Notes from the first game of the U20 national team camp

The new hockey season is here. I attended the first game of the U20 national team camp in Vierumäki on Tuesday. It was great to be back in a rink and see some familiar faces.

Team White defeated Team Blue 8-2. The result speaks for itself as White was clearly the stronger team. TPS forward Mikael Pyyhtiä got on the scoresheet with a hat trick in the win.

Here are the lineups and notes and observations on some of the standouts from the game.

#9 Roni Hirvonen – Team White – 2020 NHL Draft eligible

Hirvonen was one of the top players and scored a terrific goal with a quick top shelf snipe in the second period. He showed he could drive the play and use his quickness to carry the puck up the ice. He was smart and calculated in possession and distributed the puck well in the final third. Kept his feet moving, displayed nice agility and the ability to make tight turns and cuts along the boards. High work rate, took hard strides without the puck. A very impressive performance from the NHL Draft eligible center.

#2 Ville Heinola – Team White – Winnipeg Jets prospect

Heinola played an efficient two-way game. He played with poise and made sound decisions with the puck all game long. Had swift hands to receive passes and snapped accurate outlets on the breakout. Could move the puck quickly, yet also had the confidence to look for a good passing lane. Vision is high end. Scored a nice goal in the third period as he fired an accurate wrister high on the glove side. Kept tight gaps and had a quick stick.

#5 Eemil Viro – Team White – 2020 NHL Draft eligible

Viro had a very strong game as his defensive acumen and passing were very noticeable. He put pressure on forwards to defend and showed situational toughness. Took away time and space from opponents and played with an edge, which I liked. He was highly efficient and consistent with the puck and made a firm first pass. A very skilled defenseman with the skating, puck skills and toughness to be an impact player in the Liiga next season.

#4 Joni Jurmo – Team Blue – 2020 NHL Draft eligible

Jurmo had a pretty solid performance on the second pairing for Team Blue. I thought he and Kasper Puutio were amongst the better players on that team. Jurmo is a very powerful skater with excellent acceleration and straight line speed. He carried the puck up the ice a couple of times but could not create anything significant on those occasions. Moved the puck well out of the defensive zone, it looked like he had simplified his game a bit. His defensive game keeps gradually getting better, he knew when to contain and when to pressure opponents.

#3 Topi Niemelä – Team White – 2020 NHL Draft eligible

Niemelä was paired with Heinola and they were the defensemen I liked the most. Niemelä pushed the pace of the game and was engaged since the puck was dropped. He created so much room for himself with his skating – excellent lateral movement, edge work and endurance. Unleashed many shots from the point and managed to get most of them on net, even through traffic. His passing was on the money. A high-end prospect with great potential – I can’t envision him going later than in the second round of the NHL draft.

#15 Samuel Helenius – Team White – 2021 NHL Draft eligible

Helenius centered the third line for Team White and looked comfortable in that role. He did not look out of place at all as a late 2002. He was physical, read the game well and defended the middle of the ice efficiently. He can use his size to protect the puck and his long reach is another asset. He made a nice play in the offensive zone as he stickhandled through the middle and made a quick feed to the right for a quality chance. He has smoothed out his stride and his skating looked good in terms of power and fluidity.

#6 Rami Määttä – Team White – 2020 NHL Draft eligible

Määttä is one of my sleeper picks for the NHL Draft and did not hurt his chances in front of NHL scouts today. I was very impressed with his puck moving abilities and decision making in possession. He defended well against opposing rushes, had a good stick and could hide his poke well. He could be quicker from a standstill and he’s not the most dynamic defenseman, but he makes the right choice on nearly every occasion. Määttä’s hockey sense differentiates him from many players in the 2002 age-group.

#13 Kasper Simontaival – Team White – 2020 NHL Draft eligible

Simontaival was a constant threat and scored a nice goal in the first period as he picked up the puck, moved to the middle of the ice and fired a precise wrist shot on the blocker side through traffic. When he got an opportunity, he displayed a precise shot with a quick release. He played with a scorer’s mentality and got himself into spots many others could not. He was sturdy on his skates and had a quick, strong stick. He was involved on both sides of the puck. He was energetic, had a high work rate and constantly kept opponents on their toes.