Finnish U19 national team, consisting of 1998 born players, faced Czech Republic three times this past weekend. I attended the last two games. Finland defeated Czechs 4-0 on Saturday, scoring three goals in the first period and playing a smart, steady defensive game in the lead the rest of the game. Dallas Stars prospect Markus Ruusu made 23 saves in the win, including a couple of highly athletic stops. Czech Republic won the last game 3-2 in shootout. Czechs showed some improvement and were really close to win in regulation; however, Markus Nurmi was able to tie the game with only one second left in the third period. Eventually, Ondrej Sulek was the only player to score in the shootout.
Prospect Notes (Team Finland)
D Tarmo Reunanen (NY Rangers prospect): Reunanen had a few great moments on Saturday, showing excellent poise and crisp passing. He was able to make keep a play alive in the offensive zone with a nifty move. He also made a nice fake in the second period and took a quick wrist shot from a sharp angle. He scored with an accurate wrist shot in the other game and added one assist on Markus Nurmi’s tying goal. His puck movement wasn’t as sharp as on Saturday. Also, defensive zone coverage is something he could work on. He’s not particularly big nor physical and there were a few times when he had to defend for long stretches in the defensive zone. He lacked toughness and he also left opponents unmarked on a few occasions.
F Markus Nurmi (Ottawa Senators prospect): Nurmi was the most noticeable Finnish forward, particularly in the second game where he was around the puck a lot. He can put some serious power to his wrist shot which is both hard and quick. Accuracy could have been better at times. He has good size and he was able to buy offensive zone time because of his strong puck protection skills. Nurmi was very difficult to knock off the puck. He had pretty good speed for a 6’4 forward, but he needed time to get going. His puck handling ability and passing skills were not truly high end, especially when there was less time to make plays. However, he did a fine job in zone entries and found ways to get into good scoring areas.
F Topias Haapanen: Haapanen was one of Finland’s top forwards in my viewings, starting on the third line before being moved to the first line for the last game. He had good vision in the offensive zone and also showed some creativity. He made some several strong, determined net drives, cutting inside and creating scoring chances. Not the quickest of forwards but he’s nevertheless strong skater in a straight line. Haapanen has been one of the top scorers in the U20 league this season, forming a high-scoring line with Joona Koppanen and Joona Ikonen.
F Riku Sihvonen: A 6’3 right wing who worked hard and competed in all three zones, Sihvonen was also able to contribute offensively from time to time. His puck skills were quite good. He created a nice scoring chance in Saturday’s game, skating well with the puck and making a creative deke. He also had a pretty quick wrist shot. However, there were times when he was caught being too high in the offensive zone. He didn’t seem to be the most well-rounded player off the puck. Also, I thought he could work on his edge work and acceleration, to be able to become a more explosive skater.
Nicklas Nousiainen and Eetu Luostarinen were solid on the fourth line with both getting on the scoreboard, plus Nousiainen made smart defensive plays…Luostarinen was named Finland’s best player of the game in the 4-0 win…Defenseman Roope Laavainen showed very solid skating mechanics, smooth puck handling skills and had a quick stick to interrupt plays…Forward Samuli Ratinen had good moments in both games, despite rather limited ice-time…Joona Ikonen was among team’s better forwards in the final game as the Ilves U20 forward executed well with smart passes and had a pair of scoring attempts…