NHL Hockey Column: Studs & Duds
SM-liiga Recap : Part III
Over the next month, the Studs and Duds feature will recap various hockey leagues spanning from North America to Europe. This week, we showcase SM-liiga enthusiast, Miika Arponen (@miikaarponen), as he breaks down the latest happenings from Finland.
Overview of the first half of SM-liiga regular season - Part III (of III)
Lukko's season could be described with one word: Danish. They were struggling in the fall and were in the last place in the league before they signed three Danes at once. Phoenix Coyotes forward Mikkel Bødker leads the team in scoring with 14 goals and 23 points in 24 games.
New York Islanders forward Frans Nielsen has centered Bødker and has three goals and 18 points in 22 games. They have also formed a very effective pair on the power play.
The third Dane in the team is Dallas Stars defender Philip Larsen. Larsen has been one of the best D-men in the league in both ends of the rink. He has managed to gather five goals and 12 points in 22 games so far.
Pelicans were last in the league in 2010/11 only to find themselves in the finals last year. Now they have lowered back to the bottom and sit now in the second-last place in the league. Team leader in points is Czech Radek Smolenak with 18 goals and 28 points in 32 games. 14 of Smolenak's goals have come even strength which is quite remarkable.
Pelicans have signed three lockout players, but all of them have already left Lahti. Hurricanes D-man Jamie McBain played seven games and ended up with one assist and a minus-6 rating.
San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi ended up with as many points as McBain gathering one assist in ten games. His stint with the Pelicans didn't go very well as his record was 3-5-2 and GAA was 3.11.
Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec tried his luck with the Pelicans too, but his numbers were not very good either. 1-4-1 record and GAA of 2.68 were his totals before he left back home in Czech Republic.
SaiPa is one the most positive surprises in the league. The team has finished in top three only once in their history but now they are battleing in the top spots of SM-liiga with a team with virtually no star players. Team leader in points is Italian-Canadian forward Stefano Giliati with 12 goals and 23 points in 32 games.
Red Wings forward Cory Emmerton signed a lockout contract with SaiPa but broke a finger in the first period of his first game and didn't return to the rink.
One name rises above others when you look at Tappara's roster. It's not the point leader, Stanley Cup champion and NHL veteran Ville Nieminen (31 points in as many games) but the future superstar, 2013 draft eligible Aleksander Barkov.
"Sasha" Barkov has scored 14 goals and 14 assists in 32 games and will break the record of youngest player to score 30 points in SM-liiga very soon. Even if he is not allowed to drive a car, he is one of the best players in the league and astonishes the fans night after night. He will be one of the most important players of Team Finland in the WJC.
In addition to Nieminen, Vancouver Canucks forward Jannik Hansen has been playing alongside Barkov. Speedy winger has five goals and 13 points in 15 games so far.
Another lockout help for Tappara is unsigned NHL veteran defender Kurtis Foster. Despite having only four points in nine games, he has been quarterbacking Tappara's powerplay effectively.
One of the most successful teams in the league history, TPS is now sitting in the 11th spot in the league despite having the biggest number of lockout players joining the team. Team leader in points is AHL veteran Brian Willsie with 16 goals and 24 points in 29 games.
The best lockout player for TPS has been Turku native, Coyotes winger Lauri Korpikoski. He has six goals and 17 points in 11 games and has been very good in both powerplay and shorthanded.
Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu suited up for ten games for his youth team and ended up with five goals and five assists. Koivu and Korpikoski will probably return to Turku after New Year if the lockout continues.
St. Louis Blues D-man Kris Russell has played well in Turku. Two goals and 14 points in 15 games with over 26 minutes of ice time per game are not bad numbers.
Last season's Stanley Cup champion Alec Martinez hasn't been as effective as Russell. He has only one goal and one assist in 11 games but has played steady game defensively.
Latest addition to TPS's NHLer army is another St. Louis defender Kevin Shattenkirk. He has been showing very nice skills and has two goals and six points in seven games so far.
Finland's second-most hyped prospect for next summer's draft is TPS defender Rasmus Ristolainen. The 6'3"/207 lbs is good in both offensive end and defensive end and will have a huge role in Team Finland in the upcoming World Juniors.
Ässät is led in points by 25-year-old Canadian center Stephen Dixon. He has nine goals and 35 points in 32 games and he has played very complete game.
One of the best lockout players in the whole league is New York Islanders power forward Jesse Joensuu. 25 years old Joensuu has scored 11 goals and 24 points in 20 games so far and has been very good throughout the season.
Buffalo prospect Joel Armia suffer a concussion in mid-November but has already returned to the rink. He has ten goals and 14 points in 25 games and will be a dangerous goalscorer in the WJC.
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