After competing with a more experienced squad at last year's World Junior Championship, a performance that featured decidedly more offense than one might expect from Finland, the Finns entered the 2014 WJC in Malmo, Sweden with a squad that is largely getting their feet wet at the Under-20 level.
The 2014 U20 World Junior Championship will be a very different experience for Finland on several fronts.
In past tournaments, the strength of Finland's team has been the cohesion gained by playing several years together and then competing as a group in Finland's second league, Mestis, during the Fall.
After finishing last in the SM-Liiga in three of the past four seasons, Ilves got off to a fast start this season and is challenging for a spot in the re-christened Liiga's 10-team playoffs. While the Tampere-based club has cooled off a bit recently, a big part of the team's turnaround can be attributed to the play of 21-year-old goalie, Ville Kolppanen.
In the first part of this preview, HF looked at seven of the 14 teams that are competing in Finland's SM-liiga for the 2013-14 season. In this second part, we look at the remaining seven teams taking part in Finland's top hockey league with an emphasis on the NHL prospects for each club (number in parentheses indicates number of players whose rights are held by an NHL team).
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.