Article has been updated on December 3rd after the release of the final camp roster, and again on December 15th after confirmation that Kristian Vesalainen has declined invitation to join the team.
The World Junior Championship tournament is a month away, so it’s time to start projecting which players are likely to be playing there and what kind of usage they might get. Since I’m from Finland, I decided to start with the Young Lions, and then continue with other European teams in the following weeks.
This lineup is created with the assumption that full-time NHL players Miro Heiskanen, Henri Jokiharju and Jesperi Kotkaniemi are not available for the tournament. Anything is possible but right now it’s looking very unlikely Finland would get any of those three to their team. I am also assuming Urho Vaakanainen, Eemeli Räsänen and Niklas Nordgren are unable to play because of injuries.
First line: Linus Nyman – Rasmus Kupari – Aleksi Heponiemi
Kupari and Heponiemi have played together this entire season in the Finnish Liiga, so that pair is a lock for the tournament as well. They’ve been trending upwards this season, and they’re near the league lead in points already. Nyman was planted on their side at the most-recent U20 tournament in Czech Republic, and it seemed to be working because that line was one of the best in the tournament. Nyman has been passed over in the draft twice but he’s a very skilled player, and he’s playing pro hockey in the Liiga this season.
Second line: Eeli Tolvanen – Anton Lundell – Kaapo Kakko
Tolvanen will be one of the biggest stars in the tournament if the Predators allow him to go. Both Kakko and Lundell are just 17 years old but they are important players on their Liiga teams already now. Kakko has been on the top line for TPS this entire season whereas Lundell has been playing mostly on the second and third line for HIFK. Lundell isn’t eligible until the 2020 NHL Draft because of his late birthday but he is expected to play a major role on this team already now. Both Kakko and Lundell are capable of playing center and wing, so it’s also possible they switch spots depending on how they play.
Third line: Sampo Ranta – Aarne Talvitie – Jesse Ylönen
Talvitie is a versatile player who can play both center and wing. He’s also a natural leader who’ll likely wear a letter in the tournament – maybe even the ‘C’. He’s having a great season at