Why NHL teams should take notice of defenseman Otto Latvala
Otto Latvala played the 2015-16 season with HPK U18, registering eight goals and seven assists in 48 games. I first saw him in a preseason game in August where he was quite good. However, as the season progressed, it was evident that Latvala improved considerably and he started to receive a lot of ice-time. This season, he has been playing key minutes for HPK U20.
Latvala has very good size, being currently listed at 6’5 and 189 pounds. He’s capable of playing a solid, effective defensive game. At the U18 level, Latvala used his reach effectively to separate players off the puck and had good gap control. He’s not the easiest defenseman to get around. I wouldn’t consider his puck skills high end, but he’s got poise and he can make accurate passes to start the attack. Latvala can also unleash quick shots from the point through traffic. He moves well for his size and has improved his mobility, showing good balance, footwork and agility.
At the moment he’s somewhat raw and could need time to develop even further. However, considering the improvements that Latvala has made in a very short period of time, I think he could end up being an NHL draft pick next June. He’s more of a project who has the potential to be a very good player in a few years.