With the NHL season underway, the anticipation for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics grows. NHL players will suit up for their countries at the Olympics for the first time since 2014 Sochi. This series will dive deeper into my projected Team Finland Olympic roster and why I chose certain players and left others out.
The Finns reached the semifinals the last time NHL players participated in the Olympics. The 2022 projected Team Finland Olympic Roster is once again loaded with talent.
Here are my projected forwards, defenseman and goalies for Team Finland at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Projected Team Finland Olympic Roster
|Patrik Laine||Alexander Barkov||Mikko Rantanen|
|Teuvo Teravainen||Sebastian Aho||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Roope Hintz||Mikael Granlund||Kaapo Kakko|
|Jesse Puljujarvi||Jesperi Kotkaniemi||Joonas Donskoi|
|Erik Haula||Anton Lundell|
|Esa Lindell||Miro Heiskanen||Juuse Saros|
|Jussi Välimäki||Rasmus Ristolainen||Joonas Korpisalo|
|Ville Heinola||Sami Vatanen||Tuukka Rask|
|Markus Nutivaara||Henri Jokiharju|
Patrik Laine- Alexander Barkov – Mikko Rantanen
No matter how their talent matches up to their opponents, the Fins always seem to find a way to stay competitive. This year, they go into the Beijing Olympics with a uniquely talented first-line. Barkov is one of the NHL’s premier centers and is starting to finally garnish the attention he’s deserved. The 2021 Selke winner is a great two-way player who drives offense while using his lanky range to play a stingy defensive game. Patrik Laine, meanwhile, possesses one of the best releases in the NHL. The Jackets’ sniper is one of the league’s most elite goal scorers when he plays up to his potential. Laine’s ability to score from anywhere should help create space for his linemates.
🚨 Patrik Laine stunning goal alert 🚨
— NHL (@NHL) October 7, 2021
What’s special about this line compared to other first lines at the Olympics is the sheer combination of size and skill. All players are at least 6’3″ or taller, including Rantanen. Unlike Laine on the other wing, Rantanen is more of an all-around threat due to his elite hockey IQ and skating. Laine, meanwhile, is more of a pure sniper. With that said, this potential first line is truly unique due to its size, versatility, and blend of talent.
Teuvo Teravainen – Sebastian Aho – Kasperi Kapanen
If size was the trend on the first line, than skill, speed, and elite IQ is the trend of the second line. Teravainen is one of the most gifted players when it comes to seeing the ice and using his quick release. He has the smooth hands and stride to create plays from almost nothing. Having one of the Central Division’s top scorers as your second-line center should only give the Fins a significant boost in Beijing in 2022.
Sebastian Aho is really good at hockey pic.twitter.com/IER6RS3DTq
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) November 26, 2021
Every year since Aho joined the NHL, he’s continued to cement himself as one of the league’s top players. As the Hurricanes’ leading scorer over the last four seasons, Aho’s elite skating, hands and IQ will allow him to drive offense at a high rate for the Leijonat. Furthermore, Aho playing alongside his linemate Teravainen gives this line an added boost of chemistry. Despite his struggles at the NHL level, Kapanen still brings elite speed to his game. He can use this speed to backup defenders and allow Teravainen and Aho to use their creativity and IQ in open ice.
Roope Hintz – Mikael Granlund – Kaapo Kakko
The Stars have been waiting for their former second-round pick to hit his stride at the NHL level. Now, it appears Roope Hintz has cemented himself as an everyday top-six forward. Like some of his native countrymen, Hintz possesses an elite combination of size, IQ, skating, and goal scoring that is highly coveted by scouts. These types of players can have trouble adjusting to the NHL level at first, but they can become dominant when they put it all together. Hintz’s ability to play at the center position also gives this line versatility at third on the depth chart.
Roope Hintz is starting to get on a roll!
That's six points in his last five games (so far). pic.twitter.com/H2639wPGF4
— NHL (@NHL) November 28, 2021
Granlund has struggled to find his elite form that allowed him to become one of the Minnesota Wild’s best contributors. Nevertheless, the 29 year-old brings experience and strong play down the middle to a young third line. While he’s struggled in the NHL, Kaapo Kakko has never failed to produce at a high rate for his country. Rangers and Finnish fans alike will be hoping to see a resurgence of Kakko’s international game at Beijing. The youngster has been dominant at the World Juniors and World Championships. Unlike in New York, there won’t be as much pressure on Kakko at the Olympics, which which could help him thrive.
Jesse Puljujarvi – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Joonas Donskoi
As far as the forward group is concerned, the Lions may boast the tallest forward core this Olympics. Yet again another talented winger whose well above the six foot marker. Despite struggles early in his career paired with tensions toward the Oilers organization, Puljujarvi is rounding out his game at the NHL level. While playing alongside the world’s best player [McDavid] certainly helps, Puljujarvi has put himself in a good spot to succeed and is scoring at over a point-per-game rate.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) November 28, 2021
A change in scenery hasn’t quite helped Kotkaniemi fill the big shoes he had after being taken third overall. You also can’t ignore his $6M salary. Needless to say, he’s still a 21 year-old center playing at the NHL level. Much his linemate, Puljujarvi may need some more time to round out his game and increase his production. Donskoi is an ideal bottom-six forward who plays a smart game and brings an undying work ethic. His ability to play up-and-down the lineup also allows him to insert himself into the Finland Olympic roster.
Erik Haula, Anton Lundell
Haula hasn’t had a great stretch over the last few years as he begins to exit his prime. He does however bring some experience and can slot in at center or left wing as needed. Lundell on the other hand is off to a hot start in Florida. The former 12th overall pick is scoring at a point-per-game rate in the NHL at only 20 years old. He is also one of the most mature players for his age and plays an incredibly smart two-way game. He’s undoubtedly a big part of the future for team Finland, so it makes sense to get him experience now.
Esa Lindell – Miro Heiskanen
Despite the immense talent up front, the most important player for team Finland will be Miro Heiskanen. Similarly to the Russians, the Fins have a great forward core paired with an underwhelming defensive core. This is why Heiskanen, who will be heavily relied upon, will be Finland’s most important piece in Beijing. In this scenario, he’s paired with his D-partner in Dallas in Esa Lindell. The chemistry and familiarity will indefinitely help both players.
Miro Heiskanen vs. Connor McDavid last night in Dallas.
High-end skill on high-end skill, and so much fun to watch this game within the game. pic.twitter.com/jrqQUHLaFH
— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) November 24, 2021
Jussi Välimäki – Rasmus Ristolainen
There’s a noticeable drop off in talent from Finland’s first defense pair to their second defense pair at the Olympics. Jussi Valimaki is yet to even play 100 games at the NHL level. The 23-year-old, however, is a former first-round draft pick with plenty of talent and room to grow. Playing alongside the towering and physical Ristolainen could be advantageous for the youngster. While the talent is there, this pairing could struggle matched up against elite forwards
Ville Heinola – Sami Vatanen
While Heinola was arguably one of Finland’s best players at the 2021 World Juniors, the young defenseman hasn’t been able to crack the Jets roster on a regular basis this season. He’ll be paired with the grizzled veteran in Sami Vatanen, which should help alleviate some mistakes and pressure alike.
Markus Nutivaara – Henri Jokiharju
Both respectable NHL defenseman who could slot in depending on matches or injuries.
Saros has begun to prove his worth as an NHL number one netminder after posting a career best .927 save percentage and a career low goals against average of 2.28. So far in the 2021-22 campaign, he’s not too far off his numbers from last season. Not mention, at just 26 years old, Saros is just beginning to enter his prime. He and Korpisalo are the future goalies of Team Finland, so giving them the reigns now could pay dividends down the road.
Spectacular Saros. pic.twitter.com/Y1udWaOHVo
— NHL (@NHL) November 17, 2021
In what is undoubtedly an emotional season for Joonas Korpisalo (and the CBJ team), the 27 year-old Finnish netminder is on track to post his second best career save percentage at .913. Both him and Saros are interchangeable at the starting position, so it’s likely the team takes the “hot-hand” approach.
Despite having not played in the 2021-22 NHL season, Tuukka Rask can’t be counted out when it comes to Team Finland’s goalies at the Beijing Olympics. Rask is still recovering from offseason hip injury, but is reportedly targeting a January return. In te 2019-20 season, Rask finished second in Vezina voting. If he’s healthy, the Boston netminder will push for the starting gig in Beijing,
PP1: Patrik Laine, Alexander Barkov, Mikko Rantanen, Sebastian Aho, Miro Heiskanen
PP2: Teuvo Teravainen, Kasperi Kapanen, Jesse Puljujarvi, Mikael Granlund, Esa Lindell
Joel Kiviranta, Eeli Tolvanen, Artturi Lehkonen, Joel Armia, Henrik Borgstrom, Olli Maatta, Mikko Koskinen, Jani Hakanpaa
Finland doesn’t have jaw-dropping depth, making the exclusions list for Beijing rather unsurprising. The biggest snubs likely include: Joel Armia, Eeli Tolvanen, and Artturi Lehkonen, who have all had good seasons recently. The rest of the list are longshots who could slot in depending on how Kekalainen wants to assemble his Team Finland Olympic roster.