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.
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.