Can Finland win the World Cup of Hockey tournament? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have some weapons and couldn’t make a run for it. While they don’t have the most offensive firepower in the tournament, they could very well be the most well-rounded team.
That’s not to suggest that Finland has no offensive firepower, however. Led by Patrik Laine, Aleksander Barkov, Mikael Granlund, Jori Lehtera, and Teuvo Teravainen, Finland has the ability to put the puck in the net. This isn’t a team that is going to push and bully the other teams out of position, but rather a team that is going to have to use its speed and finesse to get around the opposition. Finland has plenty of both of those things which makes them an interesting team to watch throughout the tournament. Similarly, many of these players are very solid two-way players. Mikko Koivu, Leo Komarov, and Valtterri Filppula are three of the best two-way forwards in the NHL and they are able to effectively contribute on both ends of the ice. This is important because in order for Finland to utilize their strength of speed and finesse, players like Barkov, Granlund, Laine, and Lehtera will have to take chances through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, which will potentially leave gaps in their defensive coverage if a turnover ensues. Koivu, Filppula, and Komarov are defensively responsible enough for those offensive-minded players to take high risk, high reward chances every now and then.
Defensively, Finland is led by Olli Maatta, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Sami Vatanen. This defensive corps is not the best in the tournament, but it’s certainly nothing to laugh at as all these players are very sound defensively. They’re also able to help out the offense with solid breakout passes to push the puck through the neutral zone and even get involved in the offensive zone to create solid scoring chances. Ristolainen, in particular, is one of the most promising young defensemen in the NHL today. These three players combined contributed for a total of 98 points last season in the NHL for their respective teams. Being able to effectively transition from the defensive zone through the neutral zone allows for the defensemen to push the puck up to the speedy forwards to potentially catch the opposition out of position and lead to quality scoring chances. Not to be overlooked is Esa Lindell and Ville Pokka, two promising young prospects who put up very solid numbers in the AHL last season.
It would be hard to argue against the notion that the backbone and foundation of this Finland teams comes from between the pipes with their goalies. Containing two of the NHL’s best goaltenders, Finland has as good a goalie tandem as any team in this tournament. Pekka Rinne will be starting, and the backup, yes the BACKUP, goalie is Tuukka Rask. If Rinne is able to get hot, Finland could be an incredibly dangerous team. Similarly, if Rinne plays poorly, Finland can simply make the switch to Rask and there wouldn’t be much of a drop-off, if any at all.
Overall, it is hard to pick Finland as the winner of this tournament when essentially every other team is stacked with NHL talent. Canada, USA, and Russia contain loads of talent and are the top three favorites for good reason. Similarly, Finalnd’s roster contains several players with zero NHL experience, and that’s certainly something that is going to show at some point, if not all the time, in this tournament.
Finland went 1-2 in the exhibition games leading up to the tournament. They beat Sweden before losing to both Sweden and USA. It’s hard to judge based on exhibition games, however. It would have to be a perfect world in order for Finland to come out on top of this tournament, but it’s not impossible. Finland is one of the better rounded teams in terms of offense and defense, and if they are able to get elite goaltending while also utilizing their speed and finesse to perfection, Finland will be able to, at the very least, make some noise in this tournament.
Sebastian Aho, Aleksander Barkov, Joonas Donskoi, Valtteri Filppula, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Jussi Jokinen, Mikko Koivu, Leo Komarov, Lauri Korpikoski, Patrik Laine, Jori Lehtera, Teuvo Teravainen
Jyrki Jokipakka, Sami Lepisto, Esa Lindell, Olli Maatta, Ville Pokka, Rasmus Ristolainen, Sami Vatanen
Mikko Koskinen, Pekka Rinne, Tuukka Rask