Cover photo by Minas Panagiotakis/HHOF-IIHF Images
Team Finland finished the round robin of the 2019 World Juniors on the third place and will face Canada in the quarterfinals. Finland took much anticipated wins over Kazakhstan and Slovakia but fell to Sweden 2-1 and to USA 4-1 in the final game of the round robin. In this article, instead of writing about the overall play of the Finnish team, I will have thoughts on three individuals who have stood out thus far at the tournament.
Versatile Aarne Talvitie is having a very good tournament on the third line, playing alongside Jesse Ylönen and Santeri Virtanen. A strong skater with good acceleration, Talvitie has made plays in the offensive zone. He has looked confident with the puck. The New Jersey Devils sixth rounder has found the back of the net twice, scoring against Sweden and Kazakhstan. He has a quick and accurate wrist shot. He can pick his spots well and doesn’t need much room to shoot and be a scoring threat. Talvitie plays a highly intensive game and has shown grit as well.
Ylönen has also been one of the bright spots on the team as his skating and puck skills both have stood out. He’s a highly smooth and agile skater with excellent quickness in his first few strides. Ylönen has displayed great puck control and quick hands in tight spaces. The Montreal Canadiens second rounder scored Finland’s lone goal against USA in the third period as he tip in Urho Vaakanainen’s shot. Here’s an example of Ylönen’s high-level offensive abilities from the win over Kazakhstan, where he set up Talvitie with this play.
If anything, I would like to see Ylönen be more dangerous on the power play. He has been eager to use his one-timer when the opportunity presents itself; however, those scoring attempts have been pretty easy for the opposing teams to read.
At the age of 17, Kaapo Kakko has already been one of the team’s most consistent players and has generated offensive opportunities. The intelligent forward reads the game really well, both with and without the puck. Kakko has shown the ability to create offense in various ways and he can be a dual threat due to his shooting and passing skills. He has shown nimble footwork when protecting the puck in the offensive zone. Kakko is tied for the team lead in shots on goal (17) with Eeli Tolvanen through the first four games.