NHL Prospects

Film Room: How activation launched Topi Niemelä to the top of the Liiga scoring ladder

Near the top of the hockey pyramid, player development has often boiled down to a handful of simple concepts: Get stronger, get stronger and get better defensively.

In recent years, there has been a considerable shift. It’s especially evident among young defencemen who accelerated past their peers and landed in the top tier of hockey in their countries. That development? Activation, and how simply putting oneself in a position to receive the puck in favourable situations leads to offensive growth.

Red Wings’ defencemen Moritz Seider is perhaps the ultimate example. A unique combination of tools bolstered by increased activation and experimentation led to substantial offensive growth. Now, he looks like a star-to-be in the NHL. Nils Lundkvist is another example, transforming from a solid but nondescript late-first pick to one of the sport’s most exciting players by sprinting into the play with every opportunity.

The latest example? Topi Niemelä, a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect. In just two seasons, Niemelä’s shifted from a safe but sturdy defender to the Liiga’s leading point-getting among defencemen. He’s still just 19, only 13 months removed from being picked with the 64th overall pick.

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NHL Prospects Kärpät Toronto Maple Leafs Liiga NHL Topi Niemelä
Scoring Leaders