Forward Kasperi Kapanen, defenseman Julius Honka and goaltender Juuse Saros highlight the preliminary roster of players invited to the Finnish National Junior Team evaluation camp that will determine the team looking to defend its championship at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship later this month.
Honka and Saros are two of seven returning players from the team that captured a gold medal at the 2014 IIHF WJC in Malmo, Sweden. It marked the first medal of any kind for Finland since earning a bronze medal at the 2006 WJC in Vancouver.
The preliminary roster features two goalies, 12 defensemen and 15 forwards. Finland coach Hannu Jortikka will hold camp in Vierumaki, Finland, from Dec. 14-16, before continuing the selection process in Napanee, Ontario, from Dec. 17-25. Finland will finalize its 23-man roster by Dec. 25.
The Finnish Ice Hockey Association will add a third goalie to the preliminary roster later this week.
Finland defeated rival Sweden in overtime, 3-2, at the 2014 WJC to win its third gold medal at the tournament and first since 1998. Saros, who finished 5-1 with a 1.57 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in six games at the tournament, made 35 saves in the gold medal game.
The Finnish roster includes 10 players taken in the NHL Draft, including Saros (Nashville Predators), Honka (Dallas Stars) and Kasperi Kapanen (Pittsburgh Penguins). Kapanen would have been a member of Finland's team last year but was injured in the last practice before the tournament began and was unable to play.
Right wing Mikko Rantanen is considered an A-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list for the 2015 draft. Additionally, the roster includes Jesse Puljujarvi, 16, who isn't eligible until the 2016 draft. Puljujarvi was born in Sweden but has Finnish parents.
FINNISH NATIONAL JUNIOR TEAM PRELIMINARY ROSTER
GOALIES: Ville Husso, HIFK, FIN (St. Louis Blues); Juuse Saros, HPK Hameenlinna, FIN (Nashville Predators)
DEFENSEMEN: Sami Niku, JYP Jyvaskyla, FIN (2015 draft eligible); Mikke Levo, Ilves Tampere, FIN (2015 draft eligible); Mika Ilvonen, St. Cloud State, NCAA (2015 draft eligible); Aleksi Makela, Ilves Tampere, FIN (Dallas Stars); Joonas Lyytinen, KalPa Kuopio, FIN (Nashville Predators); Atte Makinen, Tappara Tampere, FIN (2015 draft eligible); Erik Autio, Penn State University, NCAA (2015 draft eligible); Julius Honka, Texas Stars, AHL (Dallas Stars); Teemu Vuorisalo, Assat Pori, FIN (2015 draft eligible); Alex Lintuniemi, Ottawa 67's, OHL (Los Angeles Kings), Elmeri Eronten, TPS Turku, FIN (2015 draft eligible); Jere Rouhiainen, Tappara Tampere, FIN (2015 draft eligible)
FORWARDS: Jesse Puljujarvi, Hokki, FIN (2016 draft eligible); Juuso Ikonen, JYP Jyvaskyla, FIN (2015 draft eligible); Hannes Bjorninen, Pelicans Lahti, FIN (2015 draft eligible); Juho Lammikko, Kingston Frontenacs, OHL (Florida Panthers); Mikko Rantanen, TPS, FIN (2015 draft eligible); Antti Kalapudas, Karpat Oulu, FIN (2015 draft eligible); Niko Ojamaki, Assat Pori, FIN (2015 draft eligible); Aleksi Mustonen, Ilves Tampere, FIN (2015 draft eligible); Roope Hintz, Ilves Tampere, FIN (2015 draft eligible); Kasperi Kapanen, KalPa Kuopio, FIN (Pittsburgh Penguins); Aleksi Saarela, Assat Pori, FIN (2015 draft eligible); Sebastian Aho, Karpat Oulu, FIN (2015 draft eligible); Julius Vahatalo, TPS Turku, FIN (Detroit Red Wings); Artturi Lehkonen, Frolunda, SWE (Montreal Canadiens); Otto Rauhala, Tappara Tampere, FIN (2015 draft eligible)