Valimaki Invited to Finland WJC Camp

Story from, Written by Mike G. Morreale

Right wing Jesse Puljujarvi, a top prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft, highlights the list of 28 players invited by Finland to attend the United States National Junior Evaluation Camp, to be held Aug. 1-8 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Finland Junior Camp Roster

GOALIES: Kaapo Kahkonen (Minnesota Wild); Veini Vehvilainen (2016 draft eligible); Nico Viksten (2016 draft eligible)

DEFNSEMEN: Matias Haaranen (2016 draft eligible); Miro Keskitalo (2016 draft eligible); Otto Leskinen (2016 draft eligible); Jesper Mattila (2016 draft eligible); Niko Mikkola (St. Louis Blues); Markus Niemelainen (2016 draft eligible); Sami Niku (Winnipeg Jets); Vili Saarijarvi (Detroit Red Wings); Eetu Sopanen (2016 draft eligible); Juuso Valimaki (2017 draft eligible)

FORWARDS: Sebastian Aho (Calgary Flames); Frank Gymer (2016 draft eligible); Roope Hintz (Dallas Stars); Kasperi Kapanen (Toronto Maple Leafs); Joel Kiviranta (2016 draft eligible); Patrik Laine (2016 draft eligible); Juho Lammikko (Florida Panthers); Teemu Lamsa (2016 draft eligible); Julius Nattinen (Anaheim Ducks); Jesse Puljujarvi (2016 draft eligible); Mikko Rantanen (Colorado Avalanche); Sebastian Repo (2016 draft eligible); Aleksi Saarela (New York Rangers); Miska Siikonen (2016 draft eligible); Jonne Tammela (Tampa Bay Lightning)

The camp is one of the first steps toward picking the team that will represent Finland at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, which will be held in Helsinki between Dec. 26 and Jan. 5, 2016. During the camp Finland will practice and play games against the United States and Sweden.

Two other players invited to the camp already have been drafted in the first round. Right wing Kasperi Kapanen was taken by the Pittsburgh Penguins with the 22nd pick of the 2014 draft; he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs as part of the Phil Kessel trade July 1.

Right wing Mikko Rantanen was selected by the Colorado Avalanche with the 10th pick of the 2015 draft.

Puljujarvi (6-foot-3, 198 pounds), who was the youngest player for Finland at the 2015 World Junior Championship, is drawing comparisons to former NHL player Teemu Selanne. He had four goals and 11 points in 21 games for 2015 champion Karpat Oulu in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, and is projected to be the top European player for the 2016 draft.

“He has great offensive instincts but does know his defensive duties,” NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said.

One other 2016 draft-eligible skater invited to camp is right wing Patrik Laine (6-4, 209), who will spend the 2015-16 season with Tappara in Liiga. He played six games for Tappara last season.

Rantanen (6-3, 211) had four goals at the 2015 WJC, half of Finland’s total for the tournament. He was NHL Central Scouting’s top-rated European skater for the 2015 draft and will be playing big minutes with TPS in Liiga the top division this season.

Kapanen, the son of former NHL player Sami Kapanen, had 11 goals and 21 points with Kalpa. He finished the season with Pittsburgh’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. He had one goal and one assist in four regular-season games, and three goals and two assists in seven AHL playoff games.

Also invited to camp is 16-year-old defenseman Juuso Valimaki (6-2, 194), who isn’t NHL draft-eligible until 2017. Valimaki was selected No. 14 by the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League in the 2015 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft on June 30. In 44 games with Ilves in Finland’s under-20 league he had five goals and 20 points. He also had one assist and a plus-5 rating in seven games to help Finland win the silver medal at the 2015 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

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