The World Cup of Hockey starts on Saturday, Sept. 17. While pre-tournament games have begun, the xHockeyProducts team is excited for the tournament to begin. That’s why we are breaking down every team and providing the chances every roster has to win it all.
Finland has always had a strong showing in international play. They have medaled in five of the last six Winter Games, while taking home silver in the 2016 World Championships. They last won a gold medal in international play in the 2011 World Championships, defeating rival Sweden, 6-1, in the final game.
In past World Cups, Finland has proven to be a strong contender. After being ousted in the quarterfinals in 1996, they lost the 2004 Final to Canada, 3-2.
|Group A||Group B|
|Team Canada||Team Finland|
|Team Czech Republic||Team North America|
|Team Europe||Team Russia|
|Team USA||Team Sweden|
|Sebastian Aho – Karpat (FIN)||Aleksander Barkov – FLA||Jyrki Jokipakka – CGY||Mikko Koskinen – SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)|
|Joonas Donskoi – SJS||Valtteri Filppula – TBL||Sami Lepisto – Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)||Tuukka Rask – BOS|
|Mikael Granlund – MIN||Erik Haula – MIN||Esa Lindell – DAL||Pekka Rinne – NSH|
|Jussi Jokinen – FLA||Mikko Koivu – MIN||Olli Maatta – PIT|
|Leo Komarov – TOR||Lauri Korpokoski – Unsigned||Ville Pokka – CHI|
|Patrick Laine – WPG||Jori Lehtera – STL||Rasmus Ristolainen – BUF|
|Teuvo Teravainen – CHI||Sami Vatanen – ANA|
On any given night, the Finns will be able to roll out a top-end goaltender that will vie for supremacy in the position throughout the tournament. Pekka Rinne and Tuukka Rask, who have three international medals, two SM-liiga championships and one Stanley Cup between them, might be the best duo in the tournament. If one of Rask or Rinne falter in a game, it will be easy for head coach Lauri Marjamaki to make the goalie switch without worry of an unprepared backup entering the contest.
The team’s third goalie, Mikko Koskinen, is also a prime choice as he is a two-time World Championships silver medalist and one-time Gagarin Cup champion.
The only way to spot a weakness with Team Finland is to compare with any international tournament’s measuring stick: Team Canada. When looking at the Red and White, you see an offense that can explode for six goals per game and a defensive system that could completely shut down any opponent.
Team Finland has many of these same qualities, as offensive dynamos Aleksander Barkov and Leo Komarov could go on a scoring tear each night. The depth, however, does not compare to their Canadian counterparts.
Joonas Donskoi, Lauri Korpikoski and Jori Lehtera are all nice pieces, but do they match up with bottom-six players on Canada, such as Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Joe Thornton?
Player to Watch
All eyes will be on the No. 2 overall pick from the 2016 NHL Draft. Patrick Laine, selected by the Winnipeg Jets, will be appearing in his second over-17 tournament. His first was this summer in the World Championships, when he notched seven goals and 12 points in 10 games.
Laine is a natural scorer with a wicked shot. If his teammates can feed him the puck when he finds open space, he could be a game changer for the Finnish squad.
What It Will Take to Win
Their best players have to be their best players.
It’s a cliche, but it fits Team Finland more than anyone else. If Barkov, Komarov, Teuvo Teravainen and Mikko Koivu can provide an offensive punch, while defensemen Olli Maatta and Sami Vatanen shut down the opposing forwards, Team Finland could make some serious noise in the tournament.
The Finns will have a tough opening contest against Team North America, who can burn anyone in the tournament with speed and skill. It doesn’t get easier with Sweden and Russia in the next two contests. For Finland to succeed, they will have to dictate play and keep odd-man breaks to a minimum.
Despite the excellent goaltending they are likely to receive, Finland cannot get in a shootout-style game. If they control the puck and keep the shot count low (thus keeping their goalies fresh) through the preliminary contests, Team Finland could very well compete in the Final yet again.
Sunday, Sept. 18
Team North America vs. Team Finland, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Tuesday, Sept. 20
Team Finland vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m., ESPN
Thursday, Sept. 22
Team Finland vs. Team Russia, 3 p.m., ESPN
Feature photo courtesy Mel| Flickr
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