Liiga halfway through season in Finland

by niko on December 16, 2016

 

 

Only one game will be played tomorrow (Dec. 17) and then it is time for the Liiga’s Christmas break. The grind resumes Dec. 26.

We are halfway through the regular season in the Liiga and the world junior tournament is just around the corner. Team Finland’s camp roster is out and this time we are going to focus on the players in this list who are playing in the Liiga.

Otto Koivula of the Ilves, Tampere is tied for the lead for all rookies with 16 points in 29 games played. He’s on pace for 32 points in 60 games, while averaging 2.58 shots per game. Patrik Laine scored 33 points in 46 games last season in the Liiga. Koivula is shooting at a sustainable eight per cent. All of his goals have come on the man advantage.

Ilves is fourth last in the league standings, giving up fourth-most shots per game. Koivula’s COR%-C is 47.5 and his PDO sits at 97.2. These numbers are decent considering how poorly the team is playing this season. The big winger has only three penalties, all two-minute minors. He doesn’t take any faceoffs, he isn’t deployed on the penalty kills and he’s got zero shootout attempts. I am a bit concerned about the lack of goals at even strength. Lets see how the WJC will impact his stock.

Jerry Turkulainen is generating the most scoring chances per played minute for his team JYP, Jyväskylä. In 21 games played he has three goals, seven assists and two penalty minutes to go along with a minus-2 rating. He’s averaging 14:27 time on ice and 2:33 on the power play. The skilled winger is shooting the puck 1.95 times a night on average. He can see plays developing well and he is one of the hardest-working guys on and off the ice. The biggest obstacle in his way is that he is only 5-7 and 146 pounds. Young Jerry is playing a solid possession game. He has COR%-C of 57.6 and a 100.4 PDO.

The one defender I am most excited to see in the WJC is Miro Heiskanen. Even though his cooled off a bit after the hot start, he still has a very high upside to his offensive game. He could easily end up being one of the top offensive D-Men in the tournament. Heiskanen has continued to fire the puck often, 2.6 shots per game, and is averaging the second-most power-play time on his team. He leads the team in COR%-C with 53.0 and has a solid 103.8 PDO. The skilled defender is making steady progress and could go in the top 15 of the 2017 NHL draft.

Vaasan Sport has done a really good job in bringing up young defender Robin Salo. In 26 games, this smart two-way defender has one goal, seven assists and eight penalty minutes. Salo is one of the best defenders on this team at the moment. He is one of three defenders in Sport that have a plus-rating (plus-3). Salo is slinging the puck at goalies at an impressive rate, 3.69 shots per game. The 18-year-old is averaging 20:27 of ice time. He is deployed more on the penalty kill than on the power play, but has shown flashes of his offensive side in tournaments with Team Finland.

Flying under some peoples’ radar is Otto Leskinen. He had a solid season last year splitting time for Kalpa’s juniors and the Liiga team. There were some injuries earlier in the season to Kalpa’s defense corps that opened the door for him. So far, he has delivered. In 24 games he has one goal, five assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-1 rating. He is averaging 1.6 shots, 14:54 of ice time and 42 seconds on the power-play per game. Leskinen has been a solid puck-moving, first-pairing defender. He is calm and poised, gives excellent tape-to-tape passes and rarely makes mistakes moving the puck out of his own end. The 5-11 smooth-skating defender has soft hands and isn’t afraid to use them. I have seen him make some daring but successful dekes at the blueline. His 55.4 COR%-C and 100,4 PDO are nothing to shrug at. Leskinen has represented team Finland four years in a row (U17, U18 and U20 twice), 2016 will be his fifth.

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Kalpa retired Kimmo Timonen’s number 44 earlier this month. It was an emotional night packed with Finnish hockey legends like Saku Koivu and Jere Lehtinen, who came to pay their respects to one of the biggest and most successful careers in Finnish hockey history.

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If you haven’t already, listen to the latest episode of Dobberprospects Radio now! This show has tons of information about prospects around the world. It would be foolish not to take advantage over your opponents who maybe haven’t heard of the show yet. In episode eight the guys discuss the key players from each nation who can have an impact in both the tournament, and for your fantasy roster in the future. Follow Dobberprospects Radio on Twitter @DPR_show.


 

Niko Salminen