All teams in Liiga are closing to their 30-game mark, which means the season is almost halfway through. Let’s take a look how the most relevant NHL-related prospects have been doing during the first half of the season.
Oliver Kapanen – KalPa Kuopio (Montreal Canadiens – #64, 2021)
Kapanen has had a pretty good first half of the season, notching 13 points in 29 games, and is on pace for 26 points this season. He’s a smart, well-rounded center with responsible two-way game, but isn’t flashy in any area which limits his offensive upside. Kapanen’s biggest strengths are his shot and scoring instincts, but he needs to work on his skating and pace of game. Kapanen has been developing pretty well, and I’d say he’s well on track going towards the North America. He’ll probably be Finland’s 1st center in the upcoming World Juniors, which will be a great opportunity for him.
Niko Huuhtanen – Jukurit Mikkeli (Tampa Bay Lightning – #224, 2021)
Huuhtanen came in Liiga after a strong season in WHL, playing for Everett Silvertips. He had a great first half for the season, scoring 9 goals and total of 16 points in 23 games, and he’s on pace for impressive 22 goals and 39 points. He’s a big-bodied, physical winger with a great shot and good overall goal scoring ability. Huuhtanen needs to improve his skating a lot if he wants to play in North American pro leagues. However, his development has been very good for a 7th rounder, and he should be in Finland’s WJC team as well.
Jani Nyman – Ilves Tampere (Seattle Kraken – #49, 2022)
Nyman has had a strong first half of the season for Ilves in Liiga, scoring 7 goals and 10 total points in 20 games. He’s in pace for 19 goals and 27 points this season, which would be a great statline for a D+1-player. Nyman’s a big-bodied winger with a good shot, finishing and scoring instincts. He’s been improving his skating and well-rounded game, but still has a lot of work to do if he wants to be an NHL player. Nyman is surely going to join Kapanen and Huuhtanen and play for Finland in December’s WJC.
Joakim Kemell – JYP Jyväskylä (Nashville Predators – #17, 2022)
As opposed to Kapanen, Huuhtanen and Nyman, Kemell’s development hasn’t been quite as good as expected. However, he’s still been able to score 9 goals in 21 games and is pace for solid 18 goals for the season. For Kemell’s style of player, who relies heavily on goal scoring, goal scoring is the most important thing. I haven’t seen much progress on his game around scoring, but there’s absolutely no need to be concerned as a Nashville fan, as he’s still just 18 years old and has a lot of time to develop. Kemell should be the leading forward of Finland in the upcoming WJC.
Topias Vilen – Pelicans Lahti (New Jersey Devils – #129, 2021)
Topias Vilén has been one of the more surprising cases of this season. Before the season, he looked more like a defensive-minded defender, but has showed some good offensive flashes this season with much improved on-puck abilities. He now has 10 points through first 21 games, and is on pace for 25 points, which would top all his career-highs, even if you include his junior seasons all the way from U16. Vilén should get an invite to Finland’s WJC team, and will likely pair up with Aleksi Heimosalmi for Finland’s 1st pairing.
Other NHL-related prospects in Liiga during first half of the season
Aatu Jämsen (LAK) has had a solid season, scoring 8 points in the first 17 games. He’s a winger, whose game is based on skill and creativity.
Aleksi Heimosalmi (CAR) has had a solid development after the draft, but has found scoring this year after getting a better role. The mobile, puck-moving two-way defender is on pace for 24 points, and should form Finland’s 1st pairing in the World Juniors with Topias Vilen.
Aku Räty‘s (ARZ) development has been very steady, but now as he’s playing his D+4-season, he’s looked good and is on pace for 40+ points for the season.