The Finnish U18 national team will begin the Five Nations tournament in Zuchwil, Switzerland today, facing Czech Republic in its first game. Germany, Slovakia and Switzerland are the other participating teams. Finland won the previous tournament in Hämeenlinna in November. There are several new additions to the team, including a few 2001 born players.
Justus Annunen – Kärpät – 2018 draft eligible
Annunen will likely be the starting goalie for the Finns in the tournament. He’s a big, technically sound goalie with very good quickness and lateral movement. He has athleticism and the ability to come up with big saves in key moments. Has played 16 games for Kärpät U20 with a 2.31 goals against average.
Jere Huhtamaa – Blues – 2018 draft eligible
Huhtamaa really emerged as a strong prospect with HIFK in the U18 league last season. He became the team’s number one goalie and impressed this observer in several games. Much like Annunen, he has good technique and prototypical size of today’s goalie. Huhtamaa is a little raw in some aspects of the game, but has lots of long-term potential.
Ville Heinola – Ässät – 2019 draft eligible
Heinola is an extremely smart defenseman with two-way potential. He plays a reliable game in all three zones and makes very few mistakes with the puck. He has good mobilty in all directions and can move the puck with good breakout and outlet passes.
Anttoni Honka – JYP – 2019 draft eligible
The top defense prospect on his team, Honka has exceptional offensive abilities, but needs to work on defense. Here are some of my notes about Honka from U20 game vs HIFK in September: “He has great puck skills and can move the puck with precise, crisp passes in all three zones. Honka is also a highly agile defenseman with great lateral mobility and footwork.”
Mikko Kokkonen – Jukurit – 2019 draft eligible
Kokkonen really stood out last season on an otherwise poor Jukurit U20 team. This season he has also been playing at the second highest men’s level. Kokkonen has been a top point producer in juniors, but I think his skating requires significant work. He has offensive ability, including a heavy shot and good vision, however.
Santeri Salmela – KooKoo – 2018 draft eligible
Here are some of my thoughts on Salmela that I wrote here one month ago: “He has the defensive reliability and skating ability required to be a highly effective shutdown defenseman for years to come. Salmela also makes a good first pass out of the zone and his reads are solid. Even though he doesn’t have a ton of offense in his game, he’s starting to solidify his spot as a Top 15 draft eligible Finnish prospect in my books.”
Peetro Seppälä – KooKoo – 2018 draft eligible
Seppälä and Salmela are comparable players in many ways: both possess good size, strength, mobility and play a reliable overall game without much flash and dash. Seppälä made his Liiga debut earlier this month, receiving 7:32 of ice-time in that game.
Lassi Thomson – Ilves – 2019 draft eligible
One of the most intriguing defensemen on the team, Thomson has made great strides in his game over the past two seasons, especially in his skating. He already had good puck skills and vision, but thanks to quicker first few steps and improved mobility, he has become a much more dynamic player.
Toni Utunen – Tappara – 2018 draft eligible
Utunen has been solid playing for LeKi at the second highest men’s level this season. He’s not the most dynamic defenseman, nor does he have dazzling puck handling skills. But he is a highly intelligent player and makes the right decisions most of the time. He will be one of the leaders on the Finnish defense in the tournament.
Konsta Hirvonen – HIFK – 2019 draft eligible
Hirvonen was a dynamic scorer in the U16 league two seasons ago and while he hasn’t quite developed as I expected, he’s still a solid prospect. He’s a very solid skater with good first-step quickness and agility. Defensive game and physicality require most work.
Kaapo Kakko – TPS – 2019 draft eligible
Kakko is the top Finnish prospect for the 2019 NHL Draft. He has pretty much everything you want from a top offensive player, including puck skill, speed and hockey sense. In addition, Kakko is a responsible player off the puck and does many little things right.
Lenni Killinen – Blues – 2018 draft eligible
The 6’2 winger has a wide range of offensive tools. Killinen has a quick wrist shot, handles the puck very well and attacks to the net with plenty of speed. He’s an above-average skater with agility, balance and impressive acceleration.
Otto Kivenmäki – Ässät – 2018 draft eligible
Kivenmäki is an undersized center whose acceleration, soft hands and playmaking skills really stood out wherever he plays, whether it be with Ässät or national team. He distributes the puck in a timely manner and has good offensive rhythm. He may not be the most defensively reliable prospect but he can make a lot happen offensively.
Matias Maccelli – Dubuque (USHL) – 2019 draft eligible
Maccelli is a finesse forward with dynamic, high-end offensive abilities. He can stickhandle extremely well in tight quarters and operate with the puck in traffic areas. He’s a quick, agile skater with very good edge work and three-step acceleration. He’ll be joining USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints in January from TPS U20.
Jesse Moilanen – Jokerit – 2018 draft eligible
Moilanen is another smaller forward. He was very good at the U18 level last season, but hasn’t stood out as much playing for a struggling Jokerit U20 team this season. He’s been a reliable penalty killer with the U18 national team. He doesn’t play as physical game as his older brother Sami, but he’s very energetic and brings some skill to the table.
Arttu Nevasaari – Kärpät – 2018 draft eligible
Nevasaari has an excellent, accurate shot that can surprise goalies even from a longer distance. He also possesses good hands and stick skills, but would benefit from improving his first few strides and mobility. He could also round out his defensive game.
Henri Nikkanen – JYP – 2019 draft eligible
The 6’2 prospect is a tall, highly skilled center with great speed and agility, though certain times his coordination could be better. Nikkanen has the tools to be an excellent prospect for the 2019 draft if he can put it all together and bring his ‘A’ game on a consistent basis. He’s been logging a lot of minutes and playing in key situations for JYP U20 this season.
Niklas Nordgren – HIFK – 2018 draft eligible
Nordgren has very good hands, finishing ability and offensive awareness that make him an offensive threat any time he has the puck on his stick. As an undersized forward whose skating isn’t at the greatest level, he will need to work on his first step quickness and acceleration. Regardless, he is one of the most talented players on this Finnish team.
Mikko Petman – Lukko – 2019 draft eligible
Mikko Petman is a physical right wing who plays with an edge and gets into tough areas of the ice. He has a heavy wrist shot and will constantly take pucks to the net. His foot speed and acceleration, as well as defensive reliability, are areas for improvement. He has been playing well for Lukko U20 as a first liner.
Ville Petman – Lukko – 2018 draft eligible
Ville Petman is a defensively reliable center who plays with high intensity and finishes his checks when the opportunity presents itself. He has a good shot and scored a couple of nice goals for Lukko U18 last season through willpower. He’s a solid player with some upside, but does not possess blazing speed or high-end offensive skills.
Pekka Suhonen – KalPa – 2018 draft eligible
Here are some of my notes from a recent U18 league game vs K-Kissat where Suhonen stood out: “Suhonen has a really quick wrist shot that he can get off of his stick in a hurry and most often precisely on net. He possesses solid top-end speed and pretty quick first few steps, allowing to challenge defensemen and play an efficient North-South game. He has pretty good hands and puck control, but at times could have utilized his size more effectively to protect the puck, especially in zone entries. Lately, Suhonen has displayed a developing offensive game that should translate well to the higher levels.”
Kristian Tanus – Tappara – 2018 draft eligible
A skilled center who has played well for the nationals teams in the past, Tanus is clearly undersized but he does compete hard and thus doesn’t let his size affect his game too much. He’s very good on the power play and can set up his teammates. An area that requires some development is his defensive game.