Just because the Finnish National Junior Team is without one of their top 2014 draft-eligible players at the IIHF World Junior Championship in forward Kasperi Kapanen, that doesn't mean one of the six other prospects on the roster couldn't grab the spotlight.
Kapanen, an A-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's December players to watch list, sustained a shoulder injury during a Dec. 20 practice that will keep him out for at least three weeks. The son of former NHL player Sami Kapanen had five goals and eight points in seven games at the Under-18 World Championship last season and figured to be a star performer in this year's U-20 tournament.
"Kapanen is a big loss for Finland," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com. "Now, the team will be much more dependent on just one line."
That top line might consist of Artturi Lehkonen (Montreal Canadiens), Teuvo Teravainen (Chicago Blackhawks) and Saku Maenalanen (Nashville Predators), which should turn out to be one of the more offensively dynamic trios in the tournament.
Though 10 players on the Finnish roster have already been drafted by NHL teams, there are also six standout prospects regarded highly by NHL Central Scouting on the December players to watch list for the 2014 draft. They include defenseman Julius Honka and goalie Ville Husso.
Honka is an A-rated prospect and Husso is a B-rated goalie. Husso is among the top five in the Finnish League in goals-against average (1.91 GAA) and save percentage (.923) playing for Helsinki's IFK.
"The best undrafted players are Husso, Honka and late bloomer Nikko on wing," Stubb said. "Nikko is a tough, hard-working straight-for-the net winger who is in his breakthrough season with Lukko in the Finnish league.
The veteran scout refers to Honka as a "Reijo Ruotsalainen copy." Ruotsalainen spent seven seasons in the League, and twice won the Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers in 1987 and 1990. He was also named best defenseman at the 1980 World Junior Championship for silver medal-winning Finland.
Honka has 12 goals, 36 points, 32 penalty minutes and a plus-9 rating in 35 games as a rookie with the Swift Current Broncos in the Western Hockey League this season.
STARS AT SHATTUCK
For the past nine years, no high school or college in the United States has seen more players drafted by NHL teams than Shattuck-St. Mary's School.
A total of 19 players, in fact, have been selected from the boarding school in Faribault, Minn. over that span. Last June, Shattuck goalie Anthony Brodeur, the son of New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, was taken by the Devils in the seventh round (No. 208) to keep the streak alive of players drafted into the NHL.
Shattuck's 15th-year coach Tom Ward has two intriguing prospects within the crosshairs of NHL scouts this season as well, center Alexander Falconer and left wing Chase Phelps.
"Chase Phelps is an energy guy who produces points with his puck pursuit and high-end compete level," NHL Central Scouting's Greg Rajanen told NHL.com.
Phelps, a 6-foot, 175-pound left-handed senior committed to Boston University in 2014-15, has 12 goals and 30 points in 27 games. Falconer (6-2.25, 184), a senior who recently returned to the lineup after missing time with a head injury, has three goals and six points in 22 matches.
"He's a big kid who moves well," Rajanen said. "He has not put big points up yet, but I think he will."
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
A winter wonderland will unfold on the campus of the University of Minnesota next month when part of the Hockey City Classic Winter Festival takes place at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The High School Hockey Faceoff will feature four scholastic boys' hockey games beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 11 when Benilde-St. Margaret's faces Minnetonka.
Additionally, Lakeville South will battle Bloomington Jefferson (4 p.m. ET), White Bear Lakes meets Cretin-Derham Hall (6:30 p.m. ET) and Egan will battle Eastview (9 p.m. ET).
"It's great to have the high school teams involved as part of the Hockey City Classic," United States Hockey Hall of Fame member, and former Minnesota North Stars general manager, Lou Nanne said in a statement. "Outdoor hockey is such an integral part of the fabric of the sport and this promises to be a memorable event for all of the teams."
The final game of the day will feature one player regarded highly on NHL Central Scouting's December players to watch list for the 2014 NHL Draft -- defenseman Nick Wolff of Eagan. The 6-foot-3.5, 200-pound senior has two goals, five points and 18 penalty minutes in seven games for the Wildcats.
"Wolff is a big physical player who opponents need to be aware of," Central Scouting's Greg Rajanen said. "He's a decent skater and offers decent puck play, but his game is his physical element."
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner, who spent four years at Minnetonka in the high school ranks, said the players participating should really cherish the memories about to be made at TCF Bank Stadium.
"That's going to be a really cool thing," Gardiner said. "Especially for the kids who might not get that chance again since high school might be the last chance to even play at the next level. For teams that don't make the state tournament, it will be the most memorable moment of the season."
Gardiner never did receive an opportunity to play outdoors with his high school team but was involved in an outdoor game as a member of the University of Wisconsin. He will also play in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day against the Detroit Red Wings.
"Of course, it's every high school players' dream growing up to play in the high school state tournament at Xcel Energy Center," Gardiner said. "This is a great opportunity to do something special with their hockey careers. It's also good for the community too since everyone loves going outdoors to watch a game; it's like old fashioned hockey."
PROSPECTS ON THE RISE
1-Daniel Audette, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL): The son of former NHL player Donald Audette is a B-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's December players to watch list. The 5-foot-8, 177-pound left wing leads his team with 32 assists, 42 points and 47 penalty minutes in 38 games.
"He's got good hands and abilities; he can block shots and does all the little things," Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau said. "Sherbrooke is a second year expansion team so it hasn't come easy, but he's a pretty good little player."
2-Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Val-D'or Foreurs (QMJHL): Bordeleau considers the 5-11, 187-pound right wing one of the most improved players in the league. He's currently a B-rated prospect on Central's December players to watch list. In 38 games, the right-handed shot has 13 goals, 28 points and 43 penalty minutes for the Foreurs.
"He reminds me a little of Jason Pominville, only a little stronger at the same age," Bordeleau said. "He's very involved and shoots the puck really well. He plays in all situations and earns a regular shift and on the ice. Nic is a good prospect to watch out for."
3-Matthew Highmore, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): The C-rated prospect has been beset with injuries the past few seasons but is finally getting the opportunity to shine in his draft year. The 5-10.5, 170-pound left-handed shot has nine goals and 26 points in 35 games for the Sea Dogs this season. He's also tied for the team lead with six power-play goals and sports a respectable 48 perfect efficiency on faceoffs while taking a team-leading 745 draws.
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