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CHL served as Finnishing school for Panthers prospect Lammikko

by Dan Marrazza / Florida Panthers

Entering international hockey tournaments, Finnish players are often known for having a certain demeanor.

Some might call it humble. Others might call it understated. It could even be classified as self-deprecating.

It’s the manner in which Finnish teams insist that they’re underdogs and praise their opponents, preferring to fly under the radar and not call attention to themselves.

Then they go out and win another medal. That’s the Finnish way of doing things.

The Panthers’ third-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, Juho Lammikko, does not approach the game as subtly as many of his countrymen. Coming off a week in Lake Placid last week where he skated for Finland in an Evaluation Camp for the 2016 World Junior Championships, Lammikko bluntly categorized his team’s play, which included only one win in five games against the United States and Sweden.

“I think it was like not good,” Lammikko said of his team’s performance in the summer exhibition tournament. “It was the first games of the season and it was hard. We played a couple games good, but we can improve. It wasn’t that good.”

With those words, it’s clear that Lammikko expects himself and his teammates to do something special this season, especially in a year that his native country will host the World Juniors. His coach with the Finnish national team, Jukka Jalonen, also sees something special in Lammikko.

“Good attitude,” Jalonen said of Lammikko. “Overall plays pretty good. He’s not so talented in any one area – he’s talented in all areas. I think he has matured a lot as a person, first and foremost. He’s learned a lot better how to play without the puck.”

When mentioning Lammikko’s play without the puck, it’s impossible not to credit his decision to leave Finland to play junior hockey in the Canadian Hockey League – a very uncommon decision for a Finnish player – for the Kingston Frontenacs last season. Playing on a team that included eventual Panthers 2015 first-round draft pick Lawson Crouse, Lammikko was one of his team’s top contributors, netting 18 goals and 26 assists as Kingston battled its way into the playoffs despite playing in the Ontario Hockey League’s toughest division.

“He’s a big guy (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) and now (that he played in the OHL) he’s used to playing on a smaller rink,” Jalonen added of Lammikko. “Now he’s coming back to Finland. I think he’s a better player as well.”

As much as Lammikko’s year in Canada – he will return to play for Assat in Finland’s top professional league this season – seems to have improved his play on the ice, it also seems to have influenced his mentality. After all, it certainly seems quite North American of Lammikko to out and out expect to win gold – not just any medal – at the World Juniors this year despite the fact that it looks as if Finland will have the youngest roster in the tournament.

“We’ll have the home people behind us and want to win it in front of them,” Lammikko said. “There’s no pressure. We can finish the job.”

Perhaps that should Finnish the job?

By: Dan Marrazza (@DanMarrazza) -- Special to FloridaPanthers.com from Lake Placid

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