Rinkside Reflections (Canada-Finland)

By Lasse Johansson

The first World Junior Championship game I ever witnessed live
was the encounter between Finland and Canada on Christmas Day. My hopes for the
game were extremely high, but were tainted a bit by the absence of candians John Erskine, Ross Lupaschuk, Ramzi Abid, Kris Beech and Michael Henrich, players I had been looking forward to seeing. Canada finally won the game 3-2 (1-0 2-0 0-2) after a strong third period by the finns. The result was probably a bit unfair, as Finland was the better of the two teams, but Team Canada played a solid defensive game and didn’t allow the finns to score in the first two periods despite numerous power play opportunities. I was dissapointed by the power-play efforts from both of the two teams, especially the finnish power play. They didn’t create any serious goal-scoring opportunities in the second period, despite almost three minutes 5 on 3.

Prospect report:

Team Canada:

#30 Maxime Ouellet G – Maxime displayed a solid performance, the two finnish goals came from goal-mouth scrambles and was not his fault. Good positional play throughout the game.

#3 Jay Bouwmeester D – I had high hopes about for the very first time seeing the two canadian 16-year olds Bouwmeester and Spezza. Jay didn’t have much ice time, but he showed up a solid play with very few mistakes

#19 Jason Spezza F – Had even less playing time than Bouwmeester. It was interesting to see head coach Claude Julien letting Spezza get some time on the power play. Will probably get more ice time later on in the tournament.

#6 Manny Malhotra F – Earned MVP honours for Canada. Played solid defensively as always. Will probably be one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL for years to come.

#31 Jamie Lundmark F – Dissapointing performance. Didn’t show his offensive skills at all.

#33 Mahieu Biron D – Big, rugged and tough. Gave the small finnish forwards a hard time.

Team Finland:

#1 Antero Nittymäki G – I was surprised to see Philadelphia prospect Antero in goal, I had expected to see Ari Ahonen. Antero is a very agile goaltender. He made a big save in the first minute of the game on a Manny Malhotra breakaway. All three canadian goals came after quick turnovers. Antero will have to accept the blame for the second canadian goal. With Brian Boucher and Jean-Marc Pelletier in the Flyers system, Antero might have to look elsewhere for a shot at the NHL.

#7 Mikko Jokela D – The New Jersey prospect really impressed me tonight, carrying the puck all the way up to the offensive zone. Offensive threat throughout the game.

#8 Tuuka Mäntylä D – 18-year old small defender, stood up well against the bigger canadians. Best defender of the game. Too small for the NHL though?

#9 Ossi Väänänen D – Big, tough, gave Tyler Bouck a mid-ice check he never will forget.

#24 Riku Hahl C – Captain of the finnish team and center in their second line between wingers Laine and Valtonen. Played with poise and maturity. Did what was expected of him, nothing else.

#15 Teemu Laine RW – Played extremely well, much better than I hade expected. Lightning speed, agressive forechecker to go with a nice set of hands and decent size. Laine might go early in next years draft.

#23 Miika Lindholm RW – Small speedy winger, reminds me of David Vyborny (talented but small)

#21 Antti Miettinen RW – Scored both goals for Finland but otherwise anonymous

#22 Jani Rita LW (C) – Slightly overrated Jani Rita was anonymous for the first two periods, then he set upp the two goals scored by Miettinen. Centered the first line for Finland between Miettinen and Viukhola.

#20 Tomek Valtonen LW – Took no chances. Didn’t impress me as much as his younger linemate Laine. Good physical play though.

#16 Jari Viukhola C (LW) – Altered as center with Rita in the first finish line. Didn’t impress.