Weight: 204 Pounds
Date of birth: August 12, 2002
Hometown: Oulu, Finland
OHL Draft: Round 1, 35th overall, 2019 CHL Import Draft
NHL Central Scouting Rankings
|C Prospect||C Prospect||71 N.A.||
Kitchener Rangers D Ville Ottavainen, 17, has signed with Oulun Karpat men’s team in the Finnish league. But the Rangers have been told by his agent that his plan and preference is to return to the OHL next season.
— Josh Brown (@BrownRecord) April 7, 2020
Hulking Kitchener Rangers defenceman Ville Ottavainen has followed fellow Finnish OHL’ers Ruben Rafkin and Kari Piiroinen, both of the Windsor Spitfires and signed a professional contract to play in his native Finland for the 2020-2021 season, though as the tweet mentions, his preference is to return to the OHL which might indicate there is an “North American out clause” in his contract.
One can’t help but wonder if the COVID-19 pandemic is playing a role here as restrictions in Europe will likely end before the restrictions in North America do, meaning hockey could return in Europe before North America.
During the 2018-2019 season, Ottavainen played for Karpat Under-18 in Finland’s Junior B SM-Sarja league. In 49 games he scored 9 goals and assisted on 25 others and was named to the First All-Star squad at the end of the season. The Rangers selected him with the 35th pick at the 2019 Canadian Hockey League’s Import Draft.
Ottavainen appeared in 53 games for the Rangers this season and scored 4 goals to go along with 11 helpers. His father Risto, played 4 seasons in Finland’s Suomi-Sarja league – Finland’s third highest league.
First and foremost, everyone is going to notice Ottavainen’s size. At 6’4” and 200-plus pounds, he’s already in a man’s body and he doesn’t turn 18 until August 12th. But for a player of his size, he has pretty good mobility. And he is a right-handed shot – something NHL teams are always looking for.
NHL Central Scouting dropped him 66 spots from their mid-term ranking (71st among North Americans) to their final rankings (137th among North Americans). Whether that’s fair or not, you be the judge.
Ottavainen got off to a blazing start, causing most of his offensive damage in the first 15 games scoring 4 goals and 6 assists in that time, but managed just 5 assists in the remaining 38 games (and two of them came in one game). So, any questions surrounding his adapting to the North American ice should have been laid to rest in those first 15 games, right? So, what happened?
Well, for one Ottavainen saw his ice time drop as the season progressed, especially after the Rangers acquired veteran Holden Wale in a trade with the Soo Greyhounds. As a player though, you have to make the most of the opportunities presented to you. It’s no fault of his, Wale was just a very experienced OHL’er
If you are a reader of some of the independent draft publications available to you, there are a couple questions regarding Ottavainen. One of them is his first step speed. Well, he has such a long reach, he keeps the opposition close enough that he effectively uses that reach to his advantage. Defensively, there isn’t much need for him there, but it could help the transition game. But he is such a mobile and agile skater that I don’t see the lack of blazing speed as an issue.
Another issue is his questionable decision making. I don’t really buy into that. He is one of the youngest defenders in the draft class and he has shown the ability to make very good passes and his playmaking skills are very good and he moves well enough to jump up into the play. Did we mention he has a booming shot? As he gains experience and confidence, this won’t be an issue, and maybe playing pro in Finland is a blessing in disguise.
There are also issues raised with his defensive game. Truth is, we can say that with just about every blueliner at this level. Does Ottavainen make more then his share of mistakes? Probably, yes. But being that it is his first time on the North American ice and that he played the entire season as a 17-year-old, well there is a transition that needs to take place and a lot more projection to take place here.
We think the tools are there in Ottavainen’s tool box. For an NHL team drafting him, it’s going to take a lot of patience waiting for the tools to develop and it’s going to take some good coaching at the development level. If there’s a team that could provide both, then they’ll have a good find here.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Ville is his skating. He’s got a smooth and easy stride and it makes him a solid puck-mover. Ville’s decision-making is also above average, quick and confident, seeing him make the right — even safe — play more often than not.