Nikkanen is one of the players getting a bigger opportunity in the Finnish Liiga because of the World Juniors.
Most of the players on Finland’s current WJC camp roster are full-time Liiga players which means less-established prospects could get bigger opportunities during the World Junior Championship tournament. This increased opportunity only lasts 5-7 games depending on the team but perhaps these players can force the issue by playing so well that the coaching staff has no choice but to give them a bigger opportunity moving forward as well. Here are some situations that are worth monitoring during that time.
Center Aatu Räty (2021) and winger Aku Räty (ARZ) at the WJC, bigger opportunity for winger Tuukka Tieksola (CAR) and maybe winger Joona Kiviniemi (2020).
The Räty brothers have been ahead of Tieksola for opportunities at the Liiga level but when they’re away, that opens up a juicy opportunity for the talented winger to play a middle-six role with power play time. Tieksola is too good for the junior league at this point but Kärpät is a stacked team, so opportunities have been difficult to get. This might end up being the opportunity he needs.
Kiviniemi has bounced around a bit this season. He started the season with Swift Current Broncos in the WHL, then returned to Finland to play with KeuPa in Mestis, and after five games there, went to the Kärpät organization to play on their junior team. He’s had success there right away, scoring seven points in five games, which may be enough to get a look at the Liiga level if Kärpät are in need of someone who could provide a spark to the team while they’re without the Räty brothers and also dealing with some injuries.
Goalie Justus Annunen (COL) at the WJC, bigger opportunity for Joel Blomqvist (2020).
Annunen is the number one goalie for Kärpät whereas Blomqvist is their number three. They will rely heavily on their number two, Patrik Rybar (DET), to carry them while Annunen is away but Blomqvist could get his first Liiga start during that time – he already made his Liiga debut some days ago when Annunen was dealing with an injury and Rybar got himself ejected from the game.
Winger Matias Maccelli (ARZ) and forward Antti Saarela (CHI) at the WJC, bigger opportunity for winger Roby Järventie (2020).
Maccelli has been a top-six winger for Ilves whereas Saarela has mostly played as their number three center. Järventie has spent most of the season in Mestis but has played a few games in the Liiga as w