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.
For a pair of Pittsburgh Penguins’ products, their participation in the Toronto Maple Leafs’-sponsored rookie tournament took place right in their own backyard. And while Olli Maatta looks to have more games wearing the London Knights’ green and gold, for Scott Harrington, it’s a bittersweet ending to his time in the Forest City.
Hailing from the Espoo Blues organization stationed right outside of Helsinki, the 6’1”, 180-pound left winger Waltteri Hopponen most recently represented Team Finland at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament that took place in Breclav, Czech Republic and Piestany, Slovakia. Waltteri spoke to Hockey’s Future for a few moments after a 5-1 victory over Slovakia at the Ivan Hlinka.