This is the first article of a new series that will take a look at NHL prospects playing in the Finnish Liiga.
Minnesota Wild prospect Kaapo Kähkönen has been the cornerstone for Lukko in net in his second Liiga campaign. He currently ranks second in goals against average (1.71) and third in save percentage (0.935) while starting all of his team’s 24 games. An extremely technically sound goalie with good quickness and solid athleticism, he has been constantly performing at a high level this season. Another strong part of Kähkönen’s game is his net coverage. The consistency he has provided is a significant reason why Lukko sits at 4th place in the Liiga.
Miro Heiskanen has undoubtedly been a top defenseman in the league this season, shining offensively with seven goals and four assists in 13 games. The Dallas Stars’ top pick from the past summer has already recorded three game-winning goals on the season. The swift-skating blueliner has taken on a leadership role with HIFK while averaging over 24 minutes of ice-time per game. Heiskanen often leads the rush with his excellent quickness and puck skills, plus he’s willing to use his shot from the point and create offense in the final third. He has also done a masterful job defensively, using his strong stick and highly intelligent play reading to be a very efficient player in his own end. His CorsiFor% ranks second in the entire league at 64.52%.
Tappara right wing Sebastian Repo has been excellent since returning to the team on loan from the Florida Panthers organization. The Panthers’ 6th round pick from the 2017 NHL Draft has put up 10 points in 14 Liiga games, including eight points in his past seven games. Repo ranks first on his team in points per 60 minutes of ice-time (2.66) and second in primary points per 60 minutes (2). Repo has continued to be a proficient goal-scorer thanks to his wicked shot and great finishing ability. He is also extremely strong in battles, utilizing his size and strength to his advantage. He can also set up teammates with solid passes in the offensive zone, making him a pretty multidimensional attacker. Repo is a top player for Tappara, a team that hasn’t lost a game in five weeks.
Chicago Blackhawks prospect Joni Tuulola moved from HPK to Sport for the 2017-18 season. Tuulola, who has not produced a whole lot of offense at the men’s level, put up nine points in his first 10 games of the season. Known for being more of an all-around defenseman with some untapped offensive potential, it was encouraging to see him produce at a strong rate. He has sinced cooled off, with four points in his last 14 games, although it has to be remembered that Sport has been struggling as a team. Tuulola is a reliable, strong skating blueliner with adequate puck skills. He doesn’t play an extremely flashy game, but can be counted on in key situations. He has averaged 24 minutes and 21 seconds of ice-time per game this season, nearly seven minutes more than in 2016-17 with HPK.
All the advanced stats were taken from this great resource provided by Simo Teperi: Liiga advanced stats