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It is an absolutely incredible year for the Finnish developmental system, especially when it comes to defencemen. Robin Salo is the fifth Finnish born defenceman in our rankings so far. The youngster has seen great success at the international level, playing as an underager in the 2015 Under 18s and coming home with a silver medal. However, his greatest achievement to date was at the 2016 Under 18s, where he came home with gold.
At the club level, Salo plays for Vaasan Sport. He put up a goal and 15 assists for 16 points in 51 games, playing against men. He also comes from great bloodlines, as his father Robert Salo played professional hockey in the SM-Liiga throughout the 1990s.
Robin Salo Scouting Report: 2017 NHL Draft #41
Defense — shoots Left
Born October 13th, 1998 — Espoo, Finland
Height 6’0″ — Weight 181 lbs [183 cm / 82 kg]
Salo’s skating stride is very choppy and awkward. This makes for a bit of a heavy first step as well as some clumsiness in his acceleration. Improving that will be a major priority for Salo. Once he gets going, the top end speed is about average, but getting there is a bit of an issue. His backwards skating suffers from the same awkwardness in his stride. Salo’s edge work and agility could also use some work. Overall a bit of a refinement in his technique could go a long way to really improving Salo as a prospect. He does have good balance though; helping him to fight for pucks in the corners as well as battle for position in front of the net.
Salo makes smart plays with the puck on his stick. He starts the transition game with a strong first pass, and picks his spots on when to join the rush. He is poised with the puck at the blue line, reacting well to pressure, and setting up teammates from the point. Salo does not pinch in from the line often, but rarely gets caught out of position when he does.
Salo also has a very heavy slap shot, which he can get off at the point or on a one-timer. He needs to learn to keep it low and on net to allow his teammates to get tip ins and rebounds though. His slap shot accuracy can be an issue, as he often misses the net high and wide. Salo is more effective with his wrist shot right now. He gets it on net, and can get it through traffic and pressure at the blue line.
Salo is extremely smart in his own zone. He has very good positioning, and maintains excellent gap control. He reads the play well, and seems to anticipate where the puck could be going a step ahead of others on the ice. The intelligence and positioning really help him to overcome his skating issues, and still be a strong defender in his own end. He fights for loose pucks and is not afraid to battle in front of the net as well.
Projection and Comparison
Robin Salo projects as a top four defenceman, if he can work on his weaknesses. He may never be a big-time scorer, but a solid second unit power play player, and the ability to be used on the penalty kill could be in his future. Salo has a lot of the skills you want in a young defenceman, he just is not dominant at any one aspect. Overall he can become a well-rounded defenceman used in all situations. In terms of style, his game is reminiscent of Niklas Hjalmarsson of the Chicago Blackhawks. This is not a talent based assessment, however.
The following is a compilation of highlights, assembled from Youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect available on our draft board.