Swift Current Broncos defenseman Julius Honka is top NHL prospect for the 2014 Draft. (Photo c/o Yahoo Sports)
All-European born players have a decision to make if they want to play in the NHL. It’s the question of when to come over to North America. Some players stay in Europe until they’re NHL ready, while others wait until their draft year.
Finnish defenseman Julius Honka, who many consider a top 20 prospect for the draft, knew which route he wanted to choose.
So far, the transition to the North American style of hockey has been smooth for the diminutive defenseman. Honka sits 10th among WHL defenders in points scored with 50. He has 14 goals and 36 assists in 52 games played.
Honka made quite a debut in his first WHL game scoring a goal and dishing out two assists in the Broncos' season-opening 7-2 win at the Regina Pats back on Sept. 19th. Two nights later, he made his home debut with two assists in Swift Current's 3-2 win over Regina. His strong start to the season earned him the first WHL Player of the Week award of the season, with a goal, six assists and a plus-4 rating in his first five games played.
Since then, Honka has been the model of consistency for the Broncos on the backend. Honka received an "A" rating from NHL Central Scouting in its preliminary players to watch list for players from the WHL. Honka is a small (5’10, 178 pounds) right-handed, offensive-minded rearguard who skates exceptionally well. He's elusive and hard to contain on the ice.
He has quick, shifty moves, reads the game very well, and loves to jump in on the offensive rush. His patience and decision making with the puck are amazing. Swift Current uses Honka in all situations. On any given night he’s the most talented offensive player on the ice. His skating and puck handling, along with his shot, are special. Not to mention, he has some grit to his game.
Here is a highlight video of Honka from earlier in the WHL season.
Offense has always been Honka’s game. When he was only 17, he had 15 points in 42 games for JYP's team in Finland's under-20 league and had four points in seven games to help Suomi win the bronze at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. Honka also showed his capability on Finland's gold medal-winning World Junior team this year in Malmo.
In order to make an impact at the next level, Honka will need to work on his defensive game. He’s not the greatest in his own zone, but his decision to come over to North America to hone his defensive game should be helpful.
Some pundits are high on him, others are not. Count me in as one who thinks he could be a special player. The detractors think his size will be the reason why he slips out of the first round. As I said, he’s listed at 5’10 and some think he’s closer to 5’8 or 5’9. He looks small because the Broncos have him paired with Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Dillon Heatherington, who is 6’4, 200 plus pounds.
It’s hard to make comparisons, but Honka does have a bit of Drew Doughty to his game. Overall, Honka will be a name to watch come draft day. I think he does end up being a late first rounder, and whoever selects him, will be getting a steal of a player.