Photo Credit: LUDVIG THUNMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Julius Honka is an undersized, overskilled defenseman who spent last season in the WHL. A Finn by birth, Honka played in his home country before moving over to North America last season. The move was a good one.
Honka wore number six for the Swift Current Broncos last season and recorded 16 goals and 40 assists (56pts) in 62 games. He is an offensive defenseman in the mold of Erik Karlsson. He is listed anywhere from 5’7″-5’11” (although most sources have him at 5’10″/5’11”) and between 165-180lbs (most sources say between 174-179). In the article linked above, his coach Mark Lamb called him the most skilled player on the Broncos.
He was also given the opportunity to show off his skills at the 2014 World Junior Championships. Honka dressed in seven games for the gold medal winning Finnish squad and recorded an assist in the semifinal game of the tournament. Although his numbers at the WJC do not stand out, it is important to note that Honka was the youngest player on the Finnish roster.
What Will A Team Get If They Draft Him?
The team that drafts Julius Honka (he will likely go between #15-25 overall) will get an small, offensive minded defenseman. Although he averaged almost a point-per-game pace as a defenseman this past season, he still may require a year or two in juniors before jumping into the NHL. Smaller defensemen sometimes take longer to adjust to the size of the players in the pro game.
NHL Center Scouting’s Peter Sullivan had this to say about Honka:
"Let’s just say that when you go to a game and you see his name in the lineup, you’re excited to watch the game because he’s got about four or five different gears. You think he’s just skating normally and he puts it in another gear, then another gear. Excellent vision and on-ice awareness. He reads the play so well sometimes he’s two or three steps ahead of his own teammates."
Once Honka adapts to the NHL, he will be a playmaker. He is hard to catch and can create offensive chances out of nowhere. He is a fixture on the power play and even saw time on the Broncos penalty kill last season. Overall, he projects to be a second pair defenseman. But with the right defense partner, and a favorable development, he could become a top pair guy. His skills are that impressive and his ceiling is that high.
His Most Underrated Skill
In any highlight video of Honka, the viewer will likely see numerous one-timers and point shots. He possesses a wicked one-timer and can pin point his slap shots with the best of them. He is not afraid to pull the trigger whether the game is at even strength or he’s on the power play. Many of his assists this season came from redirected point shots or juicy rebounds that resulted from his slapper.
Although scouts will point to his skating and skill (as well they should), Honka’s shot is an underrated asset. Another year in the WHL would give Honka even more of an opportunity to perfect his already stellar shot.
What Can He Still Work On?
Unfortunately, no one can know whether or not Honka is finished growing. He will turn 19 in December and is likely as tall as he is going to get. There is a still a chance that he grows a half an inch or so, but 5’11” is likely his height for good.
Therefore, it would be wise for Honka to put some muscle onto his frame. Even though he can skate his way out of trouble, the NHL is not juniors. When he turns pro, Honka will face forwards who are just as fast as him (or close) and much bigger than him. Although putting on too much weight may slow him down, adding 7-10lbs (up to 185-190lbs?) could help prepare him for the rigor of the NHL game.
Want to see more Honka? Well here you go: