Antti Pennanen, head coach of Finland’s Under-20 team, recently spoke with Hockey Royalty about LA Kings prospect Samuel Helenius.
Since the club’s emphasis on defense is as prevalent as it is, some may have been surprised — taken aback even — when the LA Kings selected a centerman with their third selection (2nd round, 59th overall) during last month’s Draft. With that in mind, however, it is worth noting that this particular center — Samuel Helenius, to be precise — brings a plethora of size and strength at 6-foot-6, to name just one asset.
HockeyRoyalty’s own Ryan Sikes recently had the pleasure of interview Antti Pennanen, who coached Helenius this past winter at the World Juniors.
At the tournament, the new Kings prospect scored a pair of goals and assists en route to helping Finland win the bronze medal. Not bad for an 18-year-old in his World Juniors debut. Of course, playing for a men’s team played a hand in Helenius’s preparation for the tournament — at least according to Pennanen.
“He had a chance to play with the men’s [league], and I think that was a big reason for that,” the head coach noted. “He has good tools overall, and he got more confidence during the season. He learns also how he can handle his off-ice life. Living by himself and things [that] include that.”
When looking back on the Kings of the early-to-mid-2010s, it’s easy to be, for lack of a better term, overwhelmed with the club’s emphasis on size. While so many former Kings fit this particular bill, there is one in particular whose name has been linked to Helenius’s as far as overall style goes: Michal Handzus.
“I think both players work hard, and they want to play both ways,” Pennanen said of both Helenius and Handzus. “So, they are good team players. Every team [that] wants to win [the Stanley] Cup needs these kinds of players.”
Like Helenius, Michal Handzus was a centerman with a ton of size — 6-foot-5, 215 pounds to be more precise — and was instrumental in helping the Chicago Blackhawks win hockey’s Holiest prize in 2013. Furthermore, while it may not have resulted in a championship ring, the former 15-year NHLer was integral in helping to turn the Kings into, ultimately, a Cup winner.
As for Helenius, while he brings a lot of assets to any team, there are still some areas that warrant improvement.
“Faceoffs, quickness, strength, and toughness,” a succinct Pennanen listed.
It’s unknown at this juncture when Helenius will be suiting up for the Kings or even the Ontario Reign. Of course, at 18, Helenius does have the benefit of having time on his side. Still, his World Juniors coach offered Kings fans some reasons to look forward to the Järvenpää, Finland, native’s eventual arrival to southern California.
“He has good tools,” Pennanen stated. “Overall, a very good team player, big, humble, and coachable young player who can reach NHL level someday.”
As time goes on and we hear more about him, the more the excitement mounts for Samuel Helenius, who recently signed his entry-level contract. In addition to being a second-generation talent, Helenius has all the tools to compete for a Kings’ roster spot in the future. It may not be right away but definitely sooner rather than later.
Given his size, Helenius is a throwback to a different era — a more successful era — for the LA Kings, and the anticipation for what the 18-year-old has in store is definitely palpable.