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Team Finland roster projection for World Cup

by Marko Leppanen / NHL.com

The 1988 Calgary Olympics marked a big step for Finland, which defeated the Soviet Union 2-1 in its last game of the final round to win the silver medal.

Finland has been successful on the international stage ever since, but it's missing a gold medal in a best-on-best tournament. Finland hockey fans, of course, have bittersweet memories of the 2006 Turin Olympics, when Finland lost 3-2 to rival Sweden in the gold-medal game.

Finland is ranked fourth in the International Ice Hockey Federation 2015 men's rankings, but it will be missing a wealth of experience at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey compared to recent tournaments. Forwards Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu and defensemen Sami Salo and Kimmo Timonen have retired since winning bronze at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Perennial Vezina Trophy contenders Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne should provide elite goaltending, though.

Here is what Team Finland's roster could look like for the tournament, which will be held Sept. 17-Oct. 1, 2016, in Toronto (alphabetically by position):

FORWARDS

Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers, C -- Barkov had good chemistry with Selanne at the Sochi Olympics before a knee injury ended his tournament. He has been maturing in NHL rinks and is capable of playing a big role at the World Cup. The 20-year-old got off to a sluggish start last season but bounced back and showed his skill level in the second half; he had four goals and six assists in the last 10 games.

Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning, C -- Filppula's 85 goals are the most by a Finn in the NHL during the past five seasons. The 31-year-old did not play in the Sochi Olympics after breaking his ankle while playing for the Lightning less than two weeks before the tournament began, leaving him hungry for future international competition. Filppula, who is known for his consistency, scored three goals to help Finland win the bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Joonas Kemppainen, Boston Bruins, C -- Kemppainen, 27, broke through in the Finnish league playoffs, when he had 10 goals and 14 assists in 19 games to lead Karpat Oulu to the championship. His strong play carried over to the 2015 IIHF World Championship; he had three goals and six assists, and his nine points were second on the team. He signed a two-year contract with the Bruins on May 21.

Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild, C -- Koivu is one of the stalwarts in Finnish hockey. The younger brother of Saku Koivu, he led Finland to the gold medal at the 2011 World Championship. The Wild captain won a silver medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics and a bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but missed the 2014 Olympics because of an ankle injury.

Jori Lehtera, St. Louis Blues, C -- The St. Louis Blues selected Lehtera in the third round (No. 65) of the 2008 NHL Draft, but he didn't play his first game for them until last season. It was worth the wait as Lehtera, 27, had 14 goals and 30 assists in 75 games. The skilled center set up two goals in Finland's victory against the United States in the bronze-medal game at the 2014 Olympics, where he had one goal and three assists in six games.

Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild, LW -- Granlund had a tough time adapting to the NHL, but he had eight goals, 31 assists and a plus-17 rating in 68 games last season. The 23-year-old played well with Selanne at the 2014 Olympics and led Finland in scoring with seven points (three goals, four assists).

Jussi Jokinen, Florida Panthers, LW -- It was a big controversy in Finland when Jokinen was kept off the roster for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. But at the 2014 Olympics he was an integral part of the team. The 32-year-old, who has 157 goals and 301 assists in 741 games in 10 NHL seasons, is a mentor for the younger Panthers players and likely will have the same role for Team Finland at the World Cup.

Leo Komarov, Toronto Maple Leafs, LW -- Komarov is Finland's agitator. He won gold at the 2011 World Championship and bronze at the 2014 Olympics. Getting under his opponents' skin is a big part of Komarov's game, but the 28-year-old has some skills with the puck; he had eight goals and 18 assists in 62 games with Toronto last season.

Teuvo Teravainen, Chicago Blackhawks, LW -- Teravainen, who turns 21 on Sept. 11, didn't look like a rookie in the Stanley Cup Final, when his four points (two goals, two assists) were tied for the Blackhawks lead. He has a lot to improve upon physically, but Chicago's first-round pick (No. 18) at the 2012 draft has showed he has hockey sense among the best players in the world.

Joonas Donskoi, San Jose Sharks, RW -- Donskoi had a breakout season in Liiga, Finland's top league, in 2014-15, with 19 goals and 30 assists in 58 games. After leading Karpat Oulu to the championship and being named most valuable player of the playoffs, his five goals led Finland at the 2015 World Championship. One of Donskoi's best assets is his ability to score in shootouts. The 23-year-old is entering his first season in North America after he signed an entry-level contract with the Sharks in May.

Lauri Korpikoski, Edmonton Oilers, RW -- The versatile forward has played in several tournaments for Finland since his debut at the 2004 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, and his role has increased each time. At the 2014 Olympics the 29-year-old had two goals and two assists in six games. Korpikoski, who the Arizona Coyotes traded to the Oilers on June 30, is a natural penalty killer who can crash the net by using his strong body and good skating ability.

Teemu Pulkkinen, Detroit Red Wings, RW -- Pulkkinen was a sensation in the American Hockey League last season with a league-high 34 goals in 46 games. The 23-year-old became the first Grand Rapids Griffins player to score at least 30 goals in consecutive seasons. He has not played in a major international tournament, but his shot would be a good weapon for Team Finland.

Tuomo Ruutu, New Jersey Devils, RW -- Ruutu's record in international tournaments is outstanding; he has participated in seven tournaments and brought home a medal from every event, topped by a gold medal at the 2011 World Championship. At age 32 Ruutu's NHL career is slowing, but his competiveness and experience still would be useful for Team Finland.

DEFENSEMEN

Juuso Hietanen, Dynamo Moscow (KHL) -- Hietanen has been a familiar face for Finland since the 2010 World Championship. The 30-year-old showed he can play at the Olympic level when he scored one goal in six games at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Hietanen is humble enough to handle the role of seventh defenseman.

Petteri Lindbohm, St. Louis Blues -- Lindbohm was supposed to spend last season with Chicago of the AHL but got into 23 games with the Blues. A solid defenseman (6-foot-3, 198 pounds), Lindbohm is strong in 1-on-1 battles and is more confident with the puck than in the past. The 21-year-old was Finland's captain at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Esa Lindell, Dallas Stars -- The Stars selected Lindell in the third round (No. 74) of the 2012 draft. The 21-year-old took a huge step with Assat Pori of Liiga last season, when he had 14 goals and 21 assists in 57 games. He finished the season in the AHL with the Texas Stars, where he'll likely start this season.

Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins -- Last season was a rough one for the 21-year-old, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and battled a shoulder injury and the mumps. He had one goal and eight assists in 20 games. As a rookie in 2013-14, he had nine goals, 20 assists and was plus-8 in 78 games. He also played well for Finland at the 2014 Olympics, with three goals and two assists in six games. He contributes in all three zones.

Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres -- Ristolainen's minus-32 rating last season is a bit misleading; the Sabres had the worst goal differential in the NHL (minus-113). Ristolainen, who was a first-round pick (No. 8) by the Sabres at the 2013 draft, got more ice time late in the season and showed the Sabres he is worthy of their trust. The 20-year-old did not make Finland's roster for the 2015 World Championship, but his ability to play tough and be patient with the puck bode well for him cracking the lineup for Team Finland at the World Cup.

Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks -- Vatanen showed last season that he's capable of playing a leading role in the NHL. He had 12 goals and 25 assists in 67 games, and improved at 1-on-1 battles in the defensive zone. The 24-year-old figures to be an even bigger part of the defense at the World Cup.

GOALIES

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins -- Rask can be very effective with a heavy workload; he had a 2.30 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in 70 regular-season games for the Bruins last season. Rask, 28, made 27 saves to earn the shutout in Finland's 5-0 victory against the United States in the bronze-medal game at the 2014 Olympics. If the 2014 Vezina Trophy winner is on his game, he gives Team Finland a chance to win against any team in the world.

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators -- Rinne, 32, finished second in Vezina Trophy voting last season behind Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens; he was 41-17-6 with a 2.18 goals-against average, a .923 save percentage and four shutouts. Rinne has played in the World Championship four times but he has never participated in the Olympics because of injuries.

Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators -- Saros, 20, played one game at the 2015 World Championship and made 22 saves to shut out Slovakia. After being one of the best goalies in Liiga for HPK Hameenlinna the past two seasons, he will begin playing in North America in 2015-16. Saros is very mature for his age, both physically and mentally. Being third on the Team Finland depth chart behind Rask and Rinne would be beneficial for his future.

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