Two of the most exciting Finnish prospects – Miro Heiskanen and Eeli Tolvanen – debuted with the national team yesterday in the Karjala Cup against Russia. Finland took an encouraging 3-2 win, with Heiskanen firing a wrist shot in the second period to beat Igor Shestyorkin and give his team a 2-0 lead. Heiskanen showcased a lot of promise on the backend, while Tolvanen didn’t have his greatest night.
Heiskanen logged nearly 17 minutes of ice-time in the game. What stood out most to me was the way he read the developing plays and made the right decisions. The Dallas Stars top pick from the past summer never tried to to do too much with the puck and he kept opposition forwards to the perimeter fairly effectively. He was able to escape from pressure with his superb skating. He also supported the forwards really well by using his quick feet to join the rush. Heiskanen proved that he can already more than hold his own at the international level.
Tolvanen, who leads KHL’s Jokerit in goals and points, seemed to hold on to the puck for too long periods, especially on the power play, and couldn’t really make much of an impact. He was able to register only one shot in the game. The Russian team didn’t give him a whole lot of time to make plays as they constantly applied a lot of pressure on him. They clearly managed to get Tolvanen off his game.
Additionally, I thought St. Louis Blues defense prospect Niko Mikkola had a decent performance on the first pairing. He was strong on the penalty kill and played with intensity. He possesses strong skating ability and mobility for a big blueliner. His skill level has never been truly high-end, but he makes up for it with his character and work ethic. On the downside, he did commit to some turnovers in this game.
According to YLE, Tolvanen didn’t participate in today’s practice. However, head coach Lauri Marjamäki said in the news that it was about setting the rhythm of training, so it seems likely both Heiskanen and Tolvanen will play against Sweden on Saturday.