To think a major international hockey event is taking place and Teemu Selanne is not going to be involved is quite crazy. It doesn’t seem that long since he helped lead his country to a bronze medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, an event that saw him rise to the occasion.
After playing in the previous two World Cups, both coming after lengthy hiatus’ by the NHL, Selanne will not be suiting up for the team that won the silver back in 2004, Finland. Fortunately, with the old guard taking a break, a bunch of new, fresh faces have been proving themselves worthy of getting a shot on a big stage.
Finland is currently ranked fourth in the International Ice Hockey Federation 2015 men’s rankings, partly thanks to the stars of the Euro Hockey Tour translating their success into positive World Championship results. Despite that, Finland doesn’t have a massive NHL crop to choose from. Without superstars such as Crosby, McDavid, Ovechkin, etc., they’ll have to get some goals from some unlikely faces. That’s something they’re capable of, which makes them a dangerous team to watch when the going gets tough.
To get you prepared a month early, here is Part Two of Team Finland’s World Cup projection series. Click here for Part One.
Valtteri Fippula – Alex Barkov – Mikael Granlund
Finland is well on its way to having one heck of a strong prospect base, and two of these linemates are among the best examples. But experience will be very key, and that’s what Fippula brings to the table. Typically a centreman, the 31-year-old is interchangeable between the wing and the middle thanks to his incredible work effort everywhere on the ice. A former Stanley Cup champion with the Detroit Red Wings, Fippula was a junior hockey player back during the last World Cup, but he did get a bronze medal at the 2004 World Juniors. He has never won anything better than a bronze on the international stage, but his 85 goals are the most by a Finn over the past five NHL campaigns. He didn’t play in the 2014 Olympics due to an injury, so that will just add to his fire once the summer tournament comes along.
For Barkov, the Florida Panthers forward hasn’t been in the NHL for long, but his impact has surely been there. Just 20-years-old, the young star finished the 2014 Olympics with the best faceoff percentage in the entire tournament, knocking up a total of 83.33% during his time playing with Selanne. The second youngest scorer in World Junior history thanks to a goal at the age of 16 years and 4 months back in 2012, Barkov holds both Finnish and Russian citizenship but chose to play with the blue and white team many years ago, the country he was born in. Still inexperienced compared to many of his peers, Barkov is improving in every game he suits up for with the Florida Panthers, who drafted him back in 2013, so this could be a big tournament for the forward.
Granlund and Barkov have both had some slow starts in the NHL, mostly due to busy depth charts between both organizations, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be huge performers internationally. The creator of one of the greatest World Championship goals we have ever seen, Granlund led the Finns at the 2014 Olympics with seven points while suiting up with Selanne and Barkov. A small, skilled forward with some special team experience, Granlund is almost always a point-per-game player internationally and should continue to be a very capable play-maker for the future.
Jussi Jokinen- Mikko Koivu- Teuvo Teravainen
Jokinen is one of the most interesting cases on this team. A 32-year-old with 458 points in 741 career NHL games, Jokinen is an explosive forward with a history of having some of the best dekes around the NHL. At 32-years-old, Jokinen has proven that he’s good for about 45+ points a season while providing ten years of NHL experience to the young guns in Florida. That was similar to his role at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, where Jokinen wasn’t counted on for scoring, but more for his ability to help in a leadership role. Look for a similar result in Toronto, with Jokinen maybe putting up 4-5 points in the process.
While Koivu’s production faltered slightly in 2014-2015, the favourite to get named captain at the World Cup is more than capable of being a successful NHLer. Good for about 50-60 points a year, Koivu actually played a depth role the last time the World Cup was held back in 2004. Koivu hasn’t seen a lot of action internationally over the past two years, with his two Euro Hockey Tour games in 2012 being the last ever since he missed the Olympics. His leadership, plus his ability to be a proven play-maker, makes him a very interesting option to watch once the tournament gets going.
The youngest player on the line by 11 years, Teuvo Teravainen is another gem from the recent Finnish prospect gold mine. Internationally, he’s no slouch. At the 2014 World Juniors, an event where the Finns looked screwed out of the gate, Teravainen helped lead his country to a gold medal with a roster filled with injuries thanks to his tournament leading 15 points. He’s basically been a winner everywhere he’s played, and that was capped off with a Stanley Cup title in his NHL rookie season last year thanks to 10 points in 18 playoff games. He can score, he can make tremendous plays and he can play both centre and along the boards as a winger. What else can you ask for?
Lauri Korpikoski – Jori Lehtera – Tuomo Ruutu
Korpikoski isn’t the type of guy you put into important situations late in a game, but he’s a solid depth guy that brings some good traits to the team. He’s almost certain to be used on the penalty kill if he makes the team, and his size and speed makes him fit as a good energy guy. After a few seasons of mediocrity with the Arizona Coyotes, Korpikoski could thrive during his time with the Edmonton Oilers, who appear to be on the upswing for the first time in years. His last outing with the Finns was a solid one, posting two goals and two assists in six games at the Olympics last year.
After getting drafted in the third round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Lehtera finally made his NHL debut on the third line with St. Louis last year with solid results. The 27-year-old power centre translated his incredible 12 point performance at the 2014 World Championships into a 44 points rookie season in the NHL, just two points off his KHL career-high total from 2012-2013. Lehtera has 24 points in 30 career men’s international games, so look for him to be an impactful player in the bottom six at the World Cup.
It’s not a secret that Ruutu’s best days are behind him. In fact, the last time (minus the lockout) that he improved his point totals from the previous season was back in 2010-2011, the same year where he scored six goals at the World Championships. At 32-years-old, he’s part of the old crowd on Finland that won’t be called upon for many more international tournaments, so he better make the most of it. Regardless, he’s participated in seven IIHF international tournaments, winning medals in all of them, and he even skated with Finland at the previous World Cup. His competitive nature, plus his experience internationally, should help him earn a spot on the team.
Leo Komarov – Joonas Kemppainen – Joonas Donskoi
Every single year, Komarov makes himself one of the most interesting players to watch internationally. An Estonian-born forward with Russian and Finnish ties, Komarov is almost always a lock for Finland whenever he gets the chance (and with him playing on the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s pretty much a sure thing). A good skater with the ability to be one of the more intriguing four liners in the NHL, Komarov’s 47 World Championship games makes him one of the most experienced players internationally on the squad. He wont score for you, but look for him to make a big impact defensively and physically.
Kemppainen is probably the least known player on this list, but that doesn’t make him less worthy. A 27-year-old prospect with the Boston Bruins, Kemppainen had 10 goals and 14 assists in 19 Finnish Liiga playoff games to lead Karpat Oulu to the championship. A big centreman with decent skating, Kemppainen will be an under-the-radar project in Boston worth keeping an eye on. With 2016-2017 being the final of a two-year deal, look for him to make as big of an impact as he possibly can on the world stage.
If you missed the 2015 World Championships, you missed out on the enticing exploits of Joonas Donskoi. His five goals led Finland at the annual Spring tournament, and while it wasn’t enough to take the tournament lead, he seemed to always score late in the game to either take the win or tie things up. The clutch winger caught the interest of NHL teams, eventually signing with the Florida Panthers for the upcoming season. The MVP of the Liiga playoffs (where he and Kemppainen won the title with Oulu), the 23-year-old finished the regular season with 19 goals and 30 assists in 58 games for his best pro season to date. Can his success translate into a long-term NHL future?
If you haven’t heard of Pulkkinen yet, you’ll hear a lot about him in the future. league-high 34 goals in 46 games. While playing his sophomore AHL campaign with the Grand Rapids Griffins last year, Pulkkinen finished with a league high 34 goals despite playing in just 46 games. Just imagine what he could have done if he didn’t play 31 games with the Detroit Red Wings! Pulkkinen has a wicked shot that has helped him internationally in the past, even tying a World Junior record by scoring four goals in the third period of a game against Denmark back in 2012. He’s only ever played one international game at the men’s level for Finland in the past, but he’ll definetly be a great scoring weapon as the 13th forward.
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