2024 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Aron Kivharju

Photo Credit: INTERNATIONAL ICE HOCKEY FEDERATION (IIHF)

The Scouting Report:

Even though Aron Kiviharju grew up in Finland, he was born in Esbjerg, Denmark. He has gained popularity, especially since he was recognized for his skills at just 11 years old. In the 2021-22 season, he played four games with the TPS U18 team before moving up to the U20 level. It was during this time that he started to gain more international attention, impressing everyone with his talent by averaging close to a point per game at only 15 years old.

Kiviharju would’ve been the youngest player at the World Juniors in 2023 and one of the few 16-year-olds to ever play in the tournament had he not been injured. Previous players that age that competed at the World Juniors include Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby, and Connor McDavid. Kiviharhu joins Aleksander Barkov, Jesse Puljujarvi, Olli Maatta, Mikael Granlund, Reijo Ruotsalainen, and Janne Niinimaa as the only Finnish players to play at the IIHF U20 championship as 16-year-olds.

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Draft Projections

Ranked #25 by Inside The Rink
Ranked #8 by NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters)
Ranked #31 by TSN/Craig Button
Ranked #25 by Sportsnet/Cosentino
Ranked #49 by Elite Prospects

Karen Zehner of Inside The Rink has Aron Kiviharju projected at 25th overall

I’ve highlighted some of Aron Kiviharju’s attributes, let’s take a deeper dive into his attributes and areas for improvement.

Hockey IQ:

Kiviharju’s primary asset lies in his offensive prowess and he demonstrated this skill by accumulating 20 points, comprising two goals and 18 assists, across 22 games while playing for TPS’ junior team in Finland’s league last season. Moreover, he made his debut in Liiga, Finland’s premier professional league, contributing three assists during 21 games for TPS. His hockey intelligence and offensive skills have already distinguished him as one of the premier players in his position.

“I have to use my head and make smart decisions there because I’m not the biggest, not the strongest, not the fastest guy there,” he said. “I have to play smart with my stick and use my body the right way. You just have to use your head in many situations.”

– Aron Kiviharju

Setbacks

His performance at the U-18s tournament on his home ice this year was crucial for him, offering a significant opportunity to make up for lost time and showcase his skills to all 32 NHL teams after being sidelined by his injury. Wearing the captain’s “C” on his jersey number 12, he was ready to embark on his third quest for gold at the prestigious event. In Finland’s initial match of the 2024 U18 World Junior Championships, he encountered another scary moment. A skate cut his right jawline, forcing his departure from the game. He later returned and had a jersey change due to that injury.

However, the team’s overall performance was not as successful as many had hoped, leading to their elimination and a fifth-place finish. Kiviharju had contributed with an assist in a 3-1 win against Latvia and provided two assists in the game against Norway the next night, but did not add to his point total in the match against Slovakia. In the previous IIHF World Under-18 Championship in 2023, he was the top-scoring defenseman for Finland with seven points from five games, all in the form of assists.

On-Ice Abilities:

Kiviharju showcases remarkable decision-making skills, whether it’s about choosing the right moment for a pass or engaging in close-quarters play. Scouts recognize him as a proactive defenseman who effortlessly limits opponents’ time and movement, displaying exceptional composure while directing plays across the entire rink. His ability to handle high-pressure situations in the defensive zone is impressive, skillfully maneuvering past forechecking opponents to swiftly move the puck forward. He excels in delivering precise outlet passes that consistently reach his teammates’ sticks flawlessly. This again highlights his strong hockey intuition, allowing him to anticipate plays and position both himself and his teammates for success.

Prospect Potential:

With exceptional puck-handling abilities and adept skating while effortlessly maneuvering the puck, his stature, listed at 5’10” and 165 pounds, raises questions. Nevertheless, his exceptional offensive skills stem from a remarkable hockey acumen and a keen ability to anticipate plays. Despite occasional inconsistency, attributed somewhat to competing against professionals at a very young age, his composure, maturity, and self-assurance have solidified his reputation.

Final Thoughts

Aron Kiviharju presents a significant wildcard factor as the 2024 NHL Draft approaches. Initially anticipated as a top-five selection, Kiviharju’s progress has been hindered by his injury. Kiviharju, a diminutive defenseman, demonstrates adeptness in moving the puck up the ice through precise passing or individual skating. His greatest strength lies in his astute hockey intelligence. While his injury history poses a risk, Kiviharju’s potential remains substantial if he can overcome these challenges. His strong hockey IQ, team player mentality, and leadership all help to set him apart. He is not just the player that anticipates plays, he is the player that will help position his teammates for success.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
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Karen Zehner

Credentialed Beat Writer covering the ECHL Atlanta Gladiators. Diving into the world of slap shots, penalty kills, and the game we love. [@RunwithK] on socials.

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