Bit of a different post again, this time to examine what kind of roster Finland will pull together for the World Championships. As the NHL season is drawing to a close here is a list of players from the NHL that would be available for the national team
Formidable players, but I’m fairly certain that we won’t see Lehtinen, S. Koivu, Selanne or Kiprusoff in the tournament, but everyone else is more than possible, providing that their teams let them participate and they are injury free.
One player I can really see going for it is Vesa Toskala. Toskala is a great goalie who has had pretty miserable time of late in Toronto, where he ended up in both Ron Wilson’s and Brian Burke’s doghouse. No matter how good of a goalie you are, you can’t play well every night if the team in front of you is sub-par at best. Toskala is coming to the end of his contract and really needs to show what he is made of. The games he played for the Flames this season, he was impressive in. The World Championships would be a great platform to demonstrate what he can do.
The trouble is, however, that Niittymaki and Backstrom have had good seasons individually and are considered stronger players. Backstrom has indicated interest in participating. There are also strong netminders from the European leagues who have played amazing seasons. However, my three picks for goalies would be Toskala, Backstrom, Niittymaki.
As for defence: This was Finland’s biggest problem in the Olympics. We simply do not have capable defencemen in the NHL to compete at events such as the Olympics, but the World Champs are a different story. We need Pitkanen from the Hurricanes, providing he is healthy. Most of the defensive players will come from Europe, who will be able to compete at this level. We’ve got Petteri Nummelin(Lugano), who is a great all round player, then there are the Kukkonen’s(KHL), Niskala’s(SWE) of the world who will fill in quite nicely on the blue line. My choices would be: Pitkanen, Nummelin, Kukkonen, Niskala, Markus Seikola (Ilves FIN), Mikko Maenpaa (HPK FIN)
Upfront Finland has an arsenal of quality players available, depending on if they are going to come through to the World Champs. Hagman, Miettinen and Koivu were solid in last years’ competition and I would love to see them back in the roster. The overlooked Jussi Jokinen should be a shoe in as well. My only regret is that Jarkko Ruutu has made it to the Play offs with the Senators, but we should have a replacement for him in Leo Komarov (KHL).
Perhaps the most interesting prospect to play in the World Championships is a potential first round draft pick, Mikael Granlund. The playmaking forward has been stunning in his debut season and definitely deserves a look and experience from international competition to help him progress in his career. From the Russian KHL, Niko Kapanen and Ville Peltonen are also viable options, as is former Philadelphia Flyers forward Sami Kapanen, who now plays for Kalpa Kuopio in the Finnish SM-Liiga. The choice of forwards is tough, but I’m going to go with the following (Note, I’m not suggesting Finland should play with these lines, I’ve thrown them together as I only know positions for the NHL forwards): Hagman-M.Koivu-Miettinen, Granlund – N. Kapanen – S. Kapanen, Tony Salmelainen – Peltonen – Antti Philstrom, Leo Komarov – Jori Lehtera – Jukka Hentunen