Notes from the Opening Week of the U20 League

The 2018-19 Finnish U20 league season began last week as each team played three games. Here are some notes and observations around the league.

  • TPS and Pelicans are the only teams that won all of their games last week. The past season was tough for TPS but now they appear to have more depth in the lineup, which bodes well for the future.
  • Two of the league’s three leading scorers are 2001’s. Mathias Hänninen (KooKoo) has put up one goal and seven assists, while Matias Mäntykivi (SaiPa) currently has seven points. Mäntykivi scored two goals and two assists in a 7-1 win over KooKoo.
  • Draft eligible HIFK winger Wiljami Myllylä has put up two goals and three assists. He opened the season with a three-point game in a 8-3 win over Jokerit. Myllylä’s speed, work ethic and shooting ability stood out in that game.
  • Patrik Puistola, another draft eligible forward, has looked great for Tappara U20. The 17-year-old forward has plenty of skill and is very competitive. If he keeps playing at the same level going forward, I think he might make his Liiga debut this season.
  • 2002 born JYP goalie Niko Lappi recorded a 27-save shutout in his first U20 game against HPK. Lappi was impressive in younger juniors last season, spending most of the season with the U18 team.
  • Sport has a pair of promising center prospects in Santeri Haarala (2000) and Ville Immonen (1999). Haarala is a small, skilled player with a very good wrist shot. Immonen is a big, defensively reliable center with skill and good speed, plus he’s strong at face-offs. Both are players to watch on this Sport team that looks much improved from last season.
  • HPK has recorded two wins (Jukurit & HIFK) while allowing just five goals in three games. Based on what I have seen thus far, HPK could be a very competitive team, especially if they can get the power play rolling as the season progresses.
  • Slovakian defenseman Samuel Knazko has already scored his first goal for TPS. Besides Knazko, forwards Kasper Simontaival (Tappara) and Roni Hirvonen (Blues) are the other 2002’s who have gotten on the scoresheet so far.
  • Pelicans winger Aleks Haatanen played really well in a preseason viewing and has started the regular season well on the first line. The late 2000 is a quick, shifty player with good puck handling skills.