Liiga Update: January 2018

by Hayden Soboleski on January 20, 2018

This month's update will be a recap of Team Finland’s performance in the WJC. Overall the tournament was another huge disappointment considering the talent that this team had.

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In the past Finland has relied on its strong teamplay in order to compensate for its lack of elite players. This year the talent was there, but they didn’t get the job done. The team looked slow and sloppy. There were a lot of defensive breakdowns. They lacked scoring and the goaltending was not able to bail them out when they needed it the most. Could it be that the coaching staff did not get the most out of this group? On the international level, Finland has been known for its quality goaltending and great coaching. The rest of the world seems to have caught up on them in these areas of the game. Does Finland have a coach who can implement modern system that is active, fast and controls the pace? Was this a case of a system suitable for less talented players? Another concern for Finnish hockey is the lack of young players drafted between rounds two and seven. From the Finnish players that were drafted between 2010 and 2016, there are currently only five players in a significant role playing in the NHL. For comparisons,  Sweden has 27.

 

Now for some player evaluation:

 

Many thought that Eeli Tolvanen would finish at the top of the scoring race. He shot the puck often but could not find the back of the net at the rate we have come to expect from him. Other than that he was solid and played responsibly at both ends of the ice. Tolvanen seems to have picked things up in the KHL where he left them before the WJC.

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Kristian Vesalainen was the best scorer and probably the best forward of the Finnish team. He was able to elevated his game during the tournament and was really strong on the puck.

 

Otto Koivula was another Finn that could not get to his regular level. He looked nervous and tried to force the play often.

 

Young Rasmus Kupari was the 13th forward with limited ice time. He had some great moments showing of his skills with the puck, but eventually his physical limitations became evident.

 

Miro Heiskanen was not bad, but he did not perform at his maximum level.

 

I would say that Olli Juolevi played better than Heiskanen during the tournament. He has had a terrific season in Finland so far with TPS.

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Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen looked shaky throughout the tournament. For a big goalie he has quick feet and his lateral movement is great. He tended to overplay rather than rely on his positioning. He also gave up a lot of rebounds. Despite his performance in the tournament, he remains as one of the best goalie prospects for the upcoming draft.

 

Jesperi Kotkaniemi did not make the U20 team but he has fared well in the Liiga.

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Niko Salminen