It really couldn’t have gone any better for the Fins in Vancouver last year. A 3-2 win of the Americans secured their fifth World Junior Championship. What’s even crazier is how only two years earlier they were one loss away from being relegated to Division A. I’m sure that thought made the championship give those gold medals an even sweeter taste.
Team Finland can be found in Group A alongside the following teams:
- Team Sweden – a fellow “Big Six” team at the World Juniors
- Team Switzerland – their 2019 semi-final opponents
- Team Slovakia – who they beat in 2001 en route to a silver medal
- Team Kazakhstan – who survived regulation in 2019 with wins over Team Denmark.
The group is almost identical to last years Group B with Team Switzerland being the only difference replacing Team USA.
The Finnish get their tournament underway on Boxing Day when they face off against their toughest opposition in Group A: Team Sweden. Once that game is out of the way, the Fins schedule only gets easier with Slovakia, Kazakhstan, and Switzerland remaining on the schedule.
Group A isn’t the strongest, which gives them the maximum opportunity to make it out as group winners. Team Sweden is their only real competition, so if they can overcome the Swedes in their opening contest, they should be well on track.
This year, Team Finland has 14 players whose rights belong to NHL teams. Lassi Thomson is one name that may pop out of the page at you. Thomson was the 19th overall pick to the Ottawa Senators at this past summers NHL Entry Draft. He spent his draft year with the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League; unfortunately for him, he wasn’t able to showcase his talents in the postseason as the Rockets missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Thomson dressed in 63 games for Kelowna in 2019 scoring 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists which made him the highest-scoring defenceman on his team. The Tampere native will be the one leading Team Finland for the upcoming World Juniors as he was named captain of his nation earlier this week.
Other notable names on the Finnish roster are Ville Heinola who is a first-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets. Heinola has eight games of NHL experience under his belt and scored five points in those games. He was also a member of the 2019 World Junior roster that won gold in Vancouver. Rasmus Kupari is another first-round pick on this Finnish roster, however, he is yet to play in the NHL. He’s currently playing for the Ontario Reign in the AHL who are the farm team for the LA Kings. At the World Juniors last year, he had five points (1 goal, 4 assists) in seven games.
Overall, this could be another special year for the Finnish. They’ve got an extremely talented roster which is going to be led by a number of NHL first-rounders. We should all be excited about what’s to come with this team especially with their captain Lassi Thomson. Could they win back-to-back gold medals for the first time? It sure seems like a possibility.