Team Finland went a traditional route with its selections of the first 16 players on the World Cup of Hockey roster, which was announced Wednesday in Helsinki, Finland.
Virtually every player has extensive experience with a national team that has achieved success recently in international tournaments at various age groups. The Finns have medaled in each of the past three Olympics, including a bronze in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, a silver in the 2014 IIHF World Championship and a gold in the 2016 World Junior Championship. In the most recent World Cup, in 2004, Finland finished second, losing to Canada in the championship game in Toronto, site of the best-of-3 final in the 2016 World Cup.
The team is built upon its goaltending and defense. Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has won the Stanley Cup and is traditionally atop many of the statistical categories in the NHL. Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators has been the linchpin for the success they've enjoyed since the 2008-09 season.
"Finland has always had extremely good keepers," general manager Jere Lehtinen said. "Everybody fitted in their roles already in the (2014) Sochi Olympics. Everybody wants to play, but there will always be guys who won't be able to play. Everybody comes to this project and wants to wear the National Team shirt so that there will be no problems. He who plays, will be supported."
Lehtinen has selected a roster that excels at the things Finland traditionally does well and this edition should play the same physical, north-south game for which the Finns are noted.
So far, every player named to the roster plays in the NHL, which is not surprising since the games will be played on the smaller North American surface.
"When we play in the smaller rink, everyone has to know how the game will be played there," Lehtinen said. "(The) door is open for the players in Europe also. It's hard to say, whether there will be players from Europe or not. We have some good defensemen in Europe."
Coach Lauri Marjamaki said the core on which Team Finland wanted to build a World Cup roster is there.
"We got a group that looks like Team Finland. Many experienced leading players and many unprejudiced younger guys," Marjamaki said.
The task for Marjamaki prior to the World Cup starting will be to get everyone on the same page.
"We have been talking about the selection and preparation with the players. I meet everyone in the summer and then we talk about roles and who they want to play with, lines and so on," Marjamaki said. "Preparation is the key. I listen to everyone's opinion about how they feel, what they think is important, how the schedule goes, and what kind of hockey we play. The coaching staff has to make sure that everyone feels happy and safe when they come to the team."
"I know who fits in the same line with who, but I also listen a lot to the players. When games start, everything has to be clear. We can't wonder during tournament, what should we do."
Strength of the team: Commitment. This group has played together for several years and has had success. Despite its small pool of NHL players, Finland is always eager and united to prove to the larger hockey-playing nations that it has something special.
Weakness of team: Goal scoring. None of the 14 skaters named to the roster have reached 20 goals yet this season; two, Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers and Leo Komarov of the Toronto Maple Leafs, have more than 15.
Biggest surprise: Jonas Donskoi. The San Jose Sharks rookie forward has 57 games of NHL experience and has played for the senior national team in one tournament.
Biggest omission: Erik Haula. The speedy winger from the Minnesota Wild has 20 goals in 175 NHL games in three seasons. He has eight points in 15 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, G
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators, G
Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins, D
Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres, D
Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks, D
Esa Lindell, Dallas Stars, D
Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild, F
Jori Lehtera, St. Louis Blues, F
Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers, F
Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild, F
Jussi Jokinen, Florida Panthers, F
Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning
Leo Komarov, Toronto Maple Leafs, F
Joonas Donskoi, San Jose Sharks, F
Lauri Korpikoski, Edmonton Oilers, F
Teuvo Teravainen, Chicago Blackhawks, Fby Shawn Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director, Editorial NHL.com