Team Finland surprised many people by winning the World Championships on Sunday in the hardest possible way. They beat Sweden in the quarterfinals, Russia in the semifinals, and then for an encore, they beat Canada to take the gold.
Naturally, hungry NHL fans start thinking of adding one of those Finns to their team. Are there any prospects there?
Team Finland 2019 World Champions
|Number||Name||POS||SHOOTS / CATCHES||HT (M/FT)||WT (KG/LBS)||DOB||Age||CLUB||Points in WC|
|24||KAKKO Kaapo||F||L||1.87/6'2''||82/181||2/13/2001||18.3||TPS Turku||7|
|28||JOKIHARJU Henri||D||R||1.83/6'0''||87/192||6/17/1999||19.9||Chicago Blackhawks||3|
|27||LUOSTARINEN Eetu||F||R||1.90/6'3''||86/190||9/2/1998||20.7||KalPa Kuopio||0|
|35||VEHVILAINEN Veini||GK||L||1.84/6'0''||79/174||2/13/1997||22.3||Karpat Oulu||0.897|
|70||MIKKOLA Niko||D||L||1.94/6'4''||84/185||4/27/1996||23.1||San Antonio Rampage||5|
|41||KIVIRANTA Joel||F||L||1.80/5'11''||80/176||3/23/1996||23.2||Vaasan Sport||3|
|91||LAMMIKKO Juho||F||L||1.90/6'3''||91/201||1/29/1996||23.3||Florida Panthers||0|
|7||KASKI Oliwer||D||R||1.90/6'3''||85/187||9/4/1995||23.7||Pelicans Lahti||2|
|20||OJAMAKI Niko||F||R||1.81/5'11''||84/185||6/17/1995||23.9||Tappara Tampere||4|
|30||LANKINEN Kevin||GK||L||1.87/6'2''||84/185||4/28/1995||24.1||Rockford IceHogs||0.942|
|4||LEHTONEN Mikko||D||L||1.83/6'0''||89/196||1/16/1994||25.4||HV71 Jonkoping||7|
|40||LINDBOHM Petteri||D||L||1.90/6'3''||95/209||9/23/1993||25.7||Lausanne HC||3|
|58||HAKANPAA Jani||D||R||1.95/6'5''||99/218||3/31/1992||27.2||Karpat Oulu||2|
|65||MANNINEN Sakari||F||R||1.70/5'7''||71/157||2/10/1992||27.3||Jokerit Helsinki||11|
|15||ILOMAKI Arttu||F||R||1.82/6'0''||89/196||6/12/1991||28.0||Lukko Rauma||2|
|25||RAJALA Toni||F||L||1.79/5'10''||76/168||3/29/1991||28.2||EHC Biel||5|
|45||OLKINUORA Jussi||GK||L||1.89/6'2''||91/201||11/4/1990||28.6||Pelicans Lahti||1.000|
|76||SALLINEN Jere||F||L||1.87/6'2''||91/201||10/26/1990||28.6||Orebro HK||1|
|21||TYRVAINEN Juhani||F||L||1.81/5'11''||86/190||9/11/1990||28.7||IFK Helsinki||5|
|50||KOIVISTO Miika||D||L||1.84/6'0''||88/194||7/20/1990||28.9||Dynamo Moscow||2|
|82||PESONEN Harri||F||L||1.82/6'0''||88/194||8/6/1988||30.8||SCL Tigers Langnau||7|
|55||OHTAMAA Atte||D||L||1.88/6'2''||96/212||11/6/1987||31.6||Karpat Oulu||2|
|19||SAVINAINEN Veli-Matti||F||L||1.82/6'0''||82/181||1/5/1986||33.4||HC Kunlun Red Star||5|
|12||ANTTILA Marko||F||R||2.03/6'8''||104/229||5/27/1985||34.0||Jokerit Helsinki||4|
|71||KUUSELA Kristian||F||R||1.75/5'9''||82/181||2/19/1983||36.3||Tappara Tampere||2|
If we’re looking for prospects, we should start with the youngest players and see what we can find.
Kaapo Kakko is the baby of the team, and if you’re a Rangers fan, you’re in luck. Everyone else can forget having him on their team.
Henri Jokiharju is a Chicago player who split his rookie pro season between the AHL and the NHL. As a talented right-shooting defender, no one can have him until Chicago overpays him in a few years and trades him to Arizona.
Eeto Luostarinen was drafted by Carolina in 2017, but they haven’t signed him. He’s a centre, and while he didn’t get any points in four games for Finland, he did score respectably well in the Liiga. He might actually be someone a team could acquire, but he’s not really the star of this bunch.
Veini Vehvilainen was drafted by Columbus in 2018 as an overager, and he is unsigned. Columbus also has other goalie prospects they seem more interested in. Could he be a Frederik Andersen-style late bloomer? While he only played one game at Worlds, he has been part of a tandem for Kärpät the last two years with excellent results and a championship and a loss in the finals to show for it. He’s an intriguing goalie who has excelled at every level but at just over six feet, isn’t wowing anyone who thinks goalies need to be really tall. I think he might be worth a long look by a team that wants to play him in North America, but does he want that?
Niko Mikkola is a tall yet able defender in the St. Louis organizaion, one short on young prospects. You likely can’t have him.
Joel Kiviranta is an established Liiga player of modest results. He used to be in the Jokerit system, but just isn’t quite KHL calibre, so he moved to a different team. He’s not likely NHL calibre either.
Juho Lammikko is a Florida Panthers grinder-line player who is very effective at playing without the puck and doesn’t do much with it. Finnish Zach Hyman, perhaps. I don’t see them tiring of him yet.
Oliwer Kaski was just signed by the Red Wings, so Detroit fans get a Finn, but none of the rest of us get Kaski.
Niko Ojamaki is an undrafted small right wing who had a good year in the Liiga. He’s likely not quite NHL-level either.
Kevin Lankinen, the goalie who owned the crease at Worlds is also a Chicago prospect who had a good, but not outstanding, rookie season in the AHL/ECHL. I can’t see Chicago trading him to Carolina just yet. But maybe in a few years.
Mikko Lehtonen, who had as many points as Kakko, is a defenceman who has split his time between the SHL and the Liiga. He’s already been scooped up by Jokerit on a two-year deal, and will be in the KHL next year.
And now I’m up to players who are about to turn 26 or older on the list, and they aren’t prospects. Time to get pickier. Who had points out of the rest?
Sakari Manninen was the star of the tournament for Finland in many ways, and anyone who watched him play for Jokerit is not surprised. He had 20 goals in 62 games. Jokerit traded him to Salavat Yulaev (primarily for cash), and he has two years on his contract there.
Toni Rajala is a small left wing who plays in the Swiss league after kicking around the KHL and the SHL. He’s an old Oilers draft pick who had one very good-looking year in the AHL, but it was the lockout year, and he seems to have been bounced to the ECHL for half the season. He looks like the sort of player who might have been something with a different start in North America, but it’s hard to say, maybe it just wasn’t there. At 28, he is where he’s likely to stay.
Mika Koivisto is an excellent Liiga defender from the powerhouse Kärpät team. He’s already been snapped up by Dynamo Moskow of the KHL.
Harri Pesonen had seven points at Worlds, but he’s going right back to the Swiss league where he came from. He tried out North American hockey for two years, and he has two good AHL years to show for it, but at 30, he’s not suddenly an NHLer.
Atte Ohtamaa is an excellent Liiga defender from the powerhouse Kärpät team. He’s returning to that team for another season. Spot the trend here? This gold-medal team had three Kärpät defenders, and no one is getting any of them in the NHL this year.
The closest anyone is coming is their teammate Teemu Kivihalme, one of the late cuts from Team Finland, and he’s a Maple Leaf, so we do get a Finn after all, just not one with a gold medal.
Last and not least is the now-famous man who is over 2 meters tall all game long — Marko Anttila. He is a great player, smooth on his skates, and impossible to move off the puck. He scores a little bit, but his strengths are in his defensive game, and his area of coverage on the ice is massive. You can’t have him, as he’s under contract to Jokerit, which is really where he belongs and excels. At 34, he’s likely not able to make the jump from the KHL to the NHL. Just trust that he’s going to teach Eemeli Räsänen everything he can learn about playing hockey at that height.
So there you have it. There’s not very many Finns to be had here, but I wonder if Sakari Manninen is regretting that KHL deal he signed right now.