In 2019, the Carolina Hurricanes picked up a solid crop of mid-round draft picks highlighted by their three third round picks. Anttoni Honka was the second of those three selections, coming off the board 83rd between fellow Finn Patrik Puistola and fellow defenseman Dominick Fensore.
At just 20 years old, Honka has already played 109 games in Liiga, Finland’s top league, posting 43 points in that time. He currently leads JYP defensemen in scoring early in the 2020-21 season with seven points in 19 games, and is tied for the team lead with six assists. His offensive ability is by far the strength of his game, but it’s promising to see the third rounder taking on as much of a scoring role as he has in just his second full season facing top competition. In some ways he has picked up where his brother Julius Honka, who spent last season with JYP while in a contract dispute with the Dallas Stars, left off.
Although undersized at 5-foot-10, Anttoni Honka is a positive possession player who uses his skating and puck handling ability to drive offense. He is aggressive in puck retrieval, and has the ability to both skate and pass his way out of trouble. He continues to develop as a strong player both in the neutral and offensive zones and processes the game as a faster level than many of his peers. Honka will be a power play producer with the ability to both facilitate and score from the point.
Defensively, Honka does have room to improve, but his deployment will likely skew towards a lower-six role in favorable offensive situations at the AHL level and the eventual NHL level. Most importantly, he will need to continue to improve away from the puck, and become stronger in one-on-one situations to stick long term.
Honka is still years away from the NHL, but he should make the move to the AHL in the next couple seasons. In Finland, the young blueliner is getting plenty of opportunity, so his move to North America isn’t as imperative as some of the other European based players within the prospect group. However, integrating Honka into the Hurricanes organizational structure at the AHL level will certainly benefit his development. He’s a promising prospect with a high ceiling who should fit well in the Hurricanes system.