Projected Team Finland

With both Canada and USA roster forecasts up, I’ve decided to do one on Team Finland. There probably aren’t that many Finns here but I believe this gives everyone another point of view on the World Cup competition. All players are listed in no particular order. I am using the correct roster sizes of 3 goalies and 23 skaters, with 2 goalies and 18 skaters dressed for each game, as announced by the World Cup of Hockey 2004 Organizing Committee.Goaltenders (3)

Traditionally, goaltending has been thought to be the weak link for Finland but the goalies have often turned in surprising efforts. Now, although regular Finnish starter Jani Hurme has been fading and is now injured, Finnish goaltender crop looks stronger than ever. Pasi Nurminen has been the first Finnish NHL starter for about two years now, playing in 47 games so far this season. Miikka Kiprusoff has been a sensation since joining the Flames; he has gone 14-3-2 and leads the NHL with a 1.46 GAA and .941 SV% in 19 games. There are also more Finnish backups than ever. The third goalie is a difficult choice with Vesa Toskala of the Sharks 5th in the league with a .931%, Mika Noronen battling for the starting job in Buffalo and Jussi Markkanen backing up for the New York Rangers. Noronen certainly has the talent, but Toskala and Markkanen have international experience on their side. However, the under-22 rule could force Finland to choose highly-touted Kari Lehtonen. As the third goalie probably doesn’t play, this is no problem and the ultra-talented youngster could shine if given the opportunity. Toskala seems like the strongest choice anyway. Kiprusoff’s rejecting of Salt Lake City duties raises an issue, but as the reason then was that he didn’t feel good enough, that should have changed by now. Who’ll be the starter? Kiprusoff if he continues like this, otherwise Nurminen has the inside track. This season’s Finnish League phenomenom Niklas Backstrom will have to wait for future opportunities.

My picks:

Kiprusoff, Nurminen, Toskala

Skaters (23)

For the last couple of years, Finnish d-men and defensive forwards have become solid NHL contributors while no more flashy forwards have arrived. The Finnish Elite League is the mother of trap and that shows when you look at the players that come to the NHL and, in this case, to the National Team. Defense shouldn’t be a problem, goal scoring could be. However, with mastermind head coach Raimo Summanen and assistant Jari Kurri behind the bench instead of incompetent Hannu Aravirta, Finland will have something to say in the competition.

Defensemen (8)

Kimmo Timonen of the Predators is presently tied for 8th in NHL defenseman scoring, is a perennial huge contributor on the international stage and is expected to wear an ‘A’ in the World Cup. Calder candidate Flyer Joni Pitkanen is an ultra solid d-man with good offense and he satisfies the under-22 rule. Solid Janne Niinimaa of the Islanders and Canuck Sami Salo, the one with the booming slap shot, are PP material with Timonen. That leaves four d-men to compete for two roster spots while the eight players on the team are clear. Toni Lydman of the Flames, who’s been dubbed “a poor man’s Nick Lidstrom” by many, should be picked but traditionally, Team Finland has left Lydman outside looking in. With new management in place this could change. Veteran Teppo Numminen, having lost most of his offensive punch to aging, is still solid and is expected to take one roster spot. The former Phoenix captain could also bring leadership. Much-maligned Aki Berg of the Leafs was a favorite of the old management, making lots of mistakes with the puck and taking stupid penalties at crucial times. However, solid World Championship effort last time he was in could give Berg a chance. He also plays well with Lydman. Don’t expect him to dress often if he gets the nod, however. Ossi Vaananen of the Coyotes is an ok young defenseman with some international experience but might not have what it takes in World Cup level when it comes to handling the puck on the large surface. He’s the only rational NHL choice for the eight spot, though. Finnish league vet Marko Tuulola would get consideration if the timing of the tournament was better.

My picks:

Timonen, Niinimaa, Pitkanen, Numminen, Lydman, Salo, Berg, Vaananen

Forwards (15)

Finland really has forwards for only two lines. After that there are only defensive forwards and youngsters left. Scoring could be a serious problem.

Centers (5)

A traditional weak link, the situation is a bit better now. The centers were a real woe in Salt Lake City with Koivu out. Having Flyers winger Sami Kapanen as the first line center tells the whole story. With Captain Koivu of the Canadiens back in fold and Panthers captain Olli Jokinen turned into a force to be reckoned with, the top two spots at center are a lock. Koivu will serve as the team captain. Stars sophomore, heavily jinxed Niko Kapanen should return to form to fill one of the spots. The choices aren’t hard as Finland has four NHL regulars at center. Luckily, the fourth choice, Tuomo Ruutu of the Chicago Blackhawks, will be a needed under-22 player. Although he has sucked defensively on the struggling ‘Hawks, his age all but locks him to the roster. Wildcards at center include former Finnish League stars and linemates, Tommi Santala of the Thrashers/Chicago Wolves and C/LW Antti Miettinen of the Stars/Utah Grizzlies. As the duo has great chemistry, picking both would give Finland depth both at wing and center. Another option would be Finnish League center Jarkko Immonen who turned some heads at the Toronto Maple Leafs camp. This would require that the Leafs sign him now, which probably won’t happen because of the CBA.

My picks:

Koivu, Jokinen, N.Kapanen, T.Ruutu, Santala

Wingers (10)

Struggling right winger Teemu Selanne of the Avalanche is a lock as a player who can sometimes score at will. He could wear an ‘A’. Three-time Selke Trophy winner Jere Lehtinen, who scored 31 goals last year, will probably be converted to left wing and the Stars forward would play with Koivu and Selanne in the top line that has been together in numerous international events. Sami Kapanen could play right wing on Jokinen’s line and is also a lock as the third Finnish winger with any kind of profile. Panther Niklas Hagman has often played well with Jokinen at international competition and will probably make the team. Antti Miettinen could be in the reserves and can also play center, as told earlier. Antti Laaksonen of the Wild, a solid defensive forward, could be a third line winger and Ville Nieminen of the Blackhawks and Jarkko Ruutu of the Canucks would bring in some badly-needed grit. Lasse Pirjeta of the Columbus BJ’s will probably make the team also and be a depth forward. Tony Salmelainen of the Oilers/Toronto Roadrunners would round out the lineup as an under-22 player.

My picks:

Selanne, Lehtinen, Kapanen, Hagman, Laaksonen, Nieminen, J.Ruutu, Pirjeta, Miettinen, Salmelainen

And finally…

The projected roster and lines of 18 skaters and 2 goalies, according to earlier international events and logical thinking. The only purpose of this is to speculate what the team would look like, for people who don’t know how the team is built. So I’m essentially guessing here 😉

Goalies:

1. Miikka Kiprusoff 2. Pasi Nurminen

Lines:

Lehtinen-Koivu-Selanne

Timonen-Niinimaa

Hagman-Jokinen-S.Kapanen

Pitkanen-Numminen

Laaksonen-N.Kapanen-Nieminen

Lydman-Salo

J.Ruutu-T.Ruutu-Pirjeta


30 Responses to Projected Team Finland

  1. Bretzky says:

    awesome article. the fin team actually looks really good to me this year. keep up the good work.

  2. swedishvoice says:

    What about Pasi Määtinen and Kalle Salstedt?

  3. munkeyman70 says:

    Isnt Jarkko Immonen in the Dallas system?

  4. madhippo says:

    Not to sound like a dick, but who cares! It’s great that all three Team Finland fans got to read a great article (it was well-written and thought out), but the thousands of Leaf fans on here feel robbed! :)

  5. Malurous says:

    Like I said, “There probably aren’t that many Finns here but I believe this gives everyone another point of view on the World Cup competition.”

    And this team could be about one million times better than the Nagano team. Anyone remember what that one did?

    Yeah, I know that not many people are going to read this and even less people care as Team Finland doesn’t really cause great emotions. But I don’t care :) The article is there for anyone who does care and wants to see what’s going on in one of the other World Cup teams.

  6. Donovan says:

    I’m still waiting for someone to write an article about Team Korea, or Team Ajerbijan. Where the hell is the respect for Team Argentina?

  7. Malurous says:

    Yep, Jarkko A. Immonen is. The -84 born. The -82 born is a different guy, a Leafs 8th round pick and a guy who has enjoyed a surprise breakout year. It confuses people, that’s why the Dallas system guy uses the name Jarkko A. Immonen.

    On a sidenote, Antti Miettinen of the Stars is not the same Antti Miettinen that played in the WHL last year 😉

  8. Malurous says:

    Huh? You mean Leaf fans aren’t drooling on the article? I mean, I criticized Aki Berg and made an average Leaf prospect sound like the second coming of Wayne Gretzky… Damn, I tried so hard to think like a Leaf fan. What did I do wrong? ;P

  9. Malurous says:

    Spelled Määttänen and Sahlstedt. Not that anyone cares. Nice to see another Scandinavian here. But those two guys are hardly national team material even on the Euro Hockey Tour. Out of the Swedish League, Tomi Kallio could have a chance to make the team… Especially with the way he and the two Panthers play together.

  10. Malurous says:

    Sorry, no can do, because HTR doesn’t offer buttons for those. You should contact the admins and request them.

  11. bruinexpert says:

    no kidding

  12. bruinexpert says:

    it’ll be interesting to see Tuomo Ruutu play on a good team…they sound pretty good to me..some weak spots but they should be pretty competitive…anyways great article

  13. spazmainia13 says:

    CHRIST!!!!

    Whatever happened to names like Joe. Joe Sundin, or Frank Lindstrom.

    Someone start importing some names over there, sports casters are going to be killing themselves. All we need are 3 Alihandro Zergorveneskiov’s to come out of somewhere and play on the same team.

    No offense to any Alihandro Zergorveneskiov’s out there.

  14. spazmainia13 says:

    exporting, exporting, exporting!!!

    man, good thing i got that out before some tight ass found it.

  15. mojo19 says:

    that leaf 8th round pick is the second coming of gretzky, and Aki Berg should probably start, and play the powerplay. 😉 ok, then! now you’ve got a leafs fans comments on here, so we can all feel normal again.

  16. kingbobert says:

    I just have a question

    Do all the teams have to be composed completely of Nhl players?

    that would definetly suck because i think some teams dont have enough players in the Nhl to form a full squad and even if they do some teams might have enough but might want to get some from their leagues instead cause they’re better

    and dammit Team Greece should finaly compete hehe…chelios, kostopoulos dimitrakos half of theodore…fuck dont even have enough to play street hockey…hehe…

    i was kiddin guys dont get you panties in a bunch

  17. Athens2 says:

    Don’t forget about Antero Niittymaki, who is rotting away in the Flyers organization. All because Sean Burke is so great … 14 goals in the last 3 games. Oh, wait, he’s a goalie. That would be bad then. God, I can’t wait for Esche to come back.

    Anyway, Niittymaki was a goaltender on Finland’s World Junior team in 1999. So don’t count him out of being considered for international competion.

  18. CaptainModano says:

    uh…Chelios? Maybe he’s of Greek descent, I don’t know….but then again, Owen Nolan was born in Ireland, and Dany Heatley in Germany.

    No, not all teams are made up of all NHLers, do you really think Belarus has anyone in the NHL besides Ruslan Salei and maybe some other player? Teams like Canada, Russia, and USA are all-NHL, while other countries like Sweden and Finland usually play a handful of local, non-NHLers.

  19. Stretch says:

    As a Canadian living in Finland, I find it refreshing that someone took the time and effort to put together a very well thought out post on another World Cup team other than Canada or the US on this forum. Well done!

    Firstly, on defense, I agree with your final selection list 100%. IMHO your 8 picks are right on the money.

    However, taking your roster picks as a whole into account, you don’t have the prerequisite three under 22’s from what I can see. Who should be the 3rd under 22 after Pitkänen and T. Ruutu? The only real choices are Lehtonen in goal, or Bergenheim as one of the wingers. In keeping with the “logic” that there should be one under 22 at each postion, and I agree with your 2 veteran goalie “starters”, Lehtonen could probably get the nod over Toskala as the 3rd stringer.

    At forward, the only player that I don’t agree with in your final picks is Santala at center. I know he’s been injured for most of the year, but I feel Riku Hahl, if healthy, would bring the type of play needed to compete more effectively in this type of tournament.

    All in all, an excellent post!

  20. Malurous says:

    Whew… Thanks pal 😉 I was starting to worry.

  21. Malurous says:

    He’d have to break out before the selections and that won’t happen with Esche and Burke in front of him. Niittymaki’s a good goalie and has played for the national team but he’d definitely be behind Nurminen, Kiprusoff, Toskala, Noronen, Markkanen, Lehtonen… not gonna happen.

  22. Malurous says:

    In fact, if you look at the rosters of the inaugural World Cup, the Euro teams didn’t have the best possible teams because this just works better with NHL players. A couple of forwards from Europe would be upgrades over some that I mentioned but probably won’t get the nod.

  23. matteo says:

    Solid article. Well done. Looks like it will be a pretty good showing for the Finns. Kiprusoff should be great in net for them.

    Ya gotta give Sammi some live. Kapanen is what’s Happenin. He has been phenomenal for the Flyers. The guy is 3 feet tall and hits everything on the ice. If he was as big a Primeau or LecLair they would be taking people off the ice in body bags.

    Not to mention that Ruutu, Miettinen, Pitkanen and Santala kick ass in NHL 2004.

  24. Malurous says:

    Lehtonen is an option, Salmelainen is an option but Bergenheim is not ready.

    Hahl is defensive only. If Lehtonen is the under-22 then Hahl could be in but I feel Niko Kapanen is the 3rd line center. So he wouldn’t really fit in.

  25. madhippo says:

    Non-Leaf fans onhere crack me up! I am a Leafs fan but I do admit that there is a great bias towards the Leafs on this site (I have mentioned though that is lkely b/c 2/3 of the people on this site ARE Leafs fans). That being said, I made a JOKE about Leaf fans feeling robbed and you tools took me seriously. I was trying to have fun at my own (and the majority of other) expense, but that apparently didn’t seem to matter. I will be on the egde of my seat awaiting your next witty Leaf comment…keep ’em coming!

  26. swedishvoice says:

    In the same mellody as the x-mas carrol…

    Jarmo Myllys walks on water shallalala lala lala!!!

    Go HV71!!!!!!

  27. General says:

    I believe there is quite big difference between teams of countries you mentioned and Finnish team.

    Just to remind you Nagano Olympics 1998.

    Top 3

    1. Czech Rebublic

    2. Russian Federation

    3. Finland

    Where was USA Dream team and Canada ?

  28. Athens2 says:

    All I’m saying is that he shouldn’t be left out of consideration. Not that he should go. Just be on the list. And since he wasn’t mentioned in the article, figured I’d throw it out there.

    Also, just because the Flyers don’t seem to think to highly of him, does not mean the Finn’s think the same.

  29. Stretch says:

    I agree Bergenheim isn’t ready, so really the three under 22’s should be Lehtonen, Ruutu, and Pitkänen (Salmelainen is 23, and IMHO makes it onto the team on the merit of being a real speedster and sparkplug, exactly what you want to be able to insert into the lineup once in a while when needed).

    I agree with Kapanen being the 3rd line center, but surely Hahl is a better option than Santala as the 4th or “5th” line center?

  30. Malurous says:

    Ever heard about sarcasm? Heck, I wasn’t serious! I was just going on with the game! Check the comments. You think I’m REALLY trying to write articles that have some special appeal to Leafs fans? Sheesh…

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