Season Preview: Jr. A SM-liiga

Lassi Alanen

2019-08-26

 

We can finally begin the Finnish hockey season tomorrow with the Jr. A SM-liiga (U20 league) starting. I’ll be going over every team and mentioning relevant players from those teams. Because on many cases we don’t have the exact rosters, I’m trying my best to guess which players should play at the U20 level and which likely won’t.

 

The league starts with 18 teams playing in the autumn season. After December, the 10 best teams will play the spring season in the upper league while the bottom eight teams play in the lower league. After the regular season has finished, the teams who finished 7–9 in the upper league and the winner of the lower league will play a best-of-three series to determine the last two playoff teams. The playoffs are best-of-five series apart from the single bronze medal game.

 

Kiekko-Espoo U20

 

Due to financial problems, Blues U20 will play under the Kiekko-Espoo name and organization this season. With Roni Hirvonen moving to Ässät’s Liiga team, Veeti Miettinen (2020) will undoubtedly be the big star of this team. Miettinen, who recently committed to play for the St. Cloud State University next season, scored 27 goals and 61 points in 48 regular season games with Blues U20 last season. Late birthdate eligible for the 2020 draft, Miettinen is a skilled winger with good skating ability and release. He had fantastic chemistry with Hirvonen last season, but now he is expected to carry his own line. Miettinen is a projected second-round pick on most people’s rankings.

 

Joona Haarti (undrafted) is another player who I’ll be watching closely. He was the captain of Blues’ U18 team last season and put up very respectable numbers for a defenceman. Given that he was already draft-eligible in 2019, I wouldn’t call him an NHL prospect at this point, but he is someone to keep an eye on.

 

Kiekko-Espoo also has multiple younger players who might get a chance to play with the U20 squad this season. Niko Huuhtanen (2021) has been on the radar for a while as one of the better forwards in his age group, and I would expect him to play with the U20 team for the majority of the season.

 

There has been rumors that Verner Miettinen (2021, and yes, he is the younger brother of Veeti) will move to North America for this season, but if that doesn’t happen, I would expect him to play with the U20 team as well. Both Huuhtanen and Miettinen will also very likely play for Finland’s U17 national team at the U17 World Hockey Challenge this year. The same could be said for Jimi Suomi (2021), who was one of the better blueliners at the U16 league last season. He is on the smaller side, but he is very mobile and moves the puck well.

 

HIFK U20

 

15-year-old Brad Lambert (2022), who is the top undrafted Finnish prospect in my books, had a great showing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and looks ready to dominate at the U20 level this season. Lambert is an elite talent with very versatile offensive skill set. He is a high-end skater, stickhandler and playmaker with a good release. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lambert makes his Liiga debut this season. He is the top prospect eligible for the 2022 draft alongside Matthew Savoie and Shane Wright.

 

Wiljami Myllylä (undrafted) was one of HIFK’s top forwards last season, putting up 20 goals and 40 points in 52 games. If he gets to play with a playmaker like Lambert, I could see him getting 30+ goals this season. Myllylä is a winger who plays with lots of energy. He s