Liiga Prospect Report

by niko on January 18, 2017
liiga

The 2017 World Junior Championship tournament didn’t go according to plan for Team Finland. It was the first time that a defending champion had to play in the relegation round in this tournament. The Finns finished ninth overall after beating Latvia. Their performance hasn’t been good historically under head coach Jukka Rautakorpi, even though he is one of the most successful coaches in the Liiga over the past few decades. Jussi Ahokas came in and replaced Rautakorpi as the head coach for the last three games. Team Finland won all three remaining games. Ahokas is yet to lose a game when coaching Team Finland.

YEARS WITH RAUTAKORPI

1995

2008

2009

2017

FINISHED

5th

6th

7th

9th

 

One bright spot for Pikku Leijonat (Little Lions) was their goalie, Veini Vehviläinen. He managed to put up great numbers even though the team in front of him was in turmoil. In six games the 19-year-old Finn posted a .931 SVS% and 1.51 GAA.  Vehviläinen is now playing for Vaasan Sport. Earlier this month, JYP loaned their number one goalie prospect to Vaasan Sport for the rest of this season. The goalie coach for Vaasan Sport is the same as it was for Team Finland this year, Aki Näykki. 2016 wasn’t an easy year for Vehviläinen. First he lost the number one gig at the WJC and he didn’t play great for the JYP. This is a great chance for him to continue developing under a familiar coach on his promising career.

 

Another promising goalie comes from Hämeenlinna. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has earned an A-rating in the NHL Central Scouting Players to watch list. He should go off the boards in the first or second round at the NHL draft in Chicago. In 17 games this season with the HPK U20 team, he has SVS% of .911. Last year in the WJC he played three games with the U18 team, posting a .917 SVS% and 2.0 GAA.

Niko Mikkola was drafted in the 2015 entry draft in the fifth round, 127th overall by the St. Louis Blue. He is having a breakout year with Kalpa. In 38 games played he has three goals and eight assists. The 6-4 defender is worth keeping an eye for because he might sign his ELC with the Blues. Besides his offensive upside, he can help your team with penalty minutes, hits and blocks. Mikkola was a part of the Finnish U20 Championship team last year and has also played in the Euro Hockey Tour with the men’s national team. Niko Salminen