SM-liiga team previews

Korkki
09-16-2004, 07:07 AM
I thought it would be a good idea for the foreigners out there that there is a short preview of all SM-liiga teams here. So I am starting with Ässät. And I hope that most of the teams are covered by you. Cooperation is possible and I hope this will be stickied and discussion would be elsewhere at least as there aren't all previews.

Porin Ässät

Overall

Ässät have slumped six years in row out of the playoffs. This season their target is to reach them. Last season it was very close, only one point from the line. The fans of three-time Finnish champion surely deserve the place in playoffs. The team was too soft last season, so the most guys team acquired this summer are bigger and tougher. Team has had lots of trouble outside the ice so it surely affected to the performance on ice. Now the troubles are hopefully left behind and the climb to medals has begun. The concentration to junior teams has been beneficial bringing bronze medal in C-juniors (1988) last season and lots of choices in junior international teams.

Averages:
Age 24,6 years
Length 183,6 cm
Weight 87,8 kg

Goalies

The goaltending looks very solid. The number one goalie is Scott Langkow as in two previous seasons. Scott has been very reliable during the two seasons he has been here in Pori. Last season Ässät lost too many points while Langkow was injured. The backups weren’t that good. So Ässät decided to assign St. Louis draftee Tuomas Nissinen who was left without a place in Ilves, Ilves decided to trust young Tuukka Rask as backup. Nissinen hopes to lift his career back to right track in Pori. The contract of Langkow will run out after this season and I think that Ässät will trust Nissinen as starter in the future. As third goalie Ässät has Marko Tåg (1985) who was very promising couple of years ago, but didn’t proceed like he was expected. He has been very good in the exhibition games playing two shutouts. His games this season will be in juniors though.

Depth chart:
Scott Langkow, 1975
Tuomas Nissinen, 1983
Marko Tåg, 1985

Defence

Ässät has a HUGE sized defence. There are many big players. Of course when players are that size their movement is a problem. However, Pauli Levokari (ex- Pittsburgh / Wilkes-Barre) is very good skater when considering his size. Pauli came back from the USA, but his target still remains in the NHL side of the ocean. The veteran Pasi Peltonen leads the defence with his hard hits, now he has recovered from his tailbone fracture and will start to use his best ability again. Latvian international defender Olegs Sorokins has the best hands in the defence.

Depth chart:
Pasi Peltonen, 1972
Olegs Sorokins, 1974
Pauli Levokari, 1979
Aki Heino, 1977
Mika Rontti, 1983
Marko Toivonen, 1978
Atte Valli, 1984
Atte Pentikäinen, 1982
Juha-Matti Hietamäki, 1985

Forwards

Forwards are quite tough and tackling but the team lacks hands. There are only few players who can control the puck and the rest will just dump and chase. There are big expectations for ex-Nashville center Greg Classen however the reports tell that he is not as playmaking as the first center should be. Marko Kivenmäki was the best player last season and is expected to continue his producing this season. Hopefully he will continue because if he slumps Ässät will be in trouble with their forward. Hometown boys Wesslin and Tuominen were disappointing last season (though they both had injuries). They are both expected to do better this season. Young Joensuu won’t get many minutes but he has been on a attacking role on exhibitions and he has been quite good at it. Not big expectations for this season, but he will make a breakthrough 05-06 season. The third line with Nielikäinen – Niemi – Tuominen is very good checking line which can also score if everything goes like expected.

Depth chart:
Greg Classen, 1977
Teemu Virkkunen, 1979
Jari Korpisalo, 1966
Marko Kivenmäki, 1975
Samu Wesslin, 1975
Pasi Tuominen, 1974
Juha Kiilholma, 1982
Aki Uusikartano, 1977
Pasi Nielikäinen, 1976
Mika Niemi, 1981
Matti Kuparinen, 1984
Kristian Kuusela, 1983
Jesse Joensuu, 1987
Juha-Pekka Ketola, 1983
Petteri Tasku, 1985

Coaching

Mika Toivola starts his third season with Ässät. The first and second season were a small disappointments because the team was left outside the playoffs though the season start was good. This season he has no chance to miss the playoffs. If the game looks bad in November I bet there will be a big pressure from the board to change the coach however the board trusted him last season. He wanted the team to be a lot tougher this year and I think that is reality now. I have heard that many players have improved their test results this summer, that makes things look good.

Ässät have strengthened their coaching team, with goalie coach Pasi Matalamäki and third coach (tactics) Pasi Kaukoranta. The second coach is former player Karri Kivi as last two seasons. The goalie coach acquisition is good for the future. Langkow probably won’t personally need a coach, but for Nissinen, Tåg and young prospect Itäjärvi the goalie coaching will be a big help.

Special teams

Ässät has several names (Nielikäinen, Levokari) who are not the referees favourites and will get the penalties easier than others, so they’ll have lots of penalty killing in next season. In exhibitions the pk has been quite good. Also Ässät has several good players for penalty killing. That won’t be a problem, but when there are lots of penalties players will get tired and there is a chance for goals. Also enough many opportunities to score on pp will surely mean that the goal will come sooner or later. But what to do if a bigger and stronger gets easier penalty than smaller ones, it is the referees work to be equal, I hope in Finland the refs will understand that too.

Powerplay has been bad in exhibitions, Ässät don’t have players who can carry the puck to the attacking zone 100% surely like lots of the teams have. But when they will get the pp running there are good shooters like Toivonen, Levokari and Sorokins for the blue line.

Prospects & NHL drafted ones

Langkow, Winnipeg 1993
The most important player of the team. Will be winning games by himself in SM-liiga. I think he will never be back in NHL. Very good goalie in this level though.

Nissinen, St. Louis 2001
Was good in 2002-03 season in Ilves, but was left behind Pitkämäki last season. Is now turned a new page in his career and if he goes ahead will be a starter in 2005-06 season. Potential to be a backup in NHL but nothing more.

Rontti, not drafted was eligible in 2002
Stepped a huge leap last season. Invisible in ice (in both good and bad), which sadly means that he is not very attacking either. Very rarely makes mistakes. Needs a big step forward to be a NHL player but everything seems to be possible for him. Will be at least a reliable stay-at-home player in SM-liiga and Finnish international team.

Levokari, Atlanta 2002, rights in Pittsburgh
Huge defender, who has quite good movement for a player of his size. Has potential to third line in NHL if goes still ahead. Will get many penalties in Finland because it looks too bad when bigger guy tackles the smaller.

Classen, Nashville free agent, rights in Nashville
Acquired as the leading center. Has been average in exhibitions. Time will tell, but has not showed anything special in his games here yet.

Ketola, NY Islanders 2001
Only a fourth line material. Has potential to be good in checking role and is capable of playing in both, wing or centre. Nothing more than a fringe player though.

Joensuu, not drafted eligible in 2006
Very young player who is already expected to be top 10 pick in 2006. Won’t get much games next season, but has been very impressive in exhibitions. Has potential to play in attacking role already, but most of his games will be in checking role with checking players.

mattihp
09-16-2004, 01:20 PM
Ässät are young.

Zlajag
09-21-2004, 10:42 AM
Korkki, any chance that you'll make another preview? :bow:

David A. Rainer
09-21-2004, 03:03 PM
Wow! What a preview. Keep them coming!

Korkki
09-21-2004, 04:08 PM
Actually I was thinking that most of the hockey followers will do these for the team they follow, like Padawan or Jyssy for JYP, Laituri or eh for Jokerit, IFK for hmm... IFK, ES for Blues and so on... Because most of them know much more than me of teams they are watching closely...

Andy.B
09-23-2004, 12:53 AM
Do you have a season card for Assat Korkki?

Padawan
09-23-2004, 05:43 AM
I used the same template as Korkki did.

JYP, Jyväskylä

Overall

JYP is a small team in SM-Liiga scale. This status of a small team also reflects in it’s funds. There isn’t a lot money to spare so every acquisition has to be studied well. JYP tries to get players who plays for the team and wants to develop as a player. Our head coach Matti Alatalo is respected among players and mostly young players wants to be under his coaching. Last season was a slight disappointment. We got the last playoff spot just before Ässät, but the season before last season was good and showed promise of more (6th after regular season). When players like Eric Perrin and Tuomas Pihlman left the fans saw that it weakened our team but thought we could be 8th. Well, we were 10th and faced Jokerit at the start of the playoffs. We lost both games and the season ended with a bad note. This season JYP tries to get that playoff spot with a young but very potential team and play well in the playoffs. This season JYP started Missio 2007 –project which goal is to be in the top three in the season 2006-2007.

Averages:
Age 22,5 years
Length 183.9 cm
Weight 85.2 kg

Goalies
Our goaltending looks solid. We have maybe the best pairing as both goalies can play in a good SM-Liiga level. In paper Wallinheimo should be a clear number one goalie for JYP but so far both Nikkilä and Wallinheimo have played almost equally. This system isn’t new to a JYP fan. Though, there have been few games this season and those games have been rather closely. When there are two games in the same week one could expect Wallinheimo to play both games. Nikkilä is very good number two but if he there’s a possibility that the team might prefer Wallinheimo’s loud style where he gives instruction to players. Nikkilä doesn’t do that and the team might feel uncertain when Nikkilä is in nets. Both Wallinheimo’s and Nikkilä’s contracts runs out after this season. We’ll see that when the season progresses. Aleksis Ahlqvist is a very promising goalie. He will play mostly as the number one in JYP A-juniors but might get few starts if there are injuries. He is going to most likely our future starter in the years to come. JYP doesn’t want to make the same mistake with Ahlqvist which they made with Ari Ahonen who plays currently in the New Jersey Devils’ system. (At the time JYP’s management said Ahonen to look for another team. He went to HIFK, Helsinki and played very well which earned him a NHL contract with the Devils.)

Depth chart:
Sinuhe Wallinheimo, 1972
Tommi Nikkilä, 1977
Aleksis Ahlqvist, 1986

Defence

JYP’s defence is rather small but there are few bigger guys. Unfortunately the bigger guys are bit slow and too nice. Jari Korhonen is one of the leagues top offensive defenceman. Last season he scored 20 goals and 16 assists. With those 36 points he made the new JYP points record in a regular season from a defenceman. Tommi Kovanen can fill in for Korhonen if needed but Kovanen is injury prone which lowers his stock. Jyri Marttinen is an all-around d-man. He can score points but he can also defend well. Many players have said that Marttinen is like a leech. He can be all over you making it very hard to score. The downside of Marttinen’s playing style is that gives sometimes powerplays to the opposing team. Marttinen plays with a lot of heart and grit and has earned the fans respect. Marttinen had a career threatening back injury but he overcame it. Erkka Leppänen is one of the most potential player in JYP’s defence. He is regular in finnish junior national teams. He played his first SM-Liiga game at only 16 years old. Leppänen and other JYP’s A-junior aged players, Mäkelä, Jaatinen, Forsberg, and Hyvärinen, plays mostly in the A-juniors however any injuries to JYP’s regular d-men might open for a spot for them. JYP wants to take it slow and let the youngsters play as much as possible in junior leagues. It’s best for their development.

Depth chart:
Jari Korhonen 1975
Jyri Marttinen 1982
Tommi Kovanen 1975
Miika Huczkowski 1982
Mikko Mäenpää 1983
Petri Virolainen 1974
Ilkka Vaarasuo 1983
Erkka Leppänen 1986
Eero Hyvärinen 1985
Lauri Kinos 1980
Henrik Forsberg 1985
Antti Jaatinen 1987
Kimmo Mäkelä 1985


Forwards
The team has puckhandling skills, speed and grit. The team lacks size however. Jarkko Immonen is JYP’s first line center. He is young, charismatic and skilful center. Immonen is one of the best when it comes to face offs in SM-Liiga. His vision on the ice is also top class in SM-Liiga. The line Virtanen-Immonen-Uhlbäck was one of the best lines last season and the media and the fans expect a lot from Immonen’s line. This line can control the puck very well and create scoring chances. Steve Martins, the only foreign player in JYP as of now, was acquired just before the season started. He plays with another center and the team captain, Janne Hauhtonen and a very potential and fast player, Ossi Louhivaara. This line also can control the puck and tries to play passing plays. Both Hauhtonen and Martins were known as defensive forwards before this season but Matti Alatalo, the head coach of JYP, sees there is a potential in them as an offensive players as well. The rest of the team should dump and chase but they are encouraged to use their stickhandling skills whne there is a possibility for it. This could make fantastic goals but it can also cause problems with the give aways and such. Tuomo Laukkanen, Miika Lahti, Filip Riska and Pauli Piippo might get a chance if there are injuries with the rest of the lines but are expected to play in the A-juniors. As I stated before, JYP tries to take it easy with the younger guys. Miika Lahti has the most potential of the A-junior players. Overall the lack of size is a big concern with the JYP team.

Depth chart:
Jarkko Immonen 1982
Steve Martins 1972
Antti Virtanen 1977
Jaakko Uhlbäck 1978
Ossi Louhivaara 1983
Janne Hauhtonen 1979
Valtteri Tenkanen 1985
Tuomas Mikkonen 1983
Arsi Piispanen 1985
Miika Lahti 1987
Carlo Grünn 1981
Tuomo Laukkanen 1984
Jari Jääskeläinen 1981
Juha-Pekka Hytönen 1981
Filip Riska 1985
Ilari Filppula 1981
Pauli Piippo 1985

Coaching
Matti Alatalo is a very respected coach among players. He gets along with young players and is keen to develop player’s personal skills. This is Alatalo’s third season with JYP. The team and the fans wanted Alatalo to continue and after consulting with his family, Alatalo decided to stay. Matti Alatalo prefers the kind approach. He likes to praise the players for what they did and instruct calmly what they need to do. When needed he can also raise his voice. Players respect his coaching methods a lot and many young players wants to be under his coaching since his method increase players’ personal skills but also because he prefers his team to play rather than trying to break up the oppositions game. Alatalo came to JYP from Switzerland. Matti Alatalo’s sidekick is Ari Salo, a former JYP player. Together they have changed to way JYP have been playing. Salo is normally outside of the media but he is also very important part of JYP. He also prefers his players to keep the puck rather throwing it in to the boards. Ilari Näckel is JYP’s goaltender coach. The coaching team has very good chemistry and Alatalo demanded that all of the coaches are signed of he is to remain at JYP’s helm. This new Missio 2007 also gives Alatalo some breathing room if the results aren’t that good. However the players’ respect also makes the coaching staff very valuable to JYP. Jukka Holtari scouts for JYP as well as the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Special teams
This is very short chapter or very long one. It depends the way you look at it. Generally JYP’s power play is open for all the lines but 1st and 2nd lines usually plays a little bit more than the the other lines. Matti Alatalo let those play who have earned to play PP. This varies from game to game. Same goes with shorthanded play but when a tight spot, Alatalo usually send Immonen’s line in, both PP and SH. Matti Alatalo rarely makes special teams for PP or SH situations.

Prospects & NHL drafted ones

Immonen , 2002 Toronto Maple Leafs. Rights owned by the New York Rangers
The most important player of the team. Great in face offs, great vision. Leader on the ice. It is speculated that Immonen will be leaving to North America after this season if the lock out situation is solved by then.

Marttinen , Calgary Flames 2002
Overcame a career threatening back injury and is on his way back to the top. Plays with heart and never gives up. Has developed his puck handling skills a lot from the past two years. Very important player for JYP in the years to come. His contract runs out after this season.

Ahlqvist , not drafted, was eligible in 2004
Many experts thought that Ahlqvist would get drafted in the 2004 NHL entry draft. It was a big surprise he didn’t get drafted. Aleksis is a cornerstone in JYP’s Missio 2007. He is solid in the net but needs to develop his stick handling skills.

Leppänen , not drafted, eligible in 2005
All around defender. Regular in his age groups national teams. Leppänen is one of the biggest names in the future from JYP. Played his first SM-Liiga game last season at only 16 years old. One of the cornerstones along with Ahlqvist in JYP’s Missio 2007.

Martins, free agent from St.Louis, rights in St.Louis
Acquired as one of the top line centers. Has been impressive in the few games already played. Currently is the point leader in SM-Liiga (3 games played, 3+1=4). Is the only foreign player in the team and brings experience to the young team. Is one of the older players along with Wallinheimo.

Lahti, not drafted, eligible in 2006
Miika Lahti is very potential winger. His is no stranger to his age groups national teams. He is one of the most promising finnish player in his age group. Was one of the four 1987 age group to be part of the U-18 finnish national team last season. Will most likely play in the A-juniors the entire season but JYP has big plans for young Lahti.

Piispanen, 2003 Columbus Blue Jackets
Piispanen is very good with his hands. He is also a very tall player but he lacks weight and power. Can still play in the A-juniors if needed but has been playing in the third line. Experts say that he is most likely to have bright future ahead of him as a hockey player but time will tell. Piispanen is also considered as one of the cornerstones in JYP’s Missio 2007.

Mikkonen, 2002 Dallas Stars
Mikkonen’s last season was weak compared to expectations. This season is “do or die” for young Mikkonen and so far he have played ok. Mikkonen is a powerforward type of player. He hits hard and often but has lacked the scoring touch. Mikkonen has been playing in the third line.

Tenkanen, 2004 Los Angeles Kings
Tenkanen has developed fast in last two years. He doesn’t give up easily and has good puck handling skills. He however lacks the size needed for NHL career and has experienced some back injuries.

Andy.B
09-23-2004, 02:26 PM
Is Sinuhe Wallenheimo the guy that used to play for Farjestads in Swedens SEL?

mattihp
09-23-2004, 02:30 PM
Is Sinuhe Wallenheimo the guy that used to play for Farjestads in Swedens SEL?
Yes.

Andy.B
09-23-2004, 02:52 PM
Thanks Matti

mattihp
09-23-2004, 10:05 PM
No problemo

mattihp
09-23-2004, 10:09 PM
Padawan, I might be stupid but wouldn't Marttinen be a good choice to play at forward in penalty killing?

Padawan
09-24-2004, 03:48 AM
Padawan, I might be stupid but wouldn't Marttinen be a good choice to play at forward in penalty killing?
No. Just because Marttinen is better at defensive play and isn't really fast with skates. He usually plays near the goal and takes away the man in front or near the net.

PhoenixBuffalo
09-25-2004, 06:05 PM
Your previews are GREAT.. alot of information
Can someone do the Blues Please?

jepjepjoo
09-27-2004, 03:05 AM
HPK, Hämeenlinna

Overall

Averages:
Age 23,5 years
Length 182.4 cm
Weight 87.5 kg

Goalies

Depth chart:
Joni Puurula
Miika Wiikman

Defence


Depth chart:

Tuomas Eskelinen
Mikko Jokela
Vladimir Sicak
Veli-Pekka Laitinen
Jukka-Pekka Laamanen
Tuukka Mäkelä
Tuomas Immonen
Jarno Virkki




Forwards

Depth chart:

Janne Laakkonen
Jukka Voutilainen
Josh Holden
Jani Rita
Jani Hassinen
Riku Hahl
Oliver Setzinger
Toni Mäkiaho
Jani Keinänen
Jyrki Louhi
Hannu Väisänen
Janne Lahti
Joni Lappalainen
Juha-Pekka Loikas
Joni Lindlöf
Petteri Wirtanen



Possible lines

Laakkonen - Holden - Rita
Voutilainen - Keinänen - Hassinen
Mäkiaho - Hahl - Setzinger
Louhi - Loikas - Väisänen

13th forward Lahti/Lappalainen

Eskelinen - Sicak
Jokela - Laitinen
Laamanen - Immonen/Mäkelä
Mäkelä/Immonen - Virkki


Drafted players

Joni Puurula, Montreal 2000

Mikko Jokela, New Jersey 1998

Tuukka Mäkelä, Boston 2000

Josh Holden, Vancouver 1996

Riku Hahl, Colorado 1999

Jani Rita, Edmonton 1999

Joni Lindlöf, Washington 2002

Oliver Setzinger, Nashville 2001

Padawan
09-27-2004, 03:43 AM
Goalies

Depth chart:
Joni Puurula
Miika Wiikman

Now this has to be the other way around. So far Puurula has played only one game with a weak showing. Wiikman has been impressive with the rest.

jepjepjoo
09-27-2004, 05:12 AM
Now this has to be the other way around. So far Puurula has played only one game with a weak showing. Wiikman has been impressive with the rest.

I know, but it was like this before the season started and it has only been 5 games so im a bit sceptical...

ES
09-27-2004, 10:17 AM
Blues

Usually Blues has been considered underachiever. On the past six years, it has missed playoffs only once, but never advanced to semi-finals either. It was near in 2003, when Blues was 4th in regular season before losing to Tappara (who eventually won championship) in game 7 overtime.

For this year, exceptations aren't so high, though I think the team has became better than last year. Last year's team was way much worse than in 2002-03, because they lost two best skillful defenseman in Jiri Vykoukal and Cory Murphy.

Goaltending

Blues have 3 contracted goaltenders. In this season Jere Myllyniemi can't play in juniors anymore. Before the season Mika Oksa is considered as number one. He lost first half of the last season because of cancer, but has come back better than ever.

Sami Heinonen was loaned to Kiekko-Vantaa (Mestis) before the season.

39 Mika Oksa, 1976
1 Jere Myllyniemi, 1983
46 Sami Heinonen, 1976

Defense

Half of the defenseman was changed after last season. Sebastian Sulku, Drew Bannister and Radek Philipp left the team, and they were replaced by Mika Niskanen, Mika Lehtinen and Kari Haakana, all three returned to Finland after playing in Sweden. Haakana is originally from Espoo and played here previous time in 1998. Defense doesn't include clear attacking defenseman. Laatikainen and Niskanen are excepted to have biggest point totals.

22 Rami Alanko "C", 1975
42 Arto Laatikainen, 1980 [NYR 1999]
24 Mika Niskanen "A", 1975
32 Kari Haakana, 1973 [Edm 2001]
44 Mika Lehtinen, 1975
21 Tero Määttä, 1982 [SJ 2000]
4 Janne Jalasvaara, 1984
6 Tommi Pelkonen, 1984

Forwards

Jan Caloun, who led Blues scoring in past three seasons left, but he was only important player who is missing. Marko Tuomainen failed to fill exceptations in his two years in Espoo. Landon Wilson and Donald MacLean came from North America. Ladislav Kohn is third foreigner in the team and he is ranked as the best player of the team. Wilson has played well, but MacLean has still lot to do before he can be on the top in SM-liiga. The young players have one year more experience, so I hope they can do better this year. Apart from the youth and foreigners, there are some well-known SM-liiga players like Olli Ahonen and Teemu Elomo.

17 Ladislav Kohn, 1975. [Cgy 1994]
9 Landon Wilson "A", 1975 [Tor 1993]
10 Donald MacLean, 1977 [LA 1995]
49 Teemu Elomo, 1979 [Dal 1997]
28 Lauri Tukonen, 1986 [LA 2004]
78 Kari Kalto, 1978
16 Olli Ahonen, 1979
12 Joni Töykkälä, 1984
85 Niko Nieminen, 1982
20 Miika Elomo, 1977 [Was 1995]
23 Jarkko A. Immonen, 1984 [Dal 2002]
82 Matti Näätänen, 1983
19 Antti Pihlström, 1984
18 Matti Uusivirta, 1985

Injured (at least until December)
36 Juha Ylönen, 1971
13 Markku Hurme, 1972

mattihp
09-27-2004, 10:19 AM
Blues
22 Rami Alanko "C", 1975
42 Arto Laatikainen, 1980 [NYR 1999]
24 Mika Niskanen "A", 1975
32 Kari Haakana, 1973 [Edm 2001]
44 Mika Lehtinen, 1975
21 Tero Määttä, 1982 [SJ 2000]
4 Janne Jalasvaara, 1984
6 Tommi Pelkonen, 1984


That's one heckuva defense...

Jamina
10-10-2004, 01:02 PM
Kärpät's players and their stats on the Super Six-website. (http://www.iihf.com/hockey/ECC/Karpat.htm)