According to Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News, Finnish defenceman Julius Honka has confirmed his intention to play with the Broncos this season. Swift Current selected him in the first round of the CHL Import Draft 34th overall. The team has yet to confirm Honka’s intentions although Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb told me last week they were very confident Honka would be with them.
It’s a big addition as Honka was recently put on the NHL Central Scouting international watch list for the 2013 NHL Draft. He is considered a puck moving defenceman who has a very good chance of being on Team Finland for the World Junior Championship this December and is playing for them at the exhibition games in Lake Placid. Honka also played for them at U18s where he had 4 points in 7 games.
Honka is a right handed D from the same home town as Broncos goaltender Eetu Laurikainen. He put up 15 points in 42 games for JYP U20 last season. Like all import draft picks you don’t know for sure what you’ve got until you see him in person, but all reports I’ve read on Honka have been good. He’s only listed at 5’10 but he is apparently a good skater with good vision and a strong compete level. We’ll see when he gets here.
The additions of Honka and Jordan Harris should make competition for power play ice time interesting. The point positions on the top unit are wide open with both Reece Scarlett and Richard Nedomlel likely graduating to the pro ranks this season. Brycen Martin and Dillon Heatherington would likely be in that mix. Bobby Zinkan also stands out as an offensive minded defenceman. That’s one story to watch in camp and exhibition.
If Honka is coming that makes things tougher for big Belarusian forward Igor Leonenko. Despite his US passport the latest was that he will still be listed as an import by the WHL so he’d have to unseat one of Laurikainen or Honka to make the Broncos in training camp this year. That may be a tall task. It will be interesting to see if he has the talent to force Swift Current’s hand after he had an excellent playoff in California last season and played internationally for Belarus.