Who is Otto Kivenmaki?
When the Red Wings drafted Otto Kivenmaki in the seventh round of the 2018 draft, Red Wings fans exclaimed “Hakan Andersson Special!” all in unison across the globe. Because of guys like Zetterberg and Datsyuk, we all get excited when the Red Wings take a a flyer on a late round European pick. My optimism is a little tempered these days, to be honest, with the Hakan Andersson Special; I was all aboard the Hampus Melen train, but that one never worked out (for unfortunate health reasons.) But with Kivenmaki, the Wings may have snagged a useful player late once again in 2018.
Kivenmaki spent last season split between Ässät and their junior partner in the Finnish Liiga and their developmental partner league. He absolutely tore it up on the U20 team, scoring 35 points in 23 games (11-24-35.) He also fared well in the big show in Finland, scoring 16 points in 34 contests (2-14-16.) Not bad for a 19-year old kid. Scouts have been impressed, too, which is why our readers had the inkling to rank Kivenmaki this year in WiiM’s Top 25 Under 25 poll.
Birth: Mar 24, 2000 (19 years old), Pori, FIN
Height and Weight: 5’8”/154 lbs.
2018-19 Team: Ässät/Ässät U20 (Liiga)
2019-20 Team: Ässät
The tough thing about young European prospects like Kivenmaki is that it can be tough to find information on him because there just aren’t a ton of English-speaking scouts reporting on the Finnish U20 league. But what we do know is he’s considered a very smart, crafty player, who can combine his hockey-sense with his speed and agility to get the best of his opposition. He’s a high skill player, which is important, even if that seems painfully obvious. But lots of small players have the tenacity narrative; so the story goes, they made it this far because they got an engine that just won’t quit (with someone in the undersized player’s life saying “You can’t do it because you’re small” as an unmentioned but assumed presence.) If your feathers are a little ruffled or your feeling a little down on a guy like Joe Hicketts, and many of us were, considering how far he fell in this year’s T25U25, it is important to remember that Kivenmaki is from a different mold.
Let’s all address the tiny elephant in the room and say he’s small. There, done. He needs to be big and strong and because the NHL is ‘tuff. On the bright side, he’s done pretty well adding size over the past year (15 pounds or so since being drafted) so there are encouraging signs here. He’ll probably have to become built like a brick house ala Datsyuk to make it to the top league in the world. If not for his size, he would have gone much sooner in the 2018 draft.
Otto Kivenmaki will spend one more season at the very least in Finland, although two seems much more likely and three is probably still more likely that one. He will be playing against professionals in Finland’s Liiga this season, so this season will be very telling. Can he become a point-per-game player at the next level?