Red Wings prospect Eemil Viro entering the 2022-23 season with confidence

DETROIT — At just 17 years old, Eemil Viro made his professional hockey debut with TPS Turku of the SM-Liiga, Finland’s most elite league.

And when reflecting on his development, the young defenseman acknowledged he’s come a long way since his inaugural 2019-20 campaign.

“When I came into the league, I was really small,” said Viro, who was the Red Wings’ 70th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. “A young guy finding the way on how to survive game to game.”

Now as a 20-year-old, Viro has used his experience as a foundation for helping him compete with confidence.

“I’m a pretty good skater,” he said. “I can play with my own strengths.”

The 6-foot, 165-pound blueliner earned three goals and four assists in 52 games last season, helping TPS to a league final berth.

“I think defensively, I got a lot better,” Viro said. “Our team played really well, got better and in the end, got to the finals.”

When speaking to the media in his 2021-22 end-of-season media availability session, Red Wings executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman was optimistic that prospects like Viro, defenseman Albert Johansson and winger Elmer Soderblom could make an impact in North America soon.

“We would like to bring them over to play in North America next year,” Yzerman said on May 2. “Whether they make the Detroit Red Wings or play in the American Hockey League remains to be seen. But we’re very excited about having all three of them in our system.”

Viro, who signed a three-year entry-level contract with Detroit last May, knows adjusting to the North American-sized ice sheet will be a challenge. Fortunately, it’s a test he’s “really looking forward to.”

“The game (in North America) is gonna be a lot faster,” Viro said. “And a lot more competition. It’s gonna be harder in the battles.”

Video: Eemil Viro at Detroit Red Wings Development Camp

According to Viro, Detroit’s player development staff is helping him focus on specifics like special awareness to improve his overall game for the 2022-23 campaign.

“They said to get better in battles and to come here to play on the rink, which is much smaller,” Viro said. “A lot more competition in the corners.”

Viro also detailed the benefits of speaking to Niklas Kronwall, who serves as an advisor to Yzerman and helps oversee the Red Wings’ European player development.

“He said, ‘Keep improving your skills,'” Viro said about the advice he received from Kronwall. “‘And play with your skills, and it’s gonna be fine.'”

After participating in the Red Wings’ 2022 Development Camp in July, Viro is preparing for the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship from Aug. 9-20 in Edmonton, where he will represent his native Finland.

“It’s fantastic for players to go into these world junior tournaments,” Yzerman said on July 14. “They’re great experiences individually for them, but also in their development as hockey players playing in big games, do-or-die games and under the pressure, I think it’s great.”

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