2014 U18 WJC Preview: Host Finland looking to improve on 2013 bronze finish

by Tony Piscotta
on

Kasperi Kapanen - Team Finland

Photo: KalPa Kuopio forward and 2014 prospect Kasperi Kapanen, shown here playing at the 2013 U18 World Championship, will play for host Finland at the 2014 edition of this tournament (courtesy of ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Finland, the host team for the 2014 IIHF U18 World Championship, finished fifth in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament last summer despite winning three of the four games it played. With a number of key additions — particularly on defense — the U18 team competing in Imatra and Laapenranta should be stronger than the team that skated in Piestany, Slovakia.

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Lehkonen heads short list of drafted wingers playing in Finland

by Tony Piscotta
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Artturi Lehkonen - Finland

Photo: KalPa Kuopio forward and Montreal Canadiens prospect Artturi Lehkonen played on Finland’s top line at the 2014 World Junior Championship (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Like Sweden's SHL and the Czech and Slovak Extraligas, Finland's Liiga has been hit hard by the defection of top young players to the KHL for bigger contracts.

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Saros heads small group of NHL-drafted Finnish goaltenders

by Tony Piscotta
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Juuse Saros - Finland

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.

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Pokka top NHL defensive property playing in Finland

by Tony Piscotta
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Esa Lindell - Team Finland

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.

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Kapanen the top prospect out of Finland for the 2014 NHL Draft

by Tony Piscotta
on

Kaapo Kahkonen - Team Finland

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.

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