Jubilant Hameenaho slid demons into their fists feature

With the 2023 NHL draft moving from the first round to the second round, the Devils scouting staff is starting to feel anxiously hopeful.

The club classified Finnish striker Lenny Hamenahu as a player in the first round. And as he continued to slide into the second round, the Devils tried to bend fate in their favour.

“To get a guy who we thought would be first choice talent, we were going over any number we could as the picks started counting down,” Devils chief scout Mark Dennehy said.

Whether or not the crossed out numbers were responsible for the devil’s luck, Hameenaho slipped to 58y Spot and New Jersey did not hesitate to announce his name.

“It’s amazing. I was a little nervous waiting to hear my name,” Haminaho said. “I’m so glad New Jersey chose me.”

Video: Lenny Haminaho | NHL raw draft

Hameenaho, 18, skates with Assat of the Finnish Professional League. Not only did the youngsters play well against older, more experienced opponents in the league, but he saw his ice time rise as the year progressed.

“He’s played against men all year,” said Dennehy. “It’s hard doing that for an 18-year-old.” “But he did. He just kept getting more and more ice. When you get to that level, I don’t want to say it’s less about development and more about winning, but professional coaches get fired. So if you’re not producing, you’re not playing, that is.” Sometimes it’s dangerous for younger players to play in the men’s league.

“Just the fact that he played consistently and his ice time improved was a huge factor in his development.”

Video: Mark Dennehy | 1 on 1

Haminaho scored nine goals and 21 points in 51 games in La Liga, adding three goals and four points in eight playoff games. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound right-handed shot also scored 2 points (1g-1a) in five games during the World Junior Championships.

“We like his play on the wall. We like his intelligence. We think he shoots the puck (well),” said Dennehy. “We are really happy with Lenny.”

Hameenaho described his game as follows: “I’m an intelligent player. I’m better with the puck on the offensive side. I like (to own) the puck and create scoring opportunities for myself and my teammates. Improving skating, explosiveness, first move.”

Hameenaho, who may attend the club’s annual development camp from July 10, will return to Finland next year. It may be a few years away before he’s ready to jump into the NHL.

“I think I need a few more years to develop my physical and skating side,” he said. “Then I think I’ll be ready… That’s the smartest move for me.”

After chatting with all 32 NHL clubs at the NHL Combine in Buffalo, Hameenaho had a hunch he could end up in Jersey.

“We had a good conversation at the Combine,” Dennehy said. “When I heard New Jersey came next, I was just waiting. I’m so glad I heard my name.”

Video: Mark Dennehy | NHL raw draft

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