The Finnish U20, U18 and U17 national teams for the upcoming tournaments in November were announced on Monday. Here is a look at all those rosters. Furthermore, I’ll mention some players from each team who have been especially impressive during the first few months of the season. All photos are from the Facebook page of Finnish Ice Hockey Association.
The U20 national team will compete in a Four Nations tournament in Sweden on November 12-14, whereas the so called U20 challenger team will face the Czech Republic three times in Vierumäki, Finland on November 12-14. Topi Niemelä leads all Liiga defensemen in scoring with 16 points in 18 games and has taken the next step in his development. Ville Koivunen has also played very well for Kärpät and looks like another great draft pick out of Finland for the Carolina Hurricanes. Unfortunately, JYP’s star forward Joakim Kemell will miss the tournament due to injury.
From the challenger team, I would especially keep an eye on defenseman Jimi Suomi and forwards Aatu Jämsen, Brad Lambert and Patrik Juhola. Lambert’s start to the season in the Liiga has left a lot to be desired – I would like to see more consistency and maturity in his game. Juhola has been excellent with Ässät U20, one of the top teams in the league. You can read my recent scouting report on him here.
The U18 national team will play in a Five Nations tournament in Switzerland on November 10-14. Compared to the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, this roster includes five new players: goalie Topias Leinonen, defenseman Arttu Kärki and forwards Santeri Sulku, Lenni Hämeenaho and Aaron Hakala. Keep an eye on Leinonen and Niklas Kokko, as goaltending should be one of the team’s strengths. Aleksanteri Kaskimäki (HIFK U20) and 2005 born Kasper Halttunen (Jokerit U20) are already among the best players on their respective U20 teams. HIFK forward Kasper Lundell is a hard-working, dependable player who pays attention to details and has the passing skills and vision to be an effective set-up guy.
The U17 national team will play in Vaasa, Finland on November 11-13, facing Sweden, USA and the Czech Republic. This roster is very different from the previous event where Finland played against Sweden three times. HIFK goalie Emil Vinni, Jokerit forward Tom Leppä and Pelicans forward Jesse Kiiskinen are a few players who are trending up. Vinni is definitely the most promising 2005 born Finnish goalie in my book and has NHL upside in the long term. Leppä is a talented center who can make plays and has offensive vision, and his mobility and foot speed have been improving, allowing him to play well in the U20 SM-sarja after starting the season at the U18’s. Kiiskinen has already shown the ability to score goals in the U20 league and he has been a plus-player for the U17 national team this season. Considering his upward trajectory, there’s a chance we will see the skilled winger in the Liiga within two years.