U18 League Quarterfinals Preview

The Finnish U18 league playoffs are set to continue as the quarterfinals begin on Friday. Kärpät won the regular season by a large margin, winning 41 of its 49 games. This is the team to beat this season; however, there’s a bunch of competitive teams that could challenge Kärpät in the playoffs.

Kärpät – KooKoo

Kärpät finished the regular season with 133 points in 49 games. Not only did they score the most goals (261), they also allowed the least goals (94). The team plays with a lot of pace and speed. All lines are capable of contributing on the scoresheet. The defensemen are extremely mobile and smart with the puck, processing the game at a high level.

KooKoo defeated HPK in three games in the process of advancing to the quarterfinals. They have solid defense corps, led by draft eligibles Santeri Salmela and Peetro Seppälä. The latter has climbed up our draft rankings throughout the season. KooKoo doesn’t have similar depth to Kärpät, but Oskari Salminen is a promising goalie who could make a difference in some games.

3 Players to Watch

Kärpät: ’00 D Aleksi Matinmikko, ’02 D Kasper Puutio, ’01 F Tuukka Tieksola

KooKoo: ’00 D Santeri Salmela, ’00 D Peetro Seppälä, ’00 F Joonas Oden

Blues – HIFK

Blues recorded 93 points in 43 games, finishing second in the regular season. The goaltending has been strong and consistent this season. Olli Turunen has been solid in net since joining Blues juniors from Iowa Wild U18. The team has good depth at offense and two 2002 born standouts in skilled playmaking forwards Roni Hirvonen and Jesse Seppälä. Blues is a team that plays a relentless, high compete game.

HIFK beat KalPa in three games to take the spot in the quarterfinals. Kari Piiroinen is one of the top 2001 born Finnish goalies. At forward, HIFK has a few skilled players such as Marcus Kallionkieli, Rasmus Heljanko, Anton Lundell and Niklas Nordgren. Lundell and Nordgren have been excellent in the U20 league this season. Christoffer Sedoff is a top defenseman prospect who has been logging a lot of minutes throughout the season.

3 Players to Watch

Blues: ’02 F Roni Hirvonen, ’02 F Jesse Seppälä, ’00 F Miro Uunimäki

HIFK: ’00 F Niklas Nordgren, ’01 G Kari Piiroinen, ’01 F Marcus Kallionkieli

TPS – Lukko

TPS closed out the regular season by winning their five final games. They have a lot of offensive firepower and overall a strong forward group that is led by Kaapo Kakko, Juuso Pärssinen, Leevi Teissala and Aarne Intonen. The defensemen are steady and can move the puck rather well. ’00 Aatu Aarnio has improved nicely in our viewings over the course of the season. A top ’01 goalie Tomas Keinänen moves really well, has sharp reactions and a quick glove.

Lukko got a few very good players from the U20 team which did not make the playoffs. Antti Saarela is a quick, smooth skating, skilled center with a lot of potential. ’00 Ville Petman and ’01 Mikko Petman were also in key roles with the U20 team. The Top 4 defense is very solid. Viljami Istala is an excellent skater with great mobility and has shown increasing confidence with the puck. Overall, this is a hard-working team that is capable of winning battles. They also have speed and skill to make plays in the final third.

3 Players to Watch

TPS: ’01 F Kaapo Kakko, ’01 F Leevi Teissala, ’01 F Juuso Pärssinen

Lukko: ’01 F Antti Saarela, ’00 F Ville Petman, ’00 D Viljami Istala

TPS forward Kaapo Kakko was named the Rookie of the Year in the Finnish U20 league.

Jokerit – Tappara

Jokerit has won three of the four games against Tappara this season, however, these teams were separated by just one point in the standings. Jokerit has a very good offense and the defensemen move the puck well and can create some offense from the backend. Sharp-shooting forward Niko Kautiainen scored 11 goals in his last 17 regular season games. In addition, ’01 Roope Taponen and ’00 Igor Samokhvalov are among the top goalies in the league.

Tappara’s first line of Jere Kivimäki, Jami Krannila and Kasper Simontaival has been productive and constantly dangerous in our viewings this season. Both Kivimäki and Krannila have very good vision, quickness and passing skills, while Simontaival has shown a lot of promise thanks to his shooting and goal-scoring abilities. Keep an eye on ’01 F Viljami Nieminen, who can contribute offensively behind this trio.

3 Players to Watch

Jokerit: ’00 F Jesse Moilanen, ’00 F Hannes Hyytiäinen, ’01 F Niko Kautiainen

Tappara: ’00 F Jere Kivimäki, ’02 F Kasper Simontaival, ’00 F Jami Krannila