By: Mark Whitfield | Follow me on Twitter @olop86
In the first part of a mini-series on the Bruins’ prospects plying their trade in the European leagues, we look at Matias Mäntykivi. Mäntykivi is heading into his second year playing for Ilves in the Finnish Liiga, having been drafted 185th overall in the 2019 draft. Listed as a Centre, he has also played on both wings during his career but has settled on playing down the middle, a position he feels more comfortable with and believes better suits his style of play.
Hailing from Lappeenranta, Finland, he played junior hockey for Saipa before debuting for their senior team in the 2018-19 season. Mäntykivi has also represented Finland at the U17, U18, and U20 levels, making 33 appearances and scoring 12 points.
At 5’11 and around 161lb Mäntykivi is a little on the light side for the North American game. However, despite this, he has demonstrated that he is more than capable of holding his own when it starts to get physical. He is strong against the boards and is happy mixing it up in front of the net.
One area that he needs to work on is his speed. At the junior level, he looked good and could keep up with his peers; however, stepping up into the senior league has exposed his lack of pace. In Europe, where the game is a little slower, a player can mitigate this by reading the game well, and Mäntykivi has demonstrated the ability to do this. However, in the NHL, a league where ‘speed kills,’ it might be that the gap is just too significant to overcome.
Regarding skill, there are several strengths to Mäntykivi’s game. He has a great hockey IQ, allowing him to read the game and ensure he gets to where he needs to be. Calm on the puck and with good hands, he creates space and time for himself and his teammates, generating offensive opportunities. He is excellent at distributing the puck, often putting it through the smallest of gaps, and a quick look at his stats shows that he is a player who looks to set up his teammates rather than take on the shot himself, with 19 assists in 51 games in 2021-22. These stats don’t tell the whole story; Mäntykivi is often the offensive spark of his line, hustling back to help out on defense and then starting break-out moves.
Mäntykivi’s pass-first philosophy may stem from his shot lacking power. Most of his nine goals last season came from loose pucks around the net. However, when he puts the puck on the net, he is aggressive in following it and is not afraid to get stuck in battles around the net.
On defense, he works hard to get back and can use his stick well to break up plays and frustrate opponents. He often puts his body on the line, clogging shooting lanes and blocking shots.
Looking to the future, Mäntykivi needs to make the jump to North America in the next year or two. He has a great skill set, and there is plenty of time for him to mature and develop, but staying in Europe will likely result in stagnation. He needs to build his speed and physicality, and the best place for him to do that would be in one of the North American minor leagues. The great thing about Mäntykivi is that he knows where the weaknesses in his game are, and he knows what he needs to do to improve on them.
Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast interview with Matias Mäntykivi to hear from the man himself.
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