2021-22 Team: Luleå HF J20 (Nationell)
Date of Birth: Jan 23, 2004
Place of Birth: Riga, LAT
Ht: 6-foot-1 Wt: 194 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible
Latvian-born Sandis Vilmanis is hoping to hear his name called at the 2022 NHL Draft and join the likes of other players like Sandis Ozolinsh, Zemgus Girgensons, Rudolfs Balcers and Elvis Merzlikins to play in the NHL.
Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Vilmanis made the jump to Sweden to further his development. He had a pretty productive season with Luleå HF’s J20 team, finishing third in team scoring with 32 points and tied for first in goals with 18. He had strong primary point results as 28 of his 32 points were primary and he had a 0.70 primary point per game average. He also posted an even strength goals for percentage of 70.18%.
Vilmanis’ greatest strength is his skating and offensive skillset. He has a smooth stride with great foot speed and agility. His feet are constantly moving as he has the ability to cut around defenders or attack with speed and cut to the high danger area. He protects the puck extremely well and is always driving hard to the net possessing that power forward-like mentality. He possesses great hands in tight spaces and a quick release when in the home plate area.
When he’s engaged and has the puck, Vilmanis can be a threat especially when on the cycle or on a zone entry with his speed, hands and physicality. There are times where he can wander off and make poor decisions with the puck, leading to a broken play. He needs to show a bit more consistency, intensity and engagement with his play away from the puck and provide better support for his teammates. When he does, he’s very lethal when wide open.
Defensively, Vilmanis does have a good foundation as he has a long reach to pressure puck carriers. While he could work on his positioning and defensive awareness within his own zone, he does a great job at defending against the rush when he’s set up. Much like this goal here at the World U18 Championship.
He used a timely stick check to break up the play and used his speed to quickly transition for a rush chance the other way. He cut between the two American defenders with a slick move and at the right moment, he picked his spot and scored a goal.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Sandis Vilmanis- NHL Draft Projection
Vilmanis has the offensive upside that could make him a quality mid-round selection as a late third or early fourth-rounder. Despite his play away from the puck, he’s a talented goal scorer. With his skillset, I have a feeling that a team may take a big swing for him earlier in the draft, much like the Vancouver Canucks did with Danila Klimovich last year.
“Sandis Vilmanis is a pretty fun skilled scorer to watch. I’ve seen him pull pucks around defenders, drive to the net, and get great elevation on shots in tight to score some impressive goals at the J20 level in Sweden. I’ll be curious to see what happens with him next year. ”- Will Scouch, Scouching / McKeen’s
“He disappears from the games quite a bit and does not stand out except when he uses his skating to his advantage. Its edges are really nice and he can generate pretty decent pace when going full speed. I’d like to see him get more involved without the puck, attacking open spaces and getting himself more open. ”- Mikael Holm, Swedish Scout / SMAHT Scouting
- Skating and edgework
- Soft hands and puck control
- Power forward-like game
Under Construction- Improvements to Make
- Improve play without the puck
- Be more engaged in dirty areas
- Improve decision-making
At best Vilmanis could be a strong middle-six, secondary scorer in the NHL with his release and skating abilities alone. Let’s not forget about the potential of him possibly finding a spot on a power play unit as he’s able to be crafty and dangerous. If he’s able to find more of that intensity when he does not have the puck, he could very well up his value as a prospect.
Risk- Reward Analysis
Risk- 4/5, Reward 3/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense- 5/10, Defense 5/10
Awards / Achievements
Vilmanis won a silver medal for Latvia at the 2021-22 D1A World Junior Championship, scoring twice in five games.
Interviews / Links
Sandis Vilmanis Statistics
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Peter is in his third year with The Hockey Writers, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and heading the Draft and Prospects section. He has previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. He is currently the co-host of the podcast Sticks in the 6ix and a frequent guest on Maple Leafs Lounge. Aside from hockey, he also enjoys drumming, animation and impressions / voices.