With the 184th pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the San Jose Sharks have selected Finnish defenseman Santeri Hatakka. Hatakka is a 6-foot-0, 174-pound left-shooting defenseman.
Hatakka played three games in Finland’s under-18 league before moving up to the Jokerit Under-20 team. He played 43 games there and recorded four goals and nine assists for 13 total points. He was one of Jokerit’s alternate captains.
Hatakka is expected to transition to Finland’s main professional men’s league, the Liiga, as he has a multi-year contract in place with Ilves beginning this fall.
Hatakka was NHL Central Scouting’s 72nd-ranked European skater. Future Considerations ranked him 144th. Colleague Sheng Peng quotes FC’s preview:
From @FCHockey draft preview, Santeri Hatakka is "an emerging two-way defenseman...has good vision & makes smart decisions with the puck. Smooth on his skates...has an excellent all-around defensive game...has all the tools to become a solid blue-liner at the next level."— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) June 22, 2019
Finnish Jr Hockey wrote two reviews on Hatakka leading up to the Draft.
Finnish Jr Hockey got the chance to look at Hatakka in early October at a U20 tournament, where he skated in two of three games. They wrote,
Hatakka is mobile and skates well in all directions. He carried the puck pretty effectively into the zone on a couple of occasions. He made one very good breakout to exit the zone and also set up a scoring chance with a good pass from below the goal line. Although he can still be prone to making mistakes with the puck, his puck management was much improved from the past season. He doesn’t have the fastest hands but still possesses adequate puck skills. His active feet allowed to apply pressure quickly in the defensive zone. Not overly physical but he’s strong on his skates and has decent physical presence. He did a good job of getting into passing lanes in his own end. Hatakka was one of the better Jokerit players here in my book.
They then saw him in a February game:
He was excellent on the penalty kill where he managed to clear the zone several times. His gap control in the neutral zone was solid, he was willing to play the body and took away time from opponents quickly. He scored the 2-0 goal as he jumped into the play, gained a step ahead from the defender and finished off with a backhander. Hatakka showed nice vision from time to time, moving the puck well up the ice. He was active offensively and made plays at both ends of the rink. His puck skills may not be truly high end, but he can contribute offensively and join the attack at the right times. His straight-line speed is very good.
FinnProspects also wrote extensively about Hatakka. On his April 25 performance against the USA U18 team, Miika Arponen wrote,
Hatakka, who recently signed a contract with Liiga team Ilves, has been the best defenceman for Team Finland in the whole tournament, and the quarter final game against the US was not an exception. Although Finland lost the game 6-0 and Hatakka was on the ice for two goals against, he played a relatively good game.
Hatakka was able to keep up with the pace of the speedy American forwards and played simple game with the puck. He couldn’t avoid mistakes though as he hesitated a bit too long a few times whether to pinch or not and got out-played by speed because of that.
Hatakka was, rightfully, chosen as one of the best three players for Team Finland in this tournament and showed that he can play at a high level even against this level of competition. While his upside is not sky-high, the potential to be a reliable two-way defenceman even at the NHL level is definitely there.
For people who have seen him in action a lot, Hatakka shows promise to be a reliable defenseman.