The Finnish U20 league announced the award winners and All-Star teams for the 2020-21 season on Thursday. Here is a breakdown of the selections.
TPS center Aarne Intonen earns the Best Player award in the U20 SM-sarja. The 2001 born forward amassed 17 goals and 40 points in 28 games. He averaged 19:38 of ice-time per game and won 61 percentage of his face-offs in the regular season. At this level, Intonen is a complete and versatile player with good individual. He can play in any situation: power play, penalty kill, and late in games.
Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Kalle Loponen was named the best defenseman. He has been a minute-munching player for Kärpät, logging almost 21 minutes of ice-time per game. He led all defensemen in both goals (11) and points (33). Loponen is a mobile defender, has good foot speed and creates passing and shooting lanes. He goes back well for pucks, gives accurate passes on the breakout and can also carry from his own end. He sets the tone for his team and has a bit of a physical edge to him.
Alex Mäkelä was named the best goalie. He has been the cornerstone in net for Lukko and improved in many statistical categories from the past season, including goals against average and save percentage. He has faced fewer shots compared to last season as the team defense in front of him has been better. Mäkelä is a smaller, quick goalie who performs well in breakaways. His consistency has given Lukko a chance to win any game over the course of the season.
In addition to these three players, wingers Jere Henriksson (Tappara), Leevi Teissala (TPS) and defenseman Tom Grönblom (Jukurit) were named to the All Star. Henriksson recorded 43 points in 23 games, with 37 of them being primary points. He has quality passing skills, a good eye for the game, is dangerous on the power play and can score when the opportunity presents itself. Teissala is a skilled player with swift hands, deception and small ice maneuverability. He can dangle opponents and has a good array of dekes in his repertoire. He led his team in points, goals, assists and shots on goal in regular season. Grönblom is a steady defenseman who played 25 minutes per game in regular season. He is a third-year player in the league and it clearly shows in his reliability both offensively and defensively.
Kärpät goalie Leevi Meriläinen has been phenomenal since the turn of the year, helping him earn a spot in the second All Stars. He has recorded four shutouts in his last eight games and has provided stable goaltending since day one. According to InStat Hockey, he has allowed 13 fewer goals than expected, which is another testament of how good he has been this season. Exciting times are ahead for the Ottawa Senators prospect, who will turn 19 in August.
The second All Stars includes TPS defensemen Olli Kaskinen and Justus Haavanlammi. Kaskinen is a smooth skating, offensive-minded defenseman with 79 games of Liiga experience. He can create offense up the ice and quarterback a power play. Haavanlammi doesn’t have similar offensive flair, but he plays smart, can make the simple first pass and gets the job done defensively. Both turned 22 this year and are ready for the next challenge.
The second All Stars is completed by forwards Mikko Perttu (Tappara) Aatu Jämsen (Pelicans) and Ville Koivunen (Kärpät), who was named the rookie of the year as well. Koivunen is a smart, versatile and unselfish winger with high-level offensive skills and hockey IQ. If he continues to work on his skating and strength, he could become one of the most complete players in his age-group. He has NHL upside and should be drafted in the second or third round this year.
Perttu is a sizeable center who makes plays and creates scoring chances through his vision and passing. Look for him to play in Mestis next season and continue to improve his defensive reliability and two-way game. Jämsen was dominant in the U18 league last season and has put up similar eye-popping numbers a level up. The Los Angeles Kings prospect has exceptional offensive skills: his shot, puck control, deking and passing are all better than average in the league.
Cover photo: Leijonat.fi