018 NHL entry draft, has spent a significant part of his summer auditioning for the team’s brass right in their own backyard.
After spending a week at the Wings’ development camp in late June at Little Caesars Arena, Kivenmaki, 19, was recently back in Michigan in late July and early August, competing with the Finnish squad in the World Junior Summer Showcase at USA Hockey Arena in nearby Plymouth.
What Kivenmaki may lack in physical attributes he makes up for in other areas of his game.
“He has to skate but he can play hockey you know,” said Helminen, who himself was the first player to participate in four Olympic hockey tournaments. “He’s a great player.”
Unable to outmuscle opponents, to succeed on the ice, Kivenmaki must use his head and out-think those trying to stop him, in the process staying one step ahead of the defender, both in speed and in mind.
“That’s right,” Helminen said. “He has to use his head a lot more.”
This season should prove a true test of Kivenmaki’s ability to use his head to get ahead. The plan is for him to play the full season with Asat Pori’s senior team in Finland’s SM-Liiga.
“He will be playing against the men in Finland and I think he’ll develop a lot in this season,” Helminen said. He’s counting on Kivenmaki to also make his mark with Finland at this winter’s world junior tournament.
“He’s coming on,” Helminen said. “You never know but we have really good hope.”
Kivenmaki wants to play center as a pro, and with his size, that’s probably the role for which he’ll be best suited.
“I just been playing center my whole youth years,” Kivenmaki said. “I just go where the puck is and the center has to do that. It’s just natural for me.”
He’s also not shy about pointing out the areas of his game that require attention.
“I suck at face-offs,” Kivenmaki said. “That’s the thing that I gotta work on. Last year I wasn’t playing center so I wasn’t doing any face-offs. That’s a thing that I gotta work on.”
As with most teenage players, his game without the puck also is in need of an upgrade.
“I’ve had a lot of difficulties with that,” Kivenmaki admitted. “I’ve had to train at that a lot. But I think I’m getting better at it every year.”
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