Niko Huuhtanen’s Development Continues Trending Up In Liiga

Niko Huuhtanen, 19, has continued to impress since the Tampa Bay Lightning selected him with the last pick of the 2021 NHL Draft.

After storming onto the North American scene with 37 goals and 77 points in 65 games with the Everett Silvertips for the 2021-22 WHL season, Huuhtanen returned home to Finland to spend this year in Liiga with Jukurit.

Huuhtanen began the season featuring in Jukurit’s bottom-six, but steadily worked himself up to being listed in the top-six for much of the second half of their season.

In the end, Huuhtanen earned the title of Liiga’s top scoring rookie with 30 points (17 goals and 13 assists) over 48 games — beating out Montreal’s 2021 second-round draftee Oliver Kapanen.

Huuhtanen made a name for himself in Everett with highlight reel goals from his power play office. But after not getting the full opportunity in the position to begin the season, he was back to his scoring ways in the closing weeks scoring multiple power play goals.

Additionally, Huuhtanen looked to have become a more complete player this season using his 6-foot-2 209-pound frame. When utilizing his physicality and stick reach to attack, he was a scoring threat throughout the offensive zone.

With Huuhtanen now reaching the age we typically see prospects signed to entry-level deals and join the Crunch, the question becomes when that might happen.

However, in Huuhtanen’s case, there may not be a rush to bring him over as he thrived in his first professional season and received ample playing time — over 15 minutes per game. Assuming this continues, he looks to be in a good place to continue his development.

Skating remains one of Huuhtanen’s main weaknesses, after it was a key contributor to him falling in the draft, but having to play on the larger ice rinks in Europe should make that a priority for him to continue focusing on. As for scoring, even with a rookie leading 17 goals (14th overall), his 5.9% shooting percentage suggests he has plenty of room to keep improving — he shot 16.8% with Everett last year.

Per CapFriendly, the Lightning have until Summer 2025 to ink Huuhtanen to an entry-level contract. So, both parties have time to determine what is best for his future, but for now the Finnish forward is trending up.