Team Finland’s forwards are built very similar to the defending World Champions in Team Canada. An abundance of center depth throughout all four lines, with six players playing adequate minutes in the middle of the ice for their respective NHL teams. One thing that stands out is the amount of youth talent that was chosen to represent the Scandinavian nation. Both Aho and Laine are top Finnish prospects who have yet to dress for the Hurricanes and Jets respectively. Take a look at the projected line combinations:
Jussi Jokinen Aleksander Barkov Patrik Laine
Mikael Granlund Mikko Koivu Leo Komarov
Teuvo Teravainen Valtteri Filppula Joonas Donskoi
Lauri Korpikoski Jori Lehtera Sebastian Aho
Line 1: Aleksander Barkov will look to continue the success he had throughout the 2015-2016 campaign. He is the unquestionable number one center and is projected to play in the middle of the ice with fellow Panthers teammate, Jussi Jokinen and the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft Patrick Laine. Laine will make his second appearance with the Finnish Mens’ team after notching 12 points, and taking the honors of tournament MVP in the World Championships.
Line 2: Linemates’ Mikael Granlund and Mikko Koivu are projected to stay together, at least for the start of the tournament. The Finnish captain will look to build on the successful Winter Olympics from two years ago, capturing the bronze medal in Sochi. Winger and grinder Leo Komarov will play a vital part in sustain pressure in the offensive zone. Known and well liked for his aggressive style of play in Toronto, Uncle Leo can prove he can score- potting 19 goals for the Leafs last season.
Line 3: Lightning centerman Valtteri Filppula may find himself playing between newly acquired Hurricanes winger Teuvo Teravainen and Joonas Donskoi of the San Jose Sharks. Teravainen centered the Chicago third line during the 2015-2016 season, and is 200 foot game has been proven. Expect Filppula and Teravainen to kill plenty of penalties throughout the tournament. Donskoi upped his value after having a strong showing throughout the Sharks 2016 playoff run, potting six goals and helping out on another six.
Line 4: Korpikoski, Lehtera, Aho, and Haula will be mixed and matched throughout the fourth line. Obviously they will see some time, but are not projected to make a huge impact. Lehtera, who had 34 points during the regular season last year, is the strongest skater of the four remaining wingers and will definitely see the most ice time.
The defensive pairings may be the weakest part of this team. Lack of experience combined with a lack of depth can lead to an early exit for the Fins. Olli Maatta will take on a lot of the workload by being the number one D-man representing Finland. Shutting down the likes of McDavid, Gaudreau, and Eichel for Team North America, as well as the Russian superstars in Ovechkin, Malkin, and Tarasenko will be quite a feat for the 22 year old to handle.
Olli Maatta Sami Vatanen
Rasmus Ristolainen Sami Lepisto
Ville Pokka Esa Lindell
Defensive Pair 1: Maatta will be “the guy” the Fins turn to for strength on the back end. Maatta has never played the number one role due to Kris Letang being a force in Pittsburgh, but will relish the chance to give his country a shot at making a run deep in the tournament. His partner Sami Vatanen is a right handed shot, and will also anchor the blue line in hope of shutting down the opponent’s number one line. His experience in Anaheim of shutting down a very good Western Conference will prove vital for Team Finland.
Defensive Pair 2: A young Rasmus Ristolainen will be another player than can prove to be a huge impact for the Finnish D. He will be projected to play alongside veteran Sami Lepisto, the oldest defenseman to don the blue and white cross flag this September. Expect 22-24 minutes a night from these two.
Defensive Pair 3: Lindell, Pokka, and Jokipakka will be the remainder to split time on the last defensive unit. This is where the lack of depth may really play a factor and hurt the Fins. The three defensemen will need to effectively limit chances and scoring opportunities when playing against offensive heavy teams like Russia and North America.
Pekka Rinne Tuukka Rask Mikko Koskinen
Tuukka Rask was given the starting role in Sochi after taking the Bruins to the Cup Final during the 2013 playoffs, as well as winning the Vezina in 2014. His job will be replaced by Pekka Rinne this time around, due to Rinne’s performance throughout the regular season and playoffs during the past two years. While their numbers are very similar, Rinne has proven the ability to win, capturing 10 more victories than his counterpart, throughout the past two regular seasons. Regardless, this is the strongest area for the Fins, and whoever is playing between the pipes will be giving the team in front of him a legitimate chance to win.