Kyle Dubas and the Leafs’ scouting staff have zeroed in on Finland in recent years, selecting six Fins over the course of the last two NHL drafts. When Finland announced their preliminary roster for the upcoming World Junior Championships on Friday morning, three of those draft picks found their names on the list.
Finland’s preliminary WJC roster has been announced. pic.twitter.com/dr2uyQAndG
— Lassi Alanen (@lassialanen) December 4, 2020
Mikko Kokkonen, selected in the third round of the 2019 draft, represented Finland in last year’s tournament and it is expected that he will be a part of the team’s leadership group while playing the role of shutdown defenseman as he does for Jukurit in Liiga. Through 18 games with Jukrit this season, Kokkonen has registered three assists while leading the team in ice time and maintaining their best shot share numbers as well. He came in 8th on TLN’s Prospect Rankings countdown this week:
Mikko Kokkonen is the Leafs 8th ranked prospect
The Leafs traded down from the 44th pick in the 2020 draft, landing Roni Hirvonen and Topi Niemela at 59th and 64th overall, respectively. Hirvonen has been hot as of late, and is now up to five goals and four assists in 21 games for Assat in Liiga. He has been playing difficult minutes at Finland’s top level, spending time at center and on the wing, and will bring that versatile offensive game to the Finnish WJC squad. Check out Nick DeSouza‘s write up on Hirvonen as part our Prospect Ranking series:
Roni Hirvonen is the Leafs 12th ranked prospect
Niemela established himself in Finland’s top professional league last year at just 17 years of age so it comes as no surprise that he was included on the Finnish roster for the WJC this year. He was out of the lineup for much of the early part of the season, but has earned more playing time on one of Liiga’s top teams in recent weeks. He has registered three assists through nine contests thus far, while averaging 14:18 of ice time per game and leading Karpat regulars with a 63.3 CF%. I wrote about Niemela earlier this week when he came in as TLN’s 9th ranked Leafs prospect:
Topi Niemela is the Leafs 9th ranked prospect
Toronto’s sixth round pick in 2020, Veeti Miettinen, as well as 2019 seventh rounder, Kalle Loponen, were not included on Finland’s preliminary roster for the annual holiday tournament. Loponen was always a long shot, but Miettinen’s production at Finland’s U20 level last season had him in the conversation to represent his country this Christmas. The fact that he is an NCAA player who has been in North America for the last couple of months, and has played just a single game to this point, likely sealed his fate with the national team.
Nevertheless, it appears as though the Maple Leafs organization will be well represented on the Finnish roster at the World Juniors later this month.
Statistics from eliteprospects.com & Liiga.fi)