An Analysis of Lauri Pajuniemi
As all Rangers fans know, the Rangers have a plethora of young talent in their pipeline. The prospects that stand out are K'Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, and Vitali Kravtsov. However, Lauri Pajuniemi is another player fans should be excited about after the season he had in the SM-Liiga. The fifth-round draft pick in 2018 had 26 goals and 14 assists in 49 games played for TPS Turku, Kaapo Kakko's former team. He finished with 0.53 goals per game played which is the most among all under 21 players in that league since 2000. Below is where he stood after 37 games played.
Aside from highlight reels of him scoring goals with his awesome wrist shot, there isn't much footage of other aspects of Pajuniemi's game, such as weaknesses, so I am limited in what I can analyze. But what I can do is provide all of the things he does well, and I will focus on what he is best at, shooting. For your entertainment I have provided links to all of his goals this season:
(I analyze clips from those videos. GIFs created with GIPHY)
In this first clip, we see how dangerous Pajuniemi (#48) is with his wrist shot. Notice how he receives the pass from the middle of the ice. He catches it in stride and already has the puck in position to shoot. When he gets the pass his right hand slightly chokes up on the stick and then it returns for him to fire a laser beam over the goalie's shoulder. Pajuniemi took advantage of bad defense in this clip, as the opposing team's left defenseman moved too far into the middle, allowing Pajuniemi to have a lane and take the shot. One thing I've noticed throughout these clips is that Pajuniemi likes to shoot high. This is important because a lot of goalies in the NHL are very good at covering the bottom parts of the net.
Again. in this clip Pajuniemi receives the pass and positions his stick in a spot such that he doesn't need much effort to flick his wrists for the shot. From this angle you can see just how beautiful his shot looks. He does an incredible job of shifting his weight from back to front, and his right leg drop looks super cool as well.
We see Pajuniemi's determination in this clip. When the puck crosses the opposing team's blue line Pajuniemi receives a pass from his center just outside the slot area and wastes no time shooting the puck. However, his shot gets blocked but instead of giving up on the play he quickly takes the puck, loads and fires simultaneously. Most players would take the time to drag the puck to their forehand but that would waste time. Pajuniemi once again demonstrates his technique of preemptively setting up the puck to waste no time in getting the shot off. Also that celly is awesome.
Most of his goals this year came on the power play. Pajuniemi is usually positioned at the left point to give him the opportunity for a one timer. His positioning of where he scores most of his power play goals is similar to that of Alex Ovechkin. And any comment of a player being similar to Ovechkin warrants praise. Here instead of taking the one timer, Pajuniemi spreads the defense and goalie with a cross ice one touch pass. It totally surprises everyone on the other team because everyone was ready for the shot. That's the thing about his shot; it strikes fear into opponents. The puck eventually gets back to him at the top of the left circle where he unleashes a one timer into the back of the net.
Now this is just for fun. Pajuniemi completely fools and undresses this poor goalie with a fake forehand shot. Once he fakes the goalie out the puck is very briefly on his backhand so he quickly gets back to his forehand, hesitates for a second to make sure he raises the puck, then roofs it into the top of the net. Then the Jagr-like salute with the glove on.
There are still a lot of unknowns about Pajuniemi such as what his weaknesses are, as mentioned before. But everything we have on him suggests that he is an offensive-minded player that wants the puck and wants to shoot and score goals. In a way he is selfish, but not in a bad way. This is exactly what the Rangers need; someone that isn't afraid to take the shot and score goals. From these clips everything about his shot is superb and I am very excited to see what he turns into in the future.
(For more information on Pajuniemi's scouting report click here: https://www.thedraftanalyst.com/2020-nhl-draft/prospect-notes-tps-turku-u21-jukurit-u21-mar-9-2020/)