WJC Preview- Finland

Dobber Sports

2008-12-20

 

It's that time of year again, and Bugg Bytes kicks off its World Juniors coverage with six days of roster reports. That's right- half the time of that annoying song, quadtriple the amount of useful information! First up: the peksy Finns, who are woefully underrated entering the tournament.


Forward


Mikael Granlund, LW/C

5'10, 172 lbs 2/26/1992
23 GP, 14-23-37, 39 PIM (JrA)

It's time to call Mikael Granlund the best young player in the country. While the 1992-born forward has been lumped with several other challengers- included his younger brother, Markus- 2008-09 has been the Mikael Granlund Show. Not eligible until 2010, Granlund is doing things not many Finns do in their draft year. Leading U20 league scorer: check. PPG total in Tier-II men's league: check. WJC spot: check. All that's left is a promotion to the SM-Liiga, and we could see that before the year is over.

Teemu Hartikainen, LW
6'1, 201 lbs 5/3/1990
31 GP, 8-2-10, 12 PIM (FEL)

One of the most-forgotten members of the Oilers pipeline, grinding winger Teemu Hartikainen has flown under the radar for most of the year with KalPa of the Finnish Elite League. A big, strong forward whose calling card is playing a faultless physical game, Hartikainen has been finding the net more as of late thanks to renewed confidence in front of the net. Already a leader on his team, the sixth round pick is starting to look a bit like Red Wing wunderscout Hakan Andersson's very first draft choice- Tomas Holmstrom. He could have an eye-opening tournament- especially in the eyes of goalies.

Niclas Lucenius, C
6'0, 194 lbs 5/3/1989
28 GP, 1-4-5, 12 PIM (FEL)

While he doesn't resemble any current Red Wing, Atlanta fourth-rounder is looking like a former great to wear the wheel: Igor Larionov. An intensely cerebral centerman, the 19 year-old is not a new-comer to the national team,  racking up 2-4-6 last year the WJC. However, playmakers- no matter how good- are largely ineffective if the majority of their linemates are checkers and grinders, as has been the case for Finland in prior tournaments. The 2009 WJC will see Lucenius get to center at least one dynamic talent, and it could be a potent duo. Lucenius could challenge for the tournament lead in assists.


Joonas Rask, C/RW

5'10, 163 lbs 3/24/1990
19 GP, 6-8-14, 6 PIM (JrA)

One of the most most intriguing things about the 2008 NHL Entry Draft was who wasn't picked. Joonas Rask is in the top two or three on one such list. Another high-end playmaker, Rask has been having the type of season most teams probably would've wanted him to had they taken him. Although pointless in the first ten SM-liiga games of his year, Rask has been a PPG player in the Mestis. Oddly enough, though, he's been well under a point per game in Junior. While Rask can easily be classified as a playmaker, that would be like calling Ales Hemsky just a playmaker. A dazzling player when on, Rask has more than enough talent to carry an offense despite being only 5'10 and 170 lbs soaking wet.


Ilmari Pitkanen

6'0, 183 lbs 7/18/1990
17 GP, 5-6-11, 79 PIM (JrA)

Undrafted and unrelated to NHL star Joni Pitkanen, you'll probably hear the name during TSN's coverage of the WJC anyway. Ilmari Pitkanen is certain to be one of Pierre McGuire'