Photo: HPK Hameenlinna goaltender and Nashville Predators prospect Juuse Saros has appeared in 39 international contests for Finland over the past five seasons (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Finland has consistently produced NHL-caliber goalies in recent years. While some were never drafted and signed after establishing themselves in the domestic Liiiga — such as Chicago’s Antti Raanta or Antti Niemi of San Jose — there have also been some high profile draft picks like Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne who are enjoying great NHL careers. Read more»
Photo: HPK Hameenlinna goaltender and Nashville Predators prospect Juuse Saros turned in a stellar performance at the 2014 World Junior Championship, helping to lead Finland to their first gold medal at the U20 WJC since 1998 (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
No country has had as much success developing goaltenders in recent years as Finland.
But with 14 Finland-trained goalies playing in North America and another nine playing in Europe in either the KHL or in Sweden's SHL, the number of drafted prospects playing in Finland's Liiga has dwindled to just five.
Photo: Although limited by injury in 2012-13, Oscar Klefbom has ample experience playing professionally and on the international stage for Sweden (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The Edmonton Oilers had four prospects playing in Europe for the 2012-13 season, the most notable being defensive prospect Oscar Klefbom who, despite being injured for the majority of the 2012-13 season, is one of the Oilers’ most anticipated defensive prospects. The Oilers also have defenseman Erik Gustafsson and a pair of goaltending prospects with Samu Perhonen and Frans Tuohimaa who are both showing signs of potential, although neither are quite blue chip prospects as of yet.
Photo: Teemu Hartikainen may not be the most glamorous prospect in the Oilers' system, but the hard-nosed winger is once again skating with the big club in Edmonton. (courtesy of Vincent Muzik/Icon SMI)
As a team that has taken the number one draft selection in the league for the past three years, the Edmonton Oilers are in a unique position. Their last three number one picks have been an almost sure-bet to enter straight onto the Oilers roster at the beginning of the next season and were expected to make a big splash for a team that desperately needed some new blood, starting with Taylor Hall in 2010-11, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011-12, and Nail Yakupov in 2012-13. This leaves the potential for the remaining draft pool to be a bit sparse, but the Oilers have managed to maintain some depth in their pipeline.
Photo: After playing the 2009-10 season int he WHL, Toni Rajala returned to the SM-liiga where he has played since. In 2011-12, Rajala managed 16 goals and 13 assists with Ilves Tampere. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Bell/CHL)
Outside of 2011 first round pick Oscar Klefbom, the picture in Europe and in the NCAA for the Oilers is one of depth prospects and long shots. This is in part due to a preference for CHL players in the Stu McGregor draft era, and in part due to some of the higher quality Europeans and college picks (like Tyler Pitlick, Martin Marincin, and Martin Gernat) making the move to the CHL after they were drafted. Beyond Klefbom, for whom the organization has high hopes, any of these players who become even a quality depth NHL player would be considered a bonus for the team.
Oscar Klefbom, D, Farjestads BK Karlstad (SEL) Read more»