Detroit – It was somewhat of a surprise when the Detroit Red Wings used a second-round draft pick to select defenseman Antti Tuomisto last month.
Tuomisto, who was back home in Finland, had the same reaction.
“It was like ‘wow,’” Tuomisto said during the Red Wings development camp. “It was a great feeling.”
Tuomisto is a 6-foot-4, 194-pound offensive defenseman who posted 35 points (nine goals, 26 assists) in 45 games with Assat in the Finland junior league.
Some scouting services mentioned how Tuomisto wasn’t a player who was rated highly at the beginning of last season. But as the season progressed, Tuomisto’s ability to move the puck and make offensive plays shot him up the charts.
The Wings were eager to select Tuomisto with the first of their second-round picks (35th overall).
“I’ve liked this kid all year, for sure,” said Tyler Wright, the Wings’ director of amateur scouting. “We talk at length, and you watch the playoffs and see the size of these guys with St. Louis and Boston, it doesn’t mean they’re big and just big.
“This is a guy that’s 6-4, plays with a real bite to his game, but he’s a good player. He’s got good sense, he can find the middle of the ice.
“We really liked him. That’s what we stepped up and took him. He was a guy that we targeted for a while at 35 and he happened to be there. We were ecstatic to leave with him.”
Hakan Andersson, the Wings’ director of European scouting, saw plenty of Tuomisto and liked what he saw, but joked how Wright had “a crush” on Tuomisto as soon as he saw the young defenseman play.
“He’s (Tuomisto) a big guy, certainly he can fill out, he’s a very good skater and he plays with a natural bite. He’s got some physical game in him and has a real good shot.”
Many draft boards had Tuomisto projected as a third-round selection.
“I didn’t expect anything, I just thought I’d get drafted,” said Tuomisto, who was ranked No. 15 among the NHL Central Scouting European skaters and 86th overall by EliteProspects.com. “I didn’t have big expectations. (But) maybe a little bit surprised.”
Tuomisto will return to Finland for the 2019-20 season, then play college hockey in North America in 2020-21. He hasn’t yet settled on which college.
For quite a few Finnish junior players, going the NCAA hockey route has become more common, with Wings prospect Kasper Kotkansalo another Finnish defenseman who is currently playing at Boston University.
“It’s good hockey,” said Tuomisto of Division 1 hockey. “It’s North American hockey also, and the education is a big plus on the side. But the hockey is good and that’s the right step for me. It’s a good route there, a right fit for me.”
Tuomisto soaked in whatever information he could during the development camp, especially given the adjustment in the years ahead to the smaller North American ice surface.
“Just learn and educate myself,” Tuomisto said.
Chase Pearson, a 2015 fifth-round draft pick of the Wings, gives his father Scott Pearson credit for his development as a hockey player.
Scott Pearson played 292 NHL games from 1988-99.
The younger Pearson left Maine after his junior season in March and joined the Grand Rapids Griffins.
“I wouldn’t be here without him,” Pearson said at the Wings’ development camp. “The countless hours before and after school, I’d practice all that extra time with him and he didn’t have do that. But to have him out there, he knows what it takes to get to the next level and he’s been through it all.”
Pearson, 21, said his father advised him to stay in school for several years and resist jumping to the pros too early.
“Take your time,” said Pearson, of his dad’s thinking. “Guys rush in sometimes and kind of get sifted out of the development pipeline. Me, having those extra years, was real good for my development.”
Pearson had 78 points (37 goals, 41 assists) in 107 games at Maine, serving as the team’s captain both his sophomore and junior seasons.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound center will play in Grand Rapids this season, projected to be a shut-down type of forward.
“For me, if I’m going to make the NHL, it’s going to be as a shutdown, defensive forward with some offensive upside,” Pearson said. “I just have to compete and make sure I’m not taking any crap out there on the ice. If I win my battles in front of the net, that’s going to be my MO at the next level.”
Forward Elmer Soderblom stands out on the ice.
The Wings’ 2019 sixth-round pick (159th overall) is 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, which already would make the 18-year-old one of the tallest players in the NHL.
“I’ve always been tall and big,” Soderblom said. “I’ve grown normal. Just more.”
Andersson liked Soderblom’s development last season and the potential he possesses.
“He’s huge, huge,” Andersson said. “At the same time, he’s a good skater and he’s got good hands.
“He’s actually suffering from being 6-foot-6 (at the age of 18). Very few guys are fully coordinated at that time. He’s got very good skill for a big man and the skating is good, so I’m hopeful with time and good training, he has a chance to be a forward who can do good things with the puck.”
With his size, Soderblom is a strong net-front presence and watched highlights of former Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom to become more effective.
“My strength is protecting the puck and being in front of the net, screening the goaltender,” Soderblom said. “I watched a lot of the Red Wings because they had a lot of Swedes, it was fun to watch (Henrik) Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom. I looked at him (Holmstrom) a lot because was one of the best players to tip the puck.”