Helenius closeup Jukurit

The 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft will be held June 28-29 at Sphere in Las Vegas. The first round will be June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS), and Rounds 2-7 are June 29 (11:30 a.m. ET; ESPN+, NHLN, SN, SN1). NHL.com is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects, podcasts and other features. Today, a profile on Jukurit forward Konsta Helenius. NHL.com's full draft coverage can be found here.

Konsta Helenius split last season between Jukurit in Liiga, the top league in his native Finland, and the junior league.

He set his sights a bit higher this season.

"Before the season, I went [over] with my dad my goals for the season and we both were on the same page that I'm going to play at the men's Worlds," Helenius said. "That sounds crazy, but it's true. So I really thought that I'm going to play a full season in Liiga."

Helenius exceeded his own lofty expectations, finishing with 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists) in 51 games for Jukurit. The center, who turned 18 on May 11, more than a month after his season ended, had the fourth-most points by an under-18 player in Liiga history, behind center Aleksander Barkov (48 points, 2012-13), now of the Florida Panthers; current San Jose Sharks center Mikael Granlund (40 points, 2009-10); and forward Kaapo Kakko (38 points, 2018-19), now with the New York Rangers. Helenius also was second for Jukurit with six points (two goals, four assists) in six Liiga playoff games.

He capped his season with one assist in four games for Finland at the 2024 IIHF World Championship.

That success has him aiming even higher for next season: playing in the NHL.

"I played against NHL guys. Of course it gives me confidence because I think I did a great job against them," Helenius said. "I think I'm very close to the NHL."

Helenius find puck Jukurit

Former NHL forward Olli Jokinen, who coached Helenius the past two seasons, believes that kind of jump is possible because of the drive and determination he showed.

"I truly think that he's going to have a great opportunity to crack an NHL lineup next year because he'll be a useful player," Jokinen said. "He can play down the lineup as well. In that way he's a special kid. Obviously his strengths are with the puck and bringing the offense and all that, but sometimes when you go in the new level, you need to be good without the puck, and especially in the NHL level not necessarily become a scorer immediately in the first year.

"Our big focus this year was getting better in the face-offs, getting better understanding that playing solid defense and playing for the team and being on the ice in the crucial situations, that coaches trust you. That was a big learning thing for him this year, and he took a huge step forward."

Jokinen especially was impressed by the edge that Helenius showed despite his size (5-foot-11, 189 pounds).

"He's really poised with the puck so obviously he can play fast, but at the same time he can slow the game down," Jokinen said. "So his hockey sense is off the chart. Obviously his compete level is where it needs to be and also that's one of the strengths for him, that he loves the competition. He loves to practice, he loves to battle and he loves to get his nose dirty.

"He's very strong with his skates and obviously the edgework and small turns with the cutbacks and stuff like that, he can really operate in small areas and tight spaces. The compete level and all that, he's not afraid of going into those small areas."

Helenius is No. 3 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of International skaters for the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft.

"Konsta is a very versatile player, which makes him what he is today," said Jukka-Pekka Vuorinen, NHL director of European Scouting. "He is not necessarily doing YouTube highlights, but he keeps his team on the right path. He is a leader inside the team and has a great personality.

"Konsta’s hockey IQ is his best part in my mind as he is able to constantly do small plays where he helps his teammates to get better chances to score."

Helenius at NHL COmbine

Helenius was able to do that in Liiga as well as internationally. He had two points (one goal, one assist) in seven games at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship, and prior to the Worlds, he led Finland with seven assists in five games at the 2024 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

He was the first player for Finland to play in all three tournaments in one season, and the fifth ever, joining United States forward Jack Hughes (2018-19), now of the New Jersey Devils; Switzerland forward Kevin Fiala (2013-14), currently with the Los Angeles Kings; and Belarus forwards Andrei Kostitsyn (2002-03) and Vadim Karaga (2002-03).

Playing at the Worlds gave Helenius the most confidence that he could take his game to the NHL.

"It's a long summer coming, so I want to improve my physicality and straight [line] skating speed," he said. "Because I think I'm a good skater, but I want to be better."

Jokinen is confident that will come as Helenius develops physically.

"He just turned 18, so that's something that he'll continue to improve," he said. "I think a lot of the scouts always look at the size, too, and stuff like that. He's not that tall, but obviously he plays big. He's got a big heart, and the one thing about him is that he loves hockey. He loves the competition more than anything."

Whether Helenius reaches the NHL next season or returns to Finland, Jokinen is confident Helenius will be successful.

"I've been around a lot of talented players and I [consider him] in that top 3 percent," said Jokinen, who played 1,231 games in 17 NHL seasons. "I was never a top-3 percent [player], but he's on that top 3 percent of the players talent-wise and mindset-wise and all that. He will have a very bright future ahead of him.

"Everything for him, it's not to become an NHL player. He wants to be best Finnish-born player who ever played."

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