Back at it again! This is the fourth instalment of the Olympic projection series, and today we will look at Finland.
In case you missed the first three teams find them here: Team Canada, Team USA, and Team Sweden.
The Finnish side has some talented players for sure, but certainly doesn’t have the depth of the other big nations. They will be extremely young, especially in their top six forwards, so this might be a bit of a learning tournament for future success. They have options in goal, and goaltending is massively important in short tournament settings like this one.
One interesting thing about the Fins is that arguably their two best forwards, Sebastian Aho and Aleksander Barkov are both from small NHL markets, and probably don’t get the credit they deserve from fans across the league. A tournament like this one could be a coming out party for both those players even though they have already established themselves with their own teams.
The last thing to remember with team Finland is that they often play better than their talent might suggest in big tournaments. Do not underestimate that ability to play as a team in short tournaments like this.
He wasn’t quite the leading Finnish scorer in the league this season, but he is probably the most complete and best player on the team. Barkov is one season removed from scoring 96 points for the Panthers, and serves as their captain as well. One would think Barkov would be the leading candidate for this team as well.
Aho led all Finnish players in scoring this year with 66 points in 68 games. And remember that he is the star of his Carolina team, and faced the toughest assignments every night. Every team in this tournament has a ridiculous top two at centre, and Aho and Barkov will need to hold their own against the best in the game.
Teravainen played nearly 700 minutes beside Aho this season, and ended with a similar 63 points. More of a playmaker from the wing, Teravainen could be fun to watch on a line with Aho and sniper Patrik Laine.
Speaking of Laine, he is obviously a lock to make this team for a long time. The guy can shoot the puck like few in the world. He may not be outstanding in other phases, but he can change the game in the blink of an eye. In a tournament where goals will be hard to come by, easy snipes from Laine could really help.
Rantanen is a hulking presence, which will look good alongside Barkov. He is used to playing with elite skill in Colorado and when he is on he is one of the most dynamic players in the game. At 6 foot 4, 215 pounds, Rantanen will help the Fins hang with the big boys. Last season he had 87 points in just 72 games.
Most Likely Will Make It
Kapanen will be a great role player for the Fins, with his ability to play on the penalty kill, and the kind of skating ability that is necessary to hang around in such an elite tournament. Whether he can produce sustained offence will remain to be seen, but the same can be said for the entire Finnish bottom six.
Hintz is not a household name, but he might have to play like one. He will be one of the candidates to play with one of the first two lines, where there will be pressure to produce. Hintz had 33 points this year in Dallas, is only 23 years old, and seems to still be on an upward trajectory. Finnish fans will hope that trajectory continues.
Playing with Kapanen, Donskoi could make the third line a really smooth skating unit that can play in a shutdown role. He can score if he gets the opportunity, but will be a much needed role player on this squad.
This team is going to be amazingly young, so it might not be the worst thing to have at least one Olympic veteran. Granlund will only be 30 when the tournament happens, and will provide some skill somewhere in the bottom two lines.
It was a tough season in Montreal, but that is as tough of a market as there is. Kotkaniemi scored 34 points as an eighteen year old on a bad team last season, so he can play. Two years from now he will be 21 and expected to be a big contributor to this lineup. He’s also tremendous on defense and can provide great two-way value for the Fins.
Same idea for Kakko, who makes this team more as a projection and less as of right now. If nothing else, Kakko was touted as an elite shooter in the draft, and that sort of ability could be a big help to this team, especially if the big guns get shut down.
Haula will be thirty one when the tournament takes place which is definitely on the older side, but he is still a competent NHL player. The Fins cant be too picky when they get down to the last few spots.
Basically the same as Haula. Armia has been a good role player for the Jets, and will do the same for this team.
The Fins will hope to see Lehkonen take a next step by 2022, but he probably still makes the team anyway. He is young and can score a bit. Again, the Finnish depth is not a strength.
Miro Heiskanen – Rasmus Ristolainen
Heiskanen is the best of the bunch. At just 20 years old, he had 35 points this year and projects to be a star. Ristolainen is no slouch either, and can really shoot the puck. That could be exciting given how good Heiskanen is as a playmaker. How they hold up in their own zone will be the question. Ristolainen is awful on the back end and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him slide down this lineup as the tournament progresses. He will almost certainly anchor a powerplay unit for the Finnish team though.
Esa Lindell – Sami Vatanen
Lindell is big at 6 foot 3, which will help to offset Vatanen’s lack of size. But both guys are solid NHL defencemen who can skate. Especially Vatanen who can really jump in the play and join the rush.
Olli Maatta – Juuso Valimaki
Both expected to be on this team for a long time, they provide a solid third pair. Maata is a known commodity, but Valamaki could make a name for himself on the big stage, after being hampered by injury throughout his career.
Another super young player, Jokiharju will look to take the next steps over the coming years. If he and some of the other young talent develop, watch out.
Finland still produces arguably the best goaltender depth of any nation. They went at least five deep in possible options. Age will be a major factor in the decision.
He will be on the older side, but is still playing like an elite goalie, sporting the best GAA this year among starters (2.12).
Juuse Saros, Joonas Korpisalo
Two young goalies who could develop. Finland has lots of options here. Either could steal the starting job from Rask and nobody would blink an eye. Regardless, goaltending is not a weak spot for the Finnish team.
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