Earlier today, Team Finland released their roster for their final training camp before the World Juniors. That roster includes 14 forwards, eight defensemen, and three goalies. The final roster can have 20 skaters and three goalies, so they will need to cut two more skaters at some point. At least one of those cuts will be a forward and the other one can be either a forward or a defenseman, depending on if they want to go with eight defensemen or 13 forwards.
Finnish teams have frequently used eight defensemen whenever possible but then they have no replacement available if one of their forwards gets injured during the tournament, so it’s not an easy choice to make. Because of that, I wouldn’t be surprised if they started the tournament with 12 forwards and seven defensemen, and then after a few games decide if they want to add the 13th forward or the eighth defenseman. With that in mind, here is my current lineup projection for Team Finland.
At this point, we know that projected top ten pick Anton Lundell (2020) will miss the tournament because of the injury he suffered about three weeks ago. There was a slight possibility of him getting back quickly enough for the tournament but it didn’t happen. He should return to Liiga action around the time the World Juniors are over but he won’t be able to help Finland in their quest for back-to-back gold medals.
Without Lundell, the only returning forward from last year’s team is Rasmus Kupari (LAK). This will be his third WJC tournament; he was Finland’s 13th forward two years ago, and then their number one center a year ago. This year, there’s no question about his role as he will be the number one center once again and one of the top players on the team.
Winger Matias Maccelli (ARZ) is the leading U20 scorer in the Liiga by a wide margin, and he is one of the most talented offensive players on this team. He is expected to create a lot of offense at even strength and run the top power play unit from the half-wall. Maccelli could very easily be Finland’s leading scorer in the tournament. He may not be a household name at this point but he will be after the World Juniors.
There’s no obvious third guy to put on the top line but there are a lot of pretty good options. I chose undrafted winger Aleks Haatanen who has mostly played in Mestis this season but has been one of the best forwards for Finland in their U20 tournaments this season. He has a lot of offensive talent but I’ve also noticed improvements in his defensive play and on-ice effort this season, so I would give him the first chance next to Kupari and Maccelli.
Winger Patrik Puistola (CAR) was badly injured just nine days ago but because he’s listed on the camp roster, I have to assume that there’s a good chance he’s able to play at the World Juniors. Puistola is another player I considered for top line right wing position but I wanted to re-unite him with undrafted center Kristian Tanus