On Wednesday Morning, Team Finland announced their final roster for the 2022 World Junior Championship. With several returners from last year’s bronze medal-winning team, this team will be hoping to take the next step and feature in the gold-medal game.
The biggest loss from last year’s team has to be Florida Panthers center Anton Lundell, who led the team in points, with 10, and was by far their best player. Fortunately, this team still has plenty of star power up front and should be able to replace Lundell’s production.
They should comfortably finish second in group A, just behind Canada. As part of the big five nations at this tournament, the expectation will be to medal, and I think this team certainly has the tools to make a deep run this year. Here is the 2022 Team Finland roster.
Joel Blomqvist (Karpat), Juha Jatkola (IPK), Leevi Merilainen (Kingston Frontenacs)
After going to the 2021 tournament but playing zero games, this is Joel Blomqvist’s time to shine for Finland. The 2020 second-round pick for the Pittsburgh Penguins is probably a tier below the top goalies in this tournament, like Sebastian Cossa, Jesper Wallestedt, and Yaroslav Askarov. That isn’t to take anything away from Blomqvist, though, as he’s still a solid goalie in his own right. He prefers to play a calm, technically sound game, playing deep in his net — he still has the athleticism to explode across his crease and make spectacular saves if he’s caught out of position. He was very good in his five games for Karpat this season, with a stunning .980 save percentage and a .44 goals-against average.
Leevi Merilainen will likely be Blomqvist’s backup. A third-round pick by the Ottawa Senators, he’s putting together a solid rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). I’d be surprised if he took the starting job in this tournament, but he will provide solid cover for Blomqvist. The third goalie, Juha Jatkola, is unlikely to see any action in this tournament and might face a similar fate to Blomqvist last year, playing zero minutes. This team lacks a standout goalie, but Blomqvist and Merilainen are solid options that won’t lose you games.
Aleksi Herimosalmi (Assat), Rami Maatta (Assat), Topi Niemela (Karpat), Petteri Nurmi (HPK), Ville Ottavinen (JYP), Kasper Puutio (KalPa), Rubin Rafkin (TPS), Eemil Viro (TPS)
Despite being a slightly undersized group, with just one defenseman over 6-foot, this group is not lacking in talent. Anchoring the blue line will be Toronto Maple Leafs‘ second-round pick Topi Niemela and Detroit Red Wings’ third-round pick Eemil Viro. Niemela should be a premier player in this tournament after impressing last year with eight points in seven games. He’s been an even better player this year, with 22 points in 28 games for Karpat currently. He’ll provide an offensive thrust from the back end and will likely be a point-per-game player again.
Viro will be the more defensive player in this partnership, as he’s a more physical player than you would expect from someone of his size. His experience playing against men in the Liiga over the last three seasons should help him physically impose himself this year.
The talent doesn’t stop there either. This Finnish team boasts several solid defensemen. There are two consistent themes in almost all of their scouting reports: excellent skating and playing bigger than their size, except 6-foot-4 Ville Ottavainen, who needs to work on his skating and is massive. This group is going to be difficult to beat on the rush with their fantastic skating and will be able to quickly turn defense into offense, making them a dangerous team in transition. Outside of Niemela, they lack star power but should have no issue dealing with even the most high-powered forward groups.
Samuel Helenius (JYP), Roni Hirvonen (HIFK), Roby Jarventie (Belleville Senators), Oliver Kapanen (KalPa), Joakim Kemell (JYP), Ville Koivunen (Karpat), Brad Lambert (JYP), Juuso Maenpaa (KalPa), Joel Maatta (University of Vermont), Olli Nikupeteri (Lulea HF), Sami Paivarinta (Lukko), Aatu Raty (Jukurit), Kasper Simontaival (KalPa), Kalle Vaisanen (TPS)
This is a very exciting forward group for Finland, with returners Roni Hirvonen and Kasper Simontaival set to lead this unit. Hirvonen, another Leafs’ second-round pick, and Simontaival, a Kings’ third-round pick, were impressive at the 2021 tournament, with six and seven points, respectively. Both are very well-rounded players who aren’t afraid to mix it up despite their lack of size, and they’ll bring a large arsenal of weapons to this team. Both can act as playmakers or goal scorers and are very responsible defensively. They developed great chemistry playing on Lundell’s wing last year and will likely be paired together again. The big question will be who plays with them? Hirvonen is able to play center but has mostly played wing this season, so they might look to keep him out wide.
Personally, I’d love to see them both play wing, with Aatu Raty serving as their center. It wasn’t too long ago that Raty was a consensus top 10 pick for the 2021 draft. However, a poor draft year saw him drop all the way down to the 52nd pick in 2021. He has started the 2021-22 season off with a vengeance, though, with 14 points in 16 games in the Liiga and lighting up the Summer Showcase in Plymouth. A big-bodied playmaker at 6-foot-2, he’d be a perfect player to center Simontaival and Hirvonen, helping make up for their lack of size. He’s also arguably the hottest player on this Finland roster, as he’s carrying a massive chip on his shoulder.
This would move Belleville Senator’s winger Roby Jarventie down to the second line, as Jarventie is a pure sniper with great speed who could excel as the star player on a line. Joakim Kemell, the standout winger for JYP, is putting together a fantastic draft year and will likely feature on the second line as well, as he’s pushed himself into the conversation of being a top-three pick in the upcoming draft. There’s a real argument that Kemell is the most complete player in the draft with no holes in his game. Defensively sound, with the ability to serve as both a goal scorer and a playmaker, he will be a massive part of any success this team finds.
The other highly touted 2022 draft-eligible forward on this team is Kemell’s JYP teammate Brad Lambert. Just a few months ago, he was the third-best player in the upcoming draft, but a slow start to the season has pushed him away from that conversation and has some scouts questioning him as even a top-10 pick. Like Raty, he might come into this tournament with a chip on his shoulder. A dynamic offensive weapon who can make skillful plays at high speeds, Lambert excels at hurting teams in transition. Another player to keep an eye on is Montreal Canadiens draft pick Oliver Kapanen, who’s a very strong two-way player. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him slot in behind Raty, centering Kemell and Jarventie on the second line.
This team boasts some serious talent at the top of its roster and some hard to play against, shut-down players in their bottom-six. Samuel Helenius and Joel Maatta should serve as the third and fourth-line centers, respectively, bringing defensive solidity and size to the bottom-six. Helenius, in particular, is a mean, physically imposing center with a very hard shot and soft hands in tight to grab some goals. I’d love to see Lambert placed on Helenius’ line, giving Lambert defensive cover and a player who can cash in on the winger’s ability to create chances in front.
At 6-foot-4, Kalle Vaisanen provides more size and grit to the bottom-six, with players like Juuso Maenpaa and Sami Paivarinta giving them a good mix of skill and defensive solidity in the bottom-six. With such a rounded group of forwards, this team will be very difficult to play against and will look to wear team’s down with relentless forechecking from the bottom-six and a top-six that will attack you at pace in transition.
Bottom Line for Team Finland
This team should easily walk through the group stage of this competition and will face tough opposition in the quarterfinals, having to likely play one of Russia, Sweden, or the USA. With that said, I think this Finland team has the tools to go deep in this tournament. With an excellent blue line, top-end talent up front, and a heavy physical bottom-six, this team will be difficult to beat. I think they’ll need Blomqvist to overperform a little bit if they want to medal, but that isn’t outside of his capabilities. Lambert and Kemell also have the opportunity to cement themselves both as top 10 picks, maybe even top five.
All Your THW 2022 World Junior Championship Coverage
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.