The Finnish team for the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup was announced earlier today. The roster consists of two goalies, eight defensemen and 12 forwards, with 14 prospects being eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft and eight for the 2019 draft. Three prospects are eligible to play also in next year’s tournament – forward Kaapo Kakko and defensemen Iivari Räsänen and Mikko Kokkonen.
The goaltending will be the cornerstone of the team. Kärpät U20 goalie Justus Annunen is likely to be the starter and could be one of the best netminders in the tournament. Kalle Nurmi of Lukko U20 is technically sound with good rebound control. He is consistent and doesn’t have many glaring weaknesses in his game. On the other hand, he doesn’t stand out as the most athletic or quickest of goalies. These two goalies can give the team a chance to be competitive in each game of the tournament.
On defense, there are several physically strong players such as Juuso Ketola, Jasper Rannisto and Iivari Räsänen. Kim Nousiainen is a skilled blueliner with good mobility and puck moving abilities. Nousiainen, Mikko Kokkonen and Anttoni Honka, who has been practicing with JYP’s Liiga team, can be expected to provide offense. Kokkonen put up 26 points for Jukurit U20 last season. Santeri Salmela (KooKoo) and Toni Utunen (Tappara) both are solid and have already made their debuts in the Liiga.
The offense is led by top 2018 NHL Draft prospects Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Rasmus Kupari. Both are strong skaters, confident and skilled with the puck and can play a responsible defensive game. Matias Maccelli is a highly skilled, quick and elusive winger. Lenni Killinen, Sampo Ranta, Samuel Salonen and Kristian Tanus are the team’s other top forwards. Lukko center Ville Petman is a reliable, competitive player who can score goals but will be counted in a more defensive role in this tournament.
Finland is in the Group B with Canada, Russia and Slovakia and will open the tournament on 7th of August against Slovakia in Bratislava. They will play Canada in the following day and finish the group stage against Russia on 9th of August.