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Red Wings Top 25 Under 25: Vili Saarijarvi

The pint-sized defenseman finds himself sliding in the ranking, but don’t write him off.

AHL: JAN 05 Grand Rapids Griffins at Hershey Bears Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re kicking off our Top 25 Under 25 in a very puzzling way.. Vili Saarijarvi at no. 25? Really? Seems strange.

Real talk, though, Saarijarvi is still a very intriguing prospect, but he’s fallen in the ranking due to the surge of other young defensemen who have jumped over him (Hicketts, Hronek, Cholowski, etc.). That being said, I still see Saarijarvi as a potential NHL defenseman. Let’s break it down.

Strengths

Vili is a supreme skater. If you’ve ever seen him play with the Griffins, or even in the OHL, you know this. He’s quick, he sees the ice well, and he has creativity. I will never forget one Griffins game I went to, it was a work party in a suite, and he absolutely dominated the game. In my observation of his play, he truly seems like an offensive catalyst. He plays quickly, knows how to control the puck, and does not appear to be afraid to take a chance.

Weaknesses

I’ll get the lazy one out of the way first... He’s a small guy. I don’t view this as a weakness in any way, but we all know that the NHL is hooked on the “size” narrative. Now, that isn’t saying that Steve Yzerman will stick to that.

The biggest thing for Saarijarvi is that there needs to be more production. I was really expecting some big numbers from him this season, but only 16 points fell short of expectations.

Expectations

I think Vili Saarijarvi will find his stride in the upcoming season. I look at him as a Torey Krug-like player, but it really all depends on what kind of minutes he sees in Grand Rapids. He’s obviously very unlikely to make the opening night roster for Detroit, but he can put up better numbers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get called up over guys like Joe Hicketts. There’s always an appetite for mobile defensemen.

Bottom line

Yes, Vili Saarijarvi fell in the ranking, but that isn’t a bad thing. The Red Wings’ prospect pipeline is seemingly getting better every season, so he slid a bit, but there’s a lot of ground to be covered for him. He’s only 22 years old and plays the style that translates well to the NHL. I’m not sure where he lands, but I’m not writing Vili Saarijarvi off. Also, he’s from the same city that Santa Claus is.. How can you hate that?