St. Cloud, MN – The St. Cloud State University Huskies have added two European players to their pipeline with the recent commitment of Verner Miettinen (Espoo, Finland) and Martins Lavins (Riga, Latvia). As neither player has signed a National Letter of Intent as required by the NCAA, the SCSU coaches cannot comment on these players. However, these two players have a number of commonalities in terms of their resumes. The following is a brief summary of each player:
Verner Miettinen – 5’11” 165 | Center | Espoo, Finland
To the SCSU hockey followers, the name should be familiar as this is the brother of current SCSU forward, Veeti Miettinen who will be entering his second season with the Huskies. The older Miettinen led the Huskies in points with 24, was tied for second in goal scoring with Nolan Walker, and led the squad in power-play goals with 5. Verner, who is a year and a half younger is in his first year of eligibility for the NHL Entry Draft in 2021 and is ranked #108 by NHL Central Scouting on their list of European skaters. Brother Veeti was selected 168th in the 6th round in the 2020 draft.
Verner is a left-shooting center that has a different skill set than brother Veeti. He is a smooth-skating playmaker with good on-ice vision but is less of an offensive “attack” player. He’s probably more apt to distribute the puck than the “shoot first” mentality of Veeti. Probably the most prominent aspect of his game is his ability to win a high percentage of his faceoffs. In the recent IIHF U18 World Tournament in May Miettinen finished fourth in the tourney in faceoff percentage winning 43 of 68 faceoffs for a faceoff plus/minus of +18 and faceoff percentage of 63.24%.
Finnish Junior Hockey, a scouting site noted “He distributes the puck to his wingers in a timely manner and his passing was excellent on the power play, where he found seams. He doesn’t have blazing top-end speed when in motion, but he’s an agile skater with good quickness in his first few strides. One of Miettinen’s biggest strengths is his ability to make plays in tight spaces. He remained poised and made the right choices with the puck when under pressure. He has lots of potential as a smart and skilled center who makes plays in all areas of the ice.”
Further, scout Marco Bombino who contributes to McKeens Hockey and spends a lot of time scouting Finnish players told me “They (Verner and Veeti) are different types of players. He has been a good playmaker in the Finnish junior leagues, one who can distribute the puck to his wingers while skating at full speed. He is a good prospect for sure, but not on Veeti’s level at this point in time.”
He had a highly effective offensive year for Kiekko-Espoo in 2019-20 posting 14 goals and 22 assists for 36 points in 49 games. Last season in 19 games, he scored 7 goals and added 3 assists for 10 points. He produced one goal in 6 games in the 2021 IIHF U18 World Junior Championship.
It has not been confirmed as to where Miettinen will compete in 2021-22. The Sioux Falls Stampede carries his rights and if the logistics can be worked out could play in the USHL or back In Finland for Kiekko-Espoo in the U20 League.
Martins Lavins – 6’0″ 176 | Center | Riga, Latvia
You can never have too many players who can play the center position and the Huskies apparently have added another with the commitment of Lavins. The right-shooting Lavins also has strong bloodlines as his father Rodrigo, now retired from the game, had an impressive career going back 17 years at all levels of amateur and professional play ranging from the Soviet League, Russian League East Coast Hockey League, Finnish League, Kontinental Hockey League, Latvian League, and extensive Latvian international and Olympic play.
An interesting footnote is that SCSU head coach Brett Larson knows the elder Lavins from their days in the International Hockey League, West Coast Hockey League, and East Coast Hockey League.
Martins has been creating an impressive resume for himself having competed internationally for Latvia on their U17 and U18 teams and most recently for Team Latvia in the IIHF U18 World Junior Championship where he captained the team. He was also selected by the coaches as one of the three best players on the Latvian team. Most recently, in 20-21 Lavins split time between HK Mogo and HS Riga in the OHL Latvian (top tier) League where he posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 34 games.
Lavins is eligible for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and is currently ranked #101 by NHL Central Scouting on their list of European skaters.
Lines.com described him as a “Playmaking center who captained their Under-18 World Junior club. Has good size, smarts, and is physically active by aggressively finishing checks. Can go wide on defenders, has soft hands to give and receive passes, and drives the net with authority.”
Draft Prospects Hockey, an independent scouting service described Lavins as a “Gritty and grimy two-way forward that’s not afraid to get under the skin of any of his opponents no matter how big or prominent they are. (He’s a) captain for his team and you can see he is beloved by his teammates. He is the type of player that puts his heart into every shift and never gives up on a battle. The work ethic is off the charts. Plays hard on the puck and finishing his checks, looking to gather energy for his team. While his skating is an area that could use work, his strength, and battle level to skate through contact, checks, sticks causing opponents to wrap their hands around him. He’ll take the puck and attack straight on defenders. Takes a ton of faceoffs for his team and does well on the dot. We could see an NHL team taking a swing on him in the later rounds and stay patient with him, letting him develop his skill level. A strong character player with bottom-six buzzsaw energy type potential.”
Lavins is adept in the faceoff circle finishing 12th in the U18 World tournament winning 70 of 129 faceoffs for a plus/minus of +11 and a winning percentage of 54.26 percent.
He is expected to be in camp with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the USHL in July.
Both players could be in St. Cloud as early as the 2022-23 season.