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-   -   Question regarding Finnish Jr. Teams (http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/showthread.php?t=1320399)

Oilers Chick 01-10-2013 03:03 PM

Question regarding Finnish Jr. Teams

I was wondering if any of you who follows the Junior "A" and "B" leagues in Finland can answer a couple of questions for me.

Here in NA, specifically in the US, we have a variety of the aforementioned that develop players for the NCAA, such as the USHL, the NAHL and the EJHL. Plus we also have the various high school/prep school and Tier I Elite programs. What is the equivalent there in Finland?

I ask because in the NCAA we're getting more and more really good players from your country. Erik Haula and Juho Olkinuora are two of the latest examples. I know that Haula played at Shattuck St. Marys and Olkinuora played in the USHL before they came to the NCAA, but I'm more interested in learning about the Finnish Junior "A" and "B" leagues as well as the leagues that Haula and Olkinuora played with prior to coming to the US and what they're development is like.

Also, how do most hockey followers in Finland feel about their countrymen playing US collegiate hockey?

Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. :)

Tormentor 01-10-2013 04:53 PM

SM-liiga (14 teams, highest level of hockey in Finland. A pro league)
Mestis (12 teams, 2nd highest level of hockey in Finland. Pro / semi-pro league, depends on how a person determines it)
Jr.A (U20 league similarly to USHL, develops players for SM-liiga and Mestis)
Jr.B (U18 league, develops players for Jr.A)
Jr.C (U16 league, develops players for Jr.B)

... and this continues down to toddlers and skating school.

Level of play in Finnish Jr.A is lower than in USHL. As far as Jr.B goes, level of play there might be somewhat comparable to high school hockey?

All SM-liiga and Mestis teams have their own junior organizations = teams for kids of all ages. This is how it works in most places in Europe, everything is affiliated to the big team.

Education and life experience from NCAA can be very valuable for the player once his hockey career is over. I'd say it's a good thing. Finns in NCAA this season

FiLe 01-10-2013 05:14 PM

The Finnish hockey system is not based around different leagues and dedicated teams, but age groups formed within clubs. So one club can have a men's team, and different junior groups (with 'Junior A' meant for players eligible for IIHF U20 and 'B' for IIHF U18 level). Age groups reach all the way down to 'G' which is meant for kids who are around 7 to 8 years old. Competitive hockey is played from 'D' (U14) level onwards.

Of course, the players are not limited to their own age groups, at least what comes to playing with older players, and it's not rar to see the best players play in a class or two higher than the rest of the prospects of same age. Those deemed real cream of the crop can get a taste of men's games. Earlier, the age groups were a bit stricter, and essentially even the top players of their age were deemed to spend most of their time their respective letter stages. But like I said, nowadays the most promising ones are allowed to reach better stages as early as possible, even up to grown men - if not among the SM-liiga elite, then at least with the Finnish Tier 2, Mestis.

There is nothing equivalent to college or university sports which are prominent in North America. There are some groups formed out of students, but that's all beer league hockey.

Let's take Haula. While still in Finland, he was a player deemed too good for his own age croup and was promoted to Ässät Junior A at 16 years old. In the end, he became too good to leave, too bad to stay, so to speak. He was no Mikael Granlund or Aleksander Barkov who started taking their first strides in men's games at 16. This also just before the time when clubs started to realize that their best prospects deserve men's games as early as possible (a notion which has greatly contributed to Finland's junior mill developing top prospects again) - so he chose to seek out more fitting development elsewhere.

As for Olkinuora, I can see that he followed a more traditional path, mostly sticking to his age group all the way up to 'A', but apparently was not going to break any men's team soon.

As far as our feelings go, I don't think too many regular hockey followers are exactly aware how the guys in the NA junior or university leagues fare or even know who exactly we do have over there - need more of a hardcore kind of junior hockey follower for that.

But if they did, I don't think it'd be much of an issue for them. They'd likely just shrug and say, "good for him". See, our men's national team is the most followed sports team in Finland, and for as long as we keep having players good enough to keep us among the elite countries and winning medals, it makes no difference whatsoever which path they took to get there.

Finnpin 01-11-2013 12:00 AM

NCAA didn't have very good reputation in Finland before but IMO it has changed as we can see there comes quality players even to play in SM-Liiga. Of course there is different guality in the NCAA divisions but the good divisions are really good. So I would expect to see even more Finns trying that path in the future. IMO it's good that the kids experience different leagues/coaches/gamestyles/countries.

One example of the junior system here. Jokerit (SM-Liiga team) is having lots of injuries this season but the A-juniors Jokerit team players have filled the positions well as both teams play same kind of game system --> it's easier for the A-juniors to step in the higher level.

Oilers Chick 01-11-2013 11:39 AM

Thanks! This is all very informative.

Just a couple more questions...

As FiLe and Finnpin noted, younger players who are good enough are moved up to the play in the SM-Liiga.

Since (according to what has been posted) SM-Liiga is a pro league, any player of college age who wanted to play in the US college system that has played in that league, especially against established pro players would be deemed ineligible under NCAA rules.

So say that a fairly good player who could possibly play in the SM-Liiga wanted to (eventually) play US college hockey. I realize this maybe a very small percentage (if that), but would Junior "A" or "B" teams be able to somehow help that player retain his NCAA eligibility? If so, how? If not, are the leagues more likely to push him toward the SM-Liiga even if he has expressed a desire to play US collegiate hockey?

FiLe 01-11-2013 12:44 PM


Originally Posted by Oilers Chick (Post 57439347)
So say that a fairly good player who could possibly play in the SM-Liiga wanted to (eventually) play US college hockey. I realize this maybe a very small percentage (if that), but would Junior "A" or "B" teams be able to somehow help that player retain his NCAA eligibility? If so, how? If not, are the leagues more likely to push him toward the SM-Liiga even if he has expressed a desire to play US collegiate hockey?

Doesn't this have more to do with NCAA rulings? So I guess you should tell us.

But if I understood right, what you're basically asking that is there a way a player could play men's games but still only be registered within a junior team of his club - the answer is no. You wanna play even a single men's game, you have to be added to the men's roster. A player can, of course, be in the roster of various age groups from grown men to the lowest age group he is eligible with. (Aleksander Barkov, for example, at the time of making his SM-liiga debut could have played all Junior C, B, A and SM-liiga games at the same time if he wanted) - but never within just single one them while attending multiple. So there is no loophole that allows a player to play men's games and be only listed with a letter junior squad with his club.

Unless there is a game limit in the NCAA ruling (meaning, a player can play a number of pro games before becoming ineligible), then a single game within SM-liiga is very likely going to be all it takes. Of course, this is largely a hypothetical question, given how any junior player considered good enough for men's games is probably not seriously considering US college hockey as his next career step, as there is no need to seek out an alternative route. If he's not a staple in SM-liiga yet, Mestis is very likely the next destination.

SharksAttack 01-11-2013 01:43 PM

It seems Samuli Jalkanen was last player who played in SM-Liiga before NCAA. There were several other players in 80's and 90's who went from SM-Liiga to NCAA, but none after 1999-00 season (excluding couple goalies who had games dressed, but not games played in SM-Liiga)

ES 01-11-2013 03:28 PM

Matti Uusivirta (skater) also dressed once and I read that they had to sent videoclip confirming that he didn't play. He spent only one season in NCAA though.

Last year Oksanen and Kossila refused to play SM-liiga games so they can keep NCAA eligibility. Kossila's situation was in the regular season game against Lukko where Blues was struck with the flu and had two debutants, Mörsky and Rooba in their line-up. Oksanen wasn't considered in the playoff game where Tikkinen was put in the preliminary roster (he didn't play as the more experienced defenseman was fit to play after testing himself in pre-game warm-up)

Tormentor 01-11-2013 03:35 PM


Originally Posted by Oilers Chick (Post 57439347)
If not, are the leagues more likely to push him toward the SM-Liiga even if he has expressed a desire to play US collegiate hockey?

It's difficult to force a player to play in SM-liiga or Mestis if he doesn't want to. Anyways, I'm sure most people/GM's are compliant for player's desires of retaining his NCAA eligibility, if that's truly the case.

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