Finland state

Finland 2022 Men’s Olympic Hockey Team Preview

If the NHL and the NHLPA had allowed its players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Finland team would have had a formidable roster. From Aleksander Barkov to Sebastian Aho, they would have been a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, hockey fans won’t see their tastes in this tournament as the NHL is officially withdrawn from competition on December 22, 2021.

At the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, 18 Eeli Tolvanen led the team scoring with three goals and nine points as they finished sixth on the podium. He won’t be there this year as he currently plays for the Nashville Predators in the NHL. They will therefore have to find someone else to take over his role. 2022’s top prospects Joakim Kemell and Brad Lambert could be called upon to do just that, as they were denied their shot at glory when the The 2022 Junior Worlds have been postponed last month.

Along with Canada, Russia, Sweden and the United States, Finland has had its share of success on the international stage. Surprisingly, not so much at the Olympics though.

Finland has a rich hockey history

For a country with a population of just 5.53 million, they can certainly pump NHL talent. From Hall of Famers like Teemu Selanne and Jari Kurri to current stars like Aho and Barkov, they usually have no trouble giving the world stage something to talk about. They don’t have superstars like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to pull off. What you can always rely on is their work ethic and never say die mentality. They come out every shift and grind you to the ground.

Finland’s focus on skill development and cult dedication to consistent team play have made them a contender year after year.

Lucas Aykroyd, IIHF.com

Whether it’s an elite first liner like Selanne or a crusher like Jarkko Ruutu, they all possess the same worker bee attitude. When an entire team adheres to this system, it becomes that much more difficult to compete against. That’s why it’s best never to count the Finns in an international competition.

Related: Selanne’s Legacy: Teemu Selanne’s Unbeatable Record

Most of Finland’s success has come at the World Championships (WC). Since their first medal at the 1992 World Championships, they have won three gold, six silver and three bronze. Their last championship dates back to 2019 when they beat Canada 3-1 thanks to two goals from Marko Anttila. The Olympics, however, have not been so kind.

Kasperi Kapanen Finland
Finland has a history of success outside of the Olympics (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

Since its first appearance in Oslo at the 1952 Winter Olympics, Finland has participated in 17 of the last 18 Olympic Games. The only time they did not compete was in 1956 when Cortina d’Ampezzo hosted the competition. They never tasted the glory of winning gold, but came close in 1988 and 2006 when Alexander Mogilny and the Soviet Union and Henrik Zetterberg and the Swedes came away with the championship on them.

Related: Top 10 Finns of the 1980s

In total, it has been 16 years and three Olympic Games since Finland had the pleasure of playing in the gold medal game. In addition to their two silver medals, they also have four bronze medals. Prior to their sixth-place finish in 2018, they had won three consecutive Olympic medals and six of the last eight. So overall they did pretty well.

Fun facts about the Finland team and its players

  • Since the league’s inception in 1917, 249 Finnish players have played at least one game in the NHL.
  • Selanne still leads all Finns in NHL goals and points with 684 and 1,457 respectively. The next closest active player is Barkov with 196 goals and 492 points. Unless he benders for the rest of his career, his record is secure for the foreseeable future.
  • Finland’s biggest international victory came against Norway when they eliminated them 20-1 on March 12, 1947.
  • Conversely, their biggest defeat came against Canada on March 3, 1958 when they were destroyed 24-0.
  • Finland retired the number of seven players, Selanne (#8), Koivu (#11), Kurri (#17), Raimo Helminen (#14), Ville Peltonen (#16), Jere Lehtinen (#26) and Kimmo Timonen. (#44).
  • To this day, Helminen is still the Olympic record holder for most tournaments played. He participated in six Olympic Games from 1984 to 2002.
  • Saku Koivu holds the Olympic record for most assists by a center with 19 in 22 career games.

The biggest stars on the world stage

With the majority of past Olympics having been played with NHL players, Finnish stars have been plentiful. Selanne (aka the Finnish Flash) was their most prolific with 24 goals and 43 points in 37 games. He also won three bronze medals and a silver medal. Koivu, who captained the last team to advance to the gold medal game, is a distant second with nine goals and 30 points in 28 games.

Selanne, the oldest player to score at the Olympics
Teemu Selanne is Finland’s most prolific Olympic and NHL goalscorer (THW Archives)

Without NHL players this year, the pressure will be on players who don’t have a lot of experience in this arena. Famous players like Markus Granlund, Valtteri Filppula, Leo Komarov and Sami Vatanen have only participated in one Olympics. They each have a bronze medal, so they will certainly be the leaders of a team that will be full of younger and more inexperienced players.

Where will the Finnish players come from?

Usually, the NHL is the biggest source of talent for the Finnish national team. Without NHL players, they will be forced to look elsewhere. Most likely, they will use the Finnish Liiga, Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and various junior leagues for the players this time around. If they go with the speculated names of Granlund, Komarov, Filppula and Vatanen, the Swiss League and KHL will be important sources. If it ends up being Lambert and Kemell, JYP will lose two of its best players very soon.

Valtteri Filppula Detroit Red Wings
Valtteri Filppula, a veteran of more than 1,000 NHL games, will be a strong candidate for the Finnish Olympic team (Jess Star/The Hockey Writers)

Yes, Finland won’t have their usual stars, but that doesn’t mean teams should take them lightly. Their system, their work ethic and often their goalkeepers make up for their apparent lack of talent most of the time. They always seem to surprise their opponents, stars or not stars. This year should be no different, even without the NHL names bearing the Suomi crest.