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World Juniors

Kristian Vesalainen moves closer to WJC roster spot

Projected top draft pick will represent Finland at USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

Forward Kristian Vesalainen, expected to be a top pick at the 2017 NHL Draft, is one of 29 players who will play for Finland at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp.

The camp, which will be held at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., from July 30-Aug. 6, is the first step toward picking the team that will play for Finland at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. Finland won the gold medal at the 2016 WJC in Helsinki.

The camp will feature practices and games against the United States, Sweden and Canada.

Vesalainen (6-foot-2, 202 pounds) had 15 goals and 34 points in 37 games with Frolunda in Sweden's under-20 league, and one goal and one assist in 19 games with Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League last season.

"He's a big, physical power forward who likes to go straight for the net," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said.

Two players selected in the first round of the 2016 draft were invited to the camp; defenseman Olli Juolevi (No. 5, Vancouver Canucks) and center Henrik Borgstrom (No. 23, Florida Panthers).

Juolevi had nine points (all assists) to tie for the scoring lead among defenseman at the 2016 WJC. He is one of five players from this year's team that will play at the camp, along with goaltender Veini Vehvilainen, right wing Kasper Bjorkqvist (Pittsburgh Penguins), center Julius Nattinen (Anaheim Ducks) and defenseman Vili Saarijarvi (Detroit Red Wings).

Not attending the camp but eligible to play for Finland at the 2017 WJC are forwards Patrik Laine (Winnipeg Jets) and Jesse Puljujarvi (Edmonton Oilers), the second and fourth picks respectively at the 2016 draft.

Jukka Rautakorpi will coach Finland; he was an assistant coach for Finland at the 2016 IIHF World Championship, where it won the silver medal.


GOALTENDERS: Karolus Kaarlehto, TPS Jr., FIN-JR (2017 draft eligible); Markus Ruusu, JYP, FIN (Dallas Stars); Veini Vehvilainen, JYP, FIN (2017 draft eligible)

DEFENSEMEN: Miro Heiskanen, HIFK Jr., FIN-JR (2017 draft eligible); Henri Jokiharju, Portland, WHL (2017 draft eligible); Olli Juolevi, London, OHL (Vancouver Canucks); Kasper Kotkansalo, Sioux Falls, USHL (2017 draft eligible); Otto Leskinen, KalPa, FIN (2017 draft eligible); Jesper Mattila, Boston College, H-EAST (2017 Draft eligible); Markus Niemelainen, HIFK, FIN (Edmonton Oilers); Jarkko Parikka, Ilves Jr., FIN-JR (2017 draft eligible); Juho Rautanen, Jokerit Jr., FIN-JR (2017 draft eligible); Vili Saarijarvi, Mississauga, OHL (Detroit Red Wings)

FORWARDS: Kasper Bjorkqvist, Providence, H-EAST (Pittsburgh Penguins); Henrik Borgstrom, Denver, NCHC (Florida Panthers); Janne Kuokkanen, London, OHL (Carolina Hurricanes); Otto Makinen, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL (2017 draft eligible); Julius Nattinen, Windsor, OHL (Anaheim Ducks); Aapeli Rasanen, Sioux City, USHL (Edmonton Oilers); Arttu Ruotsalainen, Assat, FIN (2017 draft eligible); Otto Somppi, Halifax, QMJHL (Tampa Bay Lightning); Jonne Tammela, Syracuse, AHL (Tampa Bay Lightning); Sami Tavernier, Merrimack, H-EAST (2017 draft eligible); Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City, USHL (2017 draft eligible); Teemu Vayrynen, TPS, FIN (2017 draft eligible); Kristian Vesalainen, Frolunda, SWE (2017 draft eligible)

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