Blues currently sits second in the Finnish U20 league standings with 93 points in 49 games. With only three games left on the schedule, the team is in a good position for the upcoming playoffs. Although Blues may not have the kind of depth in the lineup they had a few seasons ago, there are some intriguing prospects to keep an eye on nevertheless.
Winger Veeti Miettinen has taken his game to another level this season. In fact, in my opinion the 2001 born forward is one of the most improved players in the entire league. In the past two seasons, he stood out for Blues U18 and U20 teams because of his quickness and goal-scoring ability. However, he has added a lot more versatility in his second U20 season and has started to become a more complete player. He’s also setting up his teammates for scoring chances more often, showcasing very good offensive vision and passing skills.
Miettinen has looked committed to improve his play away from the puck. Here’s a good play from last weekend’s game against HPK. He first uses his quickness to close the gap on the puck carrier, then uses his stick well and lays a heavy hit on the opposing forward.
In addition, Miettinen’s defensive zone coverage is pretty solid at this point of his young career. He often does a good job of getting into shooting lanes. His strong footwork and quick first few steps definitely help. Even though he’s clearly more of an offensive player, it has been encouraging to see the improvements in his overall game this season.
Center Roni Hirvonen, who is also eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft, has been playing with Miettinen for a large part of the season. The third player on the first line has often been Petteri Villanen. They all are skilled, smart and instinctive players, with the ability to execute a quick passing game in the offensive zone. Here’s a nice goal where the entire line is involved in the play:
Hirvonen is a skilled, versatile and smart player who can be relied upon to play a strong two-way game. My notes in Hirvonen’s player profile include the following: “He constantly read the game, making himself available for passes, and showed great anticipation to get in position quickly. He’s quick with good agility and acceleration. Hirvonen can be a dual threat as he’s capable of being both a shooter and playmaker. He’s crafty and skilled.”
Both Miettinen and Hirvonen are strong candidates to make the U18 World Championship roster in April. Before that, it will be interesting to see how far Blues can go in the Finnish U20 league this season.