Canadiens Can Add Next Generation of Koivu in 2024 NHL Draft – The Hockey Writers –

Another Koivu is poised to join an NHL franchise this summer as Aatos Koivu, the son of Saku Koivu is entering the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. It remains to be seen whether the younger Koivu will even be available when the Montreal Canadiens step up to the podium on their second or third picks at the upcoming 2024 NHL Draft.

Related: Canadiens Need to Make Room on NHL Roster for Prospects

TSN’s insider Bob McKenzie has Koivu ranked 60th in his 2024 draft rankings, which would be close to where the Colorado Avalanche pick (from the Artturi Lehkonen trade) sits in the second round. If he is in a Canadiens sweater by the end of the NHL Draft, there is little doubt that he will be greeted warmly and with great fanfare early on. The question is, would he be worth selecting at that stage? If so, is he able to handle the additional scrutiny he would certainly face?

Canadiens’ Pick Can Build on Emotional Connections

Of course, the Koivu family needs no introduction to Canadiens fans. Saku Koivu, who was captain of the club for a decade, is considered a community leader and the soul of a franchise during a time that it needed it most.

He was a lion of a competitor, leading the club to several playoff upsets. Most of all, he proved capable of playing in a challenging market in Montreal and battling cancer at the same time. He played in a Montreal sweater for 13 years, scoring 641 points in 792 games. With Aatos now less than a month away from being drafted, the scrutiny upon him has increased due to his bloodlines and his family’s connection to the organization. Fans should not forget that his uncle, Mikko Koivu, had a long and productive career with the Minnesota Wild.

Based on the rankings, it would not be a reach if the Canadiens were to use their only second-round pick to select the young center. While it would be notable, if Aatos were to get selected by Montreal, it wouldn’t be the first time a father-son duo plays for the Canadiens. Emile Bouchard and his son Pierre both played for the storied franchise. Then there is what could be the most famous family lineage in Montreal, the Geoffrion clan, where Bernie, a Hall-of-Fame player, and his sons Danny and Blake all played for Montreal. That isn’t even counting Bernie’s father-in-law, the legendary Howie Morenz.

Do the Canadiens Have a Fit?

Ranked 27th out of all International Skaters by NHL Central Scouting, the 17-year-old has spent the last few seasons in the TPS system in Finland like his father before him. Aatos played the majority of the 2023-24 season with the club’s Under 20 program, scoring 16 goals and 31 points in 28 games. His strong two-way play earned him a short call-up with the main club in Liiga play, getting dressed for four games. He was also a late addition to Finland’s Under 18 team, scoring one assist in five games played.

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He seems to be taking after his uncle Mikko when it comes to height as he is already taller than his father Saku, being listed at 6-foot-1 and may still have more room to grow. One factor that could work against him for a few years is his weight, as of the date of this article, he is listed as only being 165 pounds. However, there is no denying that his father is a major inspiration to the young man, who seems to style some of his game after dear old dad.

But he isn’t a Saku clone either, as Aatos likes to style his game after Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho. Koivu is a strong skater, with a fluid stride, which makes it easier for him to either push the pace of play or get into position defensively. He plays a very responsible two-way style, like his father before him, in the tradition of most Finnish centers. He already plays a highly mature game, well beyond his age, as he is capable of reading and reacting to plays.

Offensively he relies on his high hockey IQ to help him find the space he needs to generate offence for himself or his linemates. This is a skill that should follow him to the North American-sized rinks as he makes sound decisions quickly, and also in tight areas. He is also adept at making himself available as a passing option, keeping himself in excellent position to accept passes, allowing for longer possession time for his line. Koivu also boasts a good shot, that could use some added strength to allow for a quicker release and better velocity. But he is able to find shooting lanes, and likes to fire off a high volume of shots.

Aatos Koivu Team Finland
Aatos Koivu, Team Finland (Photo credit: Pasi Mennander)

He is still somewhat underweight, but that doesn’t mean he is a pushover. While this lack of strength or body weight does make things more difficult in one-on-one play against grown adults, it should be handled with more development. He can withstand the physical aspects of the game, playing a strong puck support style, where he can gain and maintain possession for long periods. As a natural center, he fits what general manager (GM) Kent Hughes is looking for, as he can also play on the wing, if necessary, without any lengthy adjustments.

He is difficult to project at an NHL level because he is still growing into his frame. However, he is an intelligent player with an excellent work ethic that is highly coachable, and can be molded to fit a franchise’s style of play. He does have the defensive acumen and 200-foot game to be a regular NHL player. It is his projected offence that should keep expectations to a bottom-six forward, possibly a strong third-line player. Aatos could fulfill two dreams. That of playing in the NHL, but also, the dream of being drafted by Montreal, then playing on Bell Centre ice, following in Saku’s footsteps.

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