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: 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: Espoo Blues Junior A goaltender and 2014 prospect Kaapo Kahkonen is considered one of the top goaltending prospects coming out of Europe for this year’s NHL Draft (courtesy of Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
At the midpoint of the season the number of prospects from Finland likely to be drafted in the 2014 NHL Draft — due in part to several top Finnish prospects now playing junior hockey in North America — appears to be down slightly from the past two seasons.
Photo: Center Teuvo Teravainen (C) and his Finland teammates celebrated their 2014 WJC gold medal win over Sweden with a party in Helsinki (courtesy of Roni Rekomaa/AFP/Getty Images)
Most hockey people will tell you that Finland's 2013 WJC squad was a more talented group than the team that skated off the ice in Malmo with the gold medal this year.
In fact, one of those people is defenseman Risto Ristolainen, who scored the "golden goal" in overtime in the 3-2 championship game win over Sweden.
Photo: Kingston Frontenacs defenseman and Nashville Predators prospect Mikko Vainonen won gold in his first and only appearance at the U20 WJC (courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
For some members of Finland's 2014 World Junior Championship entry, it was a final opportunity to win a gold medal at the U20 level. For Finnish defenseman Mikko Vainonen, it was his first and only chance to win gold at that level, and he made the most of it.