Finland’s WJC success helps players

By Mikko Vuori

Edmonton prospect Jani Rita played surprisingly good.
Eight goals in the tournament gives a big boost to his
confidence. Rita has 2+2 in 3 games for Jokerit after
the WJC. Before the tournament he had 5 points in
27 games.

2001 eligibles Tuomo Ruutu and Mikko Koivu
were centering two top lines. These two players are considered the future leaders of Finnish hockey. Another 2001 eligible forward Tuomas Pihlman wasn’t able to get any points, but he isn’t supposed to be a scorer.

Ville Hämäläinen was the biggest surprise. Second line
winger had a very good tournament. Hämäläinen had 7 points in seven games. Hämäläinen is still undrafted, but he might get picked in next draft.

Another Edmonton prospect Tony Salmelainen missed
last season with injuries. Salmelainen is a small player, but he really has good speed. He was third in team’s scoring.

Tuukka Mäntylä (5 points +8) took the leading role
in defense. Mäntylä hasn’t been drafted yet, mainly
because of his size (5’9). Mäntylä is good with the
puck and is also good skater. Mäntyla was selected to
play for Team Finland in Swedish Hockey Games.

Arto Tukio’s injury during team’s carting session
really hurt Finnish defense. Markku Paukkanen
was able to step up. He had two points and was a +7
in the tournament.

Ari Ahonen had a good tournament. He outgoaled
Maxim Oullette in the semifinal game. In the finals he
let in two goals, but he can’t be blamed for them.
The Devils wanted Ahonen to play for Albany this
season but he stayed in Finland. He should be
playing in the AHL next season.

2002 eligible goalie Kari Lehtonen played in one game,
2-2 tie with Canada. Lehtonen is obviosly a huge
talent. He will be a top player in 2002 Entry Draft.

NHL teams will probably draft more Finnish players
this summer due to Finland’s good performance in WJC.
Most of the players were still undrafted. Hämäläinen
and Mäntyla could be picked after their great performance.