It’s time to talk about Team Finland, who have already named their roster for the 2023 World Junior Championship. After their silver-medal performance at the previous edition of the tournament, the Finns will arrive at the Avenir Centre in Moncton confident that they will be able to compete with the other big four nations involved in the competition.
Finland’s roster, which has been constructed by long-time general manager Kimmo Oikarinen, includes several standout draftees, an impressive prospect for 2024, and a stable set of options in net.
Related: 2023 Guide to the World Junior Championship
While the Finns will lean heavily on the likes of Brad Lambert and Joakim Kemell to produce offence, the hockey world should still expect business as usual from Oikarinen’s side. They just went unbeaten in a five-team tournament in Europe and can always be relied on to become greater than the sum of their parts.
Here is Finland’s 25-player squad for the World Junior Championship, with commentary on their standout players and notable snubs.
Team Finland, 2023 World Junior Championship Goaltenders:
Niklas Kokko, Aku Koskenvuo, Jani Lampinen
Niklas Kokko, a second-round selection of the Seattle Kraken, is expected to fill the crease for Team Finland. He has made a solid start to his professional career on loan with Hermes, upholding a .904 save percentage (SV%) through a dozen appearances in Mestis — the second division in his homeland.
Kokko has the size and footwork to make an impact at the World Junior Championship. Still only 18, the 6-foot-3 netminder will enjoy a productive career at the highest level if his development continues on its current trajectory.
Aku Koskenvuo, a mid-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, will occupy the backup role, while the undrafted Jani Lampinen is expected to act as third-in-command.
Team Finland, 2023 World Junior Championship Defencemen:
Kalle Ervasti, Aleksi Heimosalmi, Aron Kiviharju, Aleksi Malinen, Ville Ruotsalainen, Otto Salin, Jimi Suomi, Topias Vilén
Aron Kiviharju is an unknown quantity on Finland’s blueline. Born in Esbjerg, Denmark, the 16-year-old defender made his professional debut earlier this season and has looked solid through six appearances in Liiga.
Kiviharju has also produced impressive results in the junior ranks, with 12 assists in 13 appearances for his club’s U20 squad this term. If he carries his form into the World Juniors, it could supercharge his pre-draft campaign.
Aleksi Heimosalmi, who was selected 44th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2021, is an important returnee for Finland. He is off to an impressive start to the season in Liiga with Ässät, notching 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 25 appearances, and has the foot speed required to be a match-winner at the junior level.
Topias Vilen (New Jersey Devils) and Otto Salin (Los Angeles Kings) are also important inclusions for Team Finland. They will both be expected to absorb difficult assignments.
Team Finland, 2023 World Junior Championship Forwards:
Niko Huuhtanen, Lenni Hämeenaho, Konsta Kapanen, Oliver Kapanen, Aleksanteri Kaskimäki, Joakim Kemell, Ville Koivunen, Brad Lambert, Jere Lassila, Verner Miettinen, Jani Nyman, Sami Päivärinta, Topi Rönni, Kalle Väisänen
Finland’s roster has a wealth of experience in Liiga, with most of their 900-appearance haul connected to the forward group. Brad Lambert is just one example of the squad’s experience at the professional level: he collected 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in 99 appearances for JYP and the Lahden Pelicans before his draft year.
Lambert, who was selected 30th overall by the Winnipeg Jets last summer, has made a slow start to his career in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Manitoba Moose, but has the skills and experience required to thrive at the World Juniors. He is quick, unafraid to let the puck fly, and will play in all situations for Team Finland, which should provide him with a confidence boost in his post-draft season.
Joakim Kemell was selected 17th overall by the Nashville Predators in the latest draft and has made steady progress since. Unlike Lambert, he was loaned back to his domestic club (JYP) and has already produced 10 points (eight goals, two assists) in 24 appearances.
Kemell, who turns 19 in April, is an intelligent forward who does his best work away from the puck. He has developed a reputation for arriving in the right place at the right time and has the technical abilities to convert the chances he receives.
Selected as Liiga Rookie of the Year in 2021-22, Kemell scored 12 points (seven goals, four assists) in seven appearances at the postponed 2022 World Junior Championship and should record similar numbers this time around.
Ville Koivunen will also provide valuable middle-six firepower. The Carolina Hurricanes draftee has been one of Finland’s most consistent performers in junior categories and is primed to breakout at his second U20 World Junior Championship.
Kalle Väisänen is another important piece of the puzzle for last tournament’s silver medallists. Selected in the fourth round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers, the 6-foot-4 forward offers an alluring combination of size and skill. He is a bottom-six mainstay in Liiga for TPS but could slide into a more offensive role for his national team.
The Finns excluded three drafted forwards from their roster: Miko Matikka (Arizona Coyotes), Samu Salminen (New Jersey Devils), and Samu Tuomaala (Philadelphia Flyers).
Looking Ahead for Team Finland at the 2023 World Junior Championship
Finland’s journey at the World Juniors starts on Boxing Day, when they take on Switzerland at the Avenir Centre. They will also take on Slovakia, Latvia, and the USA to complete the preliminary round of the tournament. From there, the Finns will attempt to navigate a path to the gold-medal game on Jan. 5. If they develop chemistry quickly, they could have another medal-position win.