2006: Originally a junior player in the KooKoo organization, Vili Sopanen moved to the nearby Pelicans at an early age. He wasn't a mainstay on junior national teams, and as a result he accumulated less international experience than most European draftees. Despite his size, he never moved to older junior levels prematurely.
2006-07: Sopanen made a push at the Finnish WJC squad and was successful in the end. While his tournament there was rather uneventful, back home he continued as the top scorer of U20 Pelicans and won the championship title with the team. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2007 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils.
2007-08: Sopanen graduated full time to the SM-Liiga this season with the Pelicans Lahti and had an outstanding debut in the top men's league in Finland after only playing seven games the year previous. He posted fantastic numbers across the board, especially considering he was only 19 years of age. He recorded 30 points in 54 games and finished third on the team with 15 goals.
2008-09: After making a big splash last year in his rookie season with the Pelicans in the SM-Liiga in Finland, Sopanen's numbers dipped slightly, but he still has a respectable year. In 58 games, he scored 11 goals and 17 assists to go along with a -2 rating and 30 PIM's.
Sopanen is a big winger focusing on finesse skills. Decent defensively, his skills stand out more in the offensive end. He is comfortable with the puck, able to make good passes or carry the puck himself. As a swift skater, he can combine a fairly abrasive offensive game to a set of abilities which allow him to challenge defensemen successfully.
However, Sopanen doesn't push to the net nearly as often as his skills would permit. He would need the straightforwardness, as his hockey sense isn't his greatest strength. Also, his physical play is stifled by a lack of a mean streak. Sopanen has intriguing potential but isn't very likely to make the NHL as a offensive player.
Sopanen is playing in Finland and is unlikely to play in North America for the foreseeable future.