Finland has gone unbeaten at the U18 World Championship thus far after defeating the host team Slovakia, Switzerland and Latvia. Here are three notes from the tournament.
1. Joni Ikonen and Kristian Vesalainen leading the way offensively
Finland’s first line has been excellent thus far. Rasmus Kupari was moved to the third line after Linus Nyman joined the team for the second game against Switzerland. Joni Ikonen scored hat trick against Latvia and has recorded 4-3-7 stat line, while Kristian Vesalainen currently leads the tournament in scoring with three goals and five assists. The first line has shown good chemistry.
Ikonen is an exciting, crafty forward who handles the puck really well and has a good arsenal of dekes. He possesses an excellent shot and sees the ice extremely well. Ikonen has competed away from the puck throughout the tournament, showing a high work rate.
Vesalainen has also been impressive. He has been playing a straight-forward game and putting the puck to the net, leading the team with 14 shots on goal. He has had plenty of scoring chances thus far and has capitalized quite well on the opportunities. He has made several really skilled plays with the puck while using his speed and strength to his advantage.
As anticipated, Miro Heiskanen has been the leader on the defense, making an excellent first pass and carrying the puck up the ice effectively. He has put up six assists while also playing a steady defensive game.
2. Aarne Talvitie keeps rising for the draft
The Blues U20 forward finished strongly with his club team and has continued to elevate his game here. Aarne Talvitie is always involved in the game and has solid offensive skills. He has displayed a very good shot from the slot and he’s willing to shoot from anywhere. He has positioned himself well in the offensive zone. The captain is one of the most hard-working forwards on the Finnish team and battles in all three zones.
3. Special teams have been efficient
Finland’s power play has gone 6 for 10 so far, with four goals being scored against Latvia. The first power play unit has been particularly strong. With the newest addition of JYP defenseman Urho Vaakanainen, the power play could become even more effective. Vaakanainen is highly mobile and has a solid point shot. These are assets that will definitely help the team going forward.
The penalty killing has also managed well, allowing just one power play goal (88.89%). I will give some credit to forwards Teemu Engberg and Olli Maansaari as both have been consistently solid.