On Wednesday, Ketterä faced KeuPa for the third time this season in Finland’s second-highest league. As was the case on the previous two occasions, Ketterä ended up winning, this time 6-5 in overtime. It was an interesting game that featured two NHL Draft picks in Santeri Airola (Pittsburgh) and Patrik Siikanen (Edmonton) and three other interesting young players to watch as well. Here are evaluations of their performances.
00 D Santeri Airola (Ketterä)
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ seventh round pick had a really good game. Airola is a strong skating, mobile defenseman with superb acceleration who can travel with the puck. His first few strides are very quick, enabling him to move away from pressure and facilitate the breakout. He made a firm, crisp first pass and he was active offensively, consistently being involved in the final third. Shot isn’t his calling card, but he has a pretty quick release and he was eager to unleash pucks on net from the point. He had a lot of puck skill and he played with his head up to scan the ice. He got on the scoresheet with two assists, including one on the game-winning goal.
00 F Patrik Siikanen (KeuPa)
Siikanen has improved his play with KeuPa as the season has progressed. The Edmonton Oilers prospect had a team-high five shots on goal against Ketterä and scored two goals. The first one, an important goal late in the first period, came directly off the face-off, while the other was a solid short-side finish through a screen. He had a high work rate without the puck, he made smart decisions in possession and productive passes. His acceleration could be better, but he showed decent speed and could definitely more than keep with the pace of the game. His ability to play a skilled game or a heavy game was on display today.
00 F Veikko Loimaranta (Ketterä)
For someone who played his first game in the league, Loimaranta was impressive and stood out in the first 40 minutes. He’s a skilled forward with swift hands and good puck control. He was very good below the goal line as he used his body and stick well in order to be strong on the puck. He displayed good passing skills and offensive vision. His effort without the puck was pretty good as well. He got on the scoresheet with a secondary assist on the 3-0 goal. I have liked Loimaranta’s potential for already quite some time and I think he has a potential as a playmaker who can finish, too.
01 F Samuel Valkeejärvi (KeuPa)
Valkeejärvi had some good moments and the winger was definitely one of the most noticeable and consistent KeuPa forwards. On one occasion, he displayed really good poise and stickhandling as he maneuvered into a good scoring position. He carried the puck up the ice confidently, he had smooth hands and overall his skill level was pretty high. He was responsible without the puck and played an energetic game. He is not the biggest of players and looked quite lean, so additional strength will only help.
01 D Tomi Niku (KeuPa)
The 2001 born prospect has been a highly productive defenseman for JYP in the U20 league this season and played his first Mestis game today. The 18-year-old blueliner managed well in the debut. He showed a couple of glimpses of nice vision and puck skill. He made a really good cross-ice pass in the final third and overall his puck movement was quite good. In his own end, Niku could have been more alert and read plays better at times, but he did not make many significant mistakes. He showed decent mobility and backwards skating, but seemed to lack explosiveness.