Photo: Tappara forward Aleksander Barkov should be the highest drafted Finnish player since Mikael Granlund was chosen ninth overall in 2010 (courtesy of Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
The number of players drafted from Finland will likely never again reach the record numbers prior to the 2004-05 NHL lockout. Since that time, NHL clubs have tended to see how players from Finland and other European countries develop and then sign them as free agents rather than drafting youngsters.
Photo: Finnish defenseman and New York Islanders prospect Ville Pokka showed a solid, all-around game at the 2013 World Junior Championship (courtesy of Chapin Landvogt/HF)
For North American hockey fans to understand Finland's seventh-place finish at the 2013 World Junior Championship tournament, all anyone has to do is think back to 2013 gold medal-winning USA's experience at last year's tournament in Western Canada.
Photo: London Knights defenseman and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Olli Maatta leads a solid group of Finnish defenders that could be the main strength of that country's WJC squad(courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)
At the 2012 World Junior Championship, much of the focus was on high profile forwards Mikael Granlund and Teemu Pulkkinen – veterans of previous tournaments who were making one last attempt to win a gold medal. While Finland came up short of that goal, losing to eventual champion Sweden in a shootout in the semifinals, the team's fourth place finish would have to be considered a success.
Photo: Ville Pokka could be the first Finnish trained defenseman to be selected in the 2012 NHL Draft. (Ken McKenna/HF)
The country of Finland has produced several top-notch goalies and a wealth of talented young forwards in the past few seasons. The same cannot be said of the defenseman position – though that could change with the upcoming draft.