Prospect Ramblings: Projecting Team Finland for the U18 Worlds

Jokke Nevalainen

2019-01-14

 

The WJC is still fresh in our minds but now it’s time to start focusing on the other world tournament which is actually even more interesting for people who scout draft-eligible players: the 2019 U18 World Championship tournament which is played in northern Sweden in the cities of Örnsköldsvik and Umeå.

 

The tournament starts on April 18th which is just about three months away, so I figured I’d take an early look at what Team Finland might look like once we get that far of the season. Finland is coming into the tournament as the reigning champions after winning gold last year in Russia. Can they win gold again? As a Finn, I sure hope so. I will also provide draft projections for the prospects in my lineup.

 

This lineup is done assuming everyone is healthy and available, and obviously a lot can still change before the actual tournament starts. Because it’s the 2019 U18 Worlds, anyone born in 2001 or after that is eligible to participate in the tournament. Most of the players will be born in 2001 but some 2002-born players have a chance to play there as well.

 

Forwards

 

Leevi Aaltonen – Anton Lundell – Kaapo Kakko

Patrik Puistola – Henri Nikkanen – Kasper Simontaival

Marcus Kallionkieli – Antti Saarela – Veeti Miettinen

Aku Räty – Juuso Pärssinen – Tuukka Tieksola

Aarne Intonen

 

At the ripe old age of 17, both Kaapo Kakko (2019) and Anton Lundell (2020) are already two-time World Champions. They played a big role at the U18 Worlds in Russia a year ago, and they played a big role at the WJC in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago. And now, they have an opportunity to win their third World Championship in a span of one year.

 

They’re obviously locks for the top line, and some of the best players in the entire tournament – if they’re available. The Liiga finals are usually played around the same time with this tournament, so if TPS or HIFK is playing there, they won’t be releasing important players from their roster for a junior tournament. Kakko is ranked second overall by Cam Robinson, and Lundell is ranked fourth overall in my November ranking for the 2020 draft.

 

You could put almost anyone with these two but my choice here is Leevi Aaltonen (2019) who is an undersized winger with lots of skill and speed. He’s an offensive player but a capable penalty-killer as well. He’s likely a second-rounder next summer but could slide to the third round because of his size. He’s also a returning player from last year’s team but didn’t play a significant role back then.

 

Behind Kakko, Henri Nikkanen (2019) and Patrik Puistola (2019) are the two most interesting forwards for next summer. I think both have second-line upside and will likely be drafted in the second round. Nikkanen hasn’t had a great season but he’s been bouncing between different leagues. His tools are great, though. He’s a six-foot-two center with great