All images used on the collage are taken from Liiga.fi
Welcome to my first ever Liiga report! You may have seen my previous work here providing the SHL report but I’m now officially taking over the Liiga coverage as well. If you want to see highlight clips of these players, I suggest checking my Twitter feed @JokkeNevalainen because I frequently post short clips of SHL and Liiga prospects in there.
Regular season is already over in Liiga, and the Wild Card round of the playoffs is over as well. This report will mostly focus on the regular season because the playoffs are just getting started. Let’s get going.
Kärpät were the best team in the league by a wide margin but that didn’t stop them from acquiring even more offensive talent near the trade deadline as they added winger Kristian Vesalainen (Jets) from HPK. Vesalainen had a great season, scoring a total of 43 points in 49 games which was most among teenagers in the league and puts him high on the all-time list as well. Vesalainen’s 22 goals were sixth best in the league, and his 14 power play goals were the most in the league.
Vesalainen has taken huge steps in his development since last season, and he’s been improving throughout the season as well. Vesalainen has been especially dangerous on the power play where he loves blasting one-timers from the right circle, and his power play prowess was a big reason why Kärpät wanted to add him to their team to help their power play. Vesalainen was acquired as a rental because he’s expected to cross the pond after this season.
Center Rasmus Kupari (2018) had 14 points in 39 games which may not seem like much but it’s actually 21st on the all-time list among under-18 players. I have more about him at the end of this article.
One interesting overage player for the draft is 21-year-old goaltender Veini Vehviläinen. Many believed him to get drafted already in previous drafts but it hasn’t happened yet. Size might be one reason he hasn’t been drafted as he’s only 6-0 which is not ideal for a goalie but Vehviläinen is having a great season in Liiga, and someone should take a flyer late in the draft.
TPS finished the season second in the league. Their most interesting prospect is defenseman Olli Juolevi (Canucks) who finished the season with 19 points in 38 games. There are two ways to look at Juolevi’s season – on one hand, his 0.5 points-per-game average is 18th best in the league among defensemen which is impressive because he only played 18 minutes per game. But on the other hand, it’s a bit worrisome that Juolevi didn’t earn more ice time. Those 18 minutes included about two minutes of power play time and less than a minute while short-handed. Juolevi probably needs at least one more season of development before he can play in the NHL, and he also needs to get stronger this summer. Juolevi struggled a lot after the World Juniors but his play has improved lately.
Forward Patrik Virta (Rangers) finished the season with 40 points in 58 games which was fourth best on the team, although one of the players ahead of him was acquired late in the season. The recently turned 22-year-old is capable of playing center and wing, and those 40 points were eighth best in the league among under-24 players. Virta played about 17 minutes per game which included three and a half minutes on the power play and less than a minute short-handed.
Winger Petrus Palmu (Canucks) played his rookie season in Liiga after spending three years in the OHL, and his 36 points in 59 games was best in the league among rookies. Palmu played a little less than 16 minutes per game which included about two and a half minutes on the power play. Palmu is a talented offensive winger who can handle the physical play at this level but he’s a long shot to make it to the NHL. His play without the puck has improved late in the season, though, and that’s important if he wants to play in the NHL at some point.
Winger Markus Nurmi (Senators) finished his rookie season with 21 points in 51 games, and the 19-year-old forward also represented Finland at the World Juniors in Buffalo. Nurmi’s average ic