Photo: Karpat Oulu forward and Nashville Predators prospect Saku Maenalanen was a key performer for Finland in that country’s run to a gold medal at the 2014 World Junior Championship (courtesy of ANDREAS HILLERGREN/AFP/Getty Images)
The 2014-15 season in Finland‘s Liiga will be an interesting one if only for the absence of long-time Helsinki club Jokerit, which bolted the league to compete in the KHL. Vaasa Sport, which finished second in Mestis last year but won back-to-back championships in 2010-11 and 2011-12, moves up to fill Jokerit’s spot in the 14-team league. Read more»
Photo: Jokerit defenseman and Dallas Stars prospect Esa Lindell (R) scored the first goal of the game in Finland’s 3-2 gold medal win over Sweden at the 2014 World Junior Championship (courtesy of LUDVIG THUNMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
With the wealth of talented young defensemen coming out of Finland's junior hockey program lately, it's hard to imagine that just three years ago there was a serious dearth of prospects.
Photo: Finland defenseman and New York Islanders prospect Ville Pokka in playing in his third season in Liiga, Finland’s top hockey league, despite being just 19 years of age (courtesy of Chapin Landvogt/HF)
There is no question that Finland defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen left his mark on his country's gold medal win at the 2014 World Junior Championship, as the big defender netted the golden goal to help Finland take their first gold medal at this event since 1998. But one of Ristolainen's blueline brethren, Ville Pokka, may have been Finalnd's most consistently effective defensemen at this WJC.
Photo: Nashville Predators goaltending prospect Juuse Saros, shown here competing at the 2013 USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, NY, will be part of young and talented group of goaltenders playing for HPK Hameenlinna in the SM-liiga in 2013-14 (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The 2012-13 season in Finland's SM-Liiga was interesting, to say the least.
With an influx of NHL players early in the season due to the NHL lockout, the level of play was higher than in recent years. When those players returned to their NHL clubs, the remainder of the season saw several teams which had not had much success recently in the thick of things.