The World Cup of Hockey is back, with the NHL-backed tournament scheduled for the next few weeks in lovely Toronto. Yahoo Sports will offer on-site coverage from the event; but first, here’s a look at the six nations and the two made-up teams that will battle for the funny-looking trophy.
Sunday, Sept. 18 – Group B preliminary vs. North America, 8 p.m. ET
Tuesday, Sept. 20 – Group B preliminary vs. Sweden, 3 p.m. ET
Thursday, Sept. 22 – Group B preliminary vs. Russia, 3 p.m. ET
Career NHL Games – 5,605
Career NHL Goals (Skaters) – 823
Career NHL Assists (Skaters) – 1,640
Career NHL Points (Skaters) – 2,463
Career NHL Wins (Goaltenders) – 409
Average Age – 26.3
Average Height (Inches) – 73.4
Average Weight (Pounds) – 199.1
Stanley Cups – 4
The Finnish men’s national team is in a period of transition, especially at forward. Gone are the Saku Koivus and Teemu Selannes of yore. Mikko Koivu, Jussi Jokinen and Valtteri Filppula are now the old men of the group in their early 30s.
If the Finns gold at World Juniors this year is any indication of what’s to come, especially at the forward position, the world has a lot to be worried about. Headlining this budding crop of stars is wunderkind Patrik Laine.
Laine, selected No. 2 overall by the Winnipeg Jets, has a big personalty and the talent to match as shown by his goal against the USA in exhibition play.
Laine’s linemates are the top two Finnish forwards in the NHL. Jokinen leads the team with 60 points. The second highest scorer, Aleksander Barkov, is the top goal scorer at 28 for a total of 59 points. He leads the team in exhibition points with 3.
Koivu was the only other Finnish player to break the 50-point plateau (17-39=56). He, along with Minnesota Wild teammate Mikael Granlund, and Joonas Donskoi make up the top line for the team.
Valtteri Filppula and “Uncle” Leo Komarov anchor the bottom two lines. Jori Lehtera and Lauri Korpikoski have seen action in the exhibition games but have yet to score a point. Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen have been used interchangeably.
The defensive group for the Finns skews really young.
Sami Lepisto, 31, is the elder statesman of the group and has only seen action in one exhibition game.
From there, the next oldest players make up Finland’s second defensive pairing Sami Vatanen and Jyrki Jokipakka at 25-years-old. Vatanen has averaged 23-minutes TOI in the three exhibition games.
Finland’s No. 1 pairing consists of Olli Maatta, 22, and Rasmus Ristolainen, 21. Ristolainen carries the heaviest load with an average 24:26 TOI. He is the only defenseman on the squad that has more than one point in the first three games.
Lepisto, Esa Lindell and Ville Pokka are rotated into the third pairing.
The Finns have two options: Pekka Rinne or Tuukka Rask.
Rinne was 1-1 in exhibition play, while Rask allowed six goals against Sweden in their second game loss. It appears to be Rinne’s net until it isn’t anymore; a position Rask isn’t used to being in.
Should something happen to both goaltenders Mikko Koskinen (KHL) is there to save the day.
Grade The Jerseys
Initially, we ranked Team Finland’s jerseys as the fourth best out of the eight teams in the World Cup.
The home jersey is a solid A. It shows that even simple jerseys can look outstanding. The away jersey is a B+. We would have loved to have seen the ‘SUOMI’ repeated on the aways, but the crest is kind of cool.
The Finnish squad has had significant opportunity to work on the special teams throughout the exhibition games. Thanks in large part to playing their bitter rival Sweden twice, the Finns have had 17 power play tries over three games and converted four times. Shorthanded 11 times thus far, they’ve allowed only two goals against.
Lauri Marjamaki took the men’s national team head coaching spot from Kari Jalonen following World Championships earlier this summer. Majamaki, 39, is considered to be the top coach in Finland. In his first two seasons with Kärpät, the team took home the SM-liiga championship.
In an interview with The Hockey News, Joonas Donskoi credited Marjamaki for turning him into an NHL player. The transformation started with a magical trip to the grocery store.
They’ll Make It Out of Group Play If …
Laine goes beast mode in combination with Rinne or Rask standing on their head.
They’ll Flop At The World Cup If …
The goaltending can’t make up for the young defense.
This isn’t going to be an easy tournament for Finland. They might be able to steal a game against North America, but that team’s speed could give the defense fits. Unfortunately for those who love Suomi, they won’t make it out of the first round.
Give them a couple years and they’ll be dangerous again.
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