NHL Hockey Column: Studs & Duds
SM-liiga Recap : Part I
Over the next two months, 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 I
While NHL is on lockout, the hockey is even more interesting elsewhere. In Finnish elite league SM-liiga the regular season has already passed the halfway mark. I go through all the fourteen teams in the league in this column and provide some insights of the most interesting players in the teams.
Blues is the only team in the whole league that hasn't signed a single lockout player in entire season. The point leader in the team is 25-year-old center Teemu Ramstedt who has 29 points in 31 games so far. Ramstedt may not have a future in the NHL, but he has certainly attracted attention in the KHL and will be a regular guest in international games in near future.
Probably the most interesting name in the roster is diminutive winger Juuso Ikonen who is draft eligible next summer. Highly skilled and fast Ikonen has scored eight goals and 17 points so far in 30 games and will suit up for Finland in the upcoming World Juniors.
There are a couple of NHL drafted players in the Blues roster too. 18-year-old D-man Niklas Tikkinen was drafted in 5th round last summer by the Coyotes. Tikkinen has played only nine games in SM-liiga but has managed to get five assists in that span.
Jani Hakanpää was chosen 104th overall by St. Louis in 2010 and he signed an ELC contract with them last summer. Hakanpää has played steady game but has only four points in 26 games.
The oldest and one of the biggest teams in SM-liiga is the HIFK. The team has struggled in the first half of the season with an inexperienced coach. Team leader in points is 36 years old Swedish center Joakim Eriksson with 19 points in 31 games. HIFK has had a number of lockout players suited up for them so far.
Edmonton Oilers power forward Lennart Petrell leads the team in goal scoring with nine. His shooting percentage is relatively high and it will probably come down as the season progresses.
Mathieu Perreault is the most recent signing of the team. The Capitals forward has played only five games but has managed to get one goal and six points so far. Perreault has played very versatile game and looked very good in both ends of the ice.
Veteran D-man Stephane Robidas played 15 games for HIFK but was all but good. He ended up with two goals and with points and was minus-11 in that span. His skating just wasn't enough for the big ice and he took several dumb penalties too.
Former first round pick Patrick O'Sullivan signed a non-lockout contract with HIFK. He has been battling injuries but hasn't impressed either while healthy. He has only four points in eight games.
Most hyped prospect in the HIFK is Markus Granlund who was drafted in the second round by the Flames in 2011. He started the season slowly but has been picking up the pace lately and has now four goals and 12 points in 28 games. Granlund will probably center one of Team Finland's top lines in the WJC.
Another Flames prospect in the organization is goalie Joni Ortio. 21-year-old native of Turku has good statistics compared to the team's success.
HPK was predicted to be one of the worst teams in the league but has played very well. The team leader in points is 31 years old center Ville Viitaluoma with 29 points in 30 games.
HPK's first lockout player is former Capitals and Jets forward Eric Fehr who has been of the most effective forwards in the whole league with 10 goals and 19 points in just 15 games. He is certainly looking for a bounce back season when the NHL starts.
Another lockout player for HPK is hometown guy Antti Miettinen. Miettinen hasn't really stood out from the other players and has only five points in nine games so far.
Ilves is the most successful team in the league history with 16 Finnish championships. In 21st century they haven't really succeeded and are currently in the last place of the league. Former Tampa Bay draft pick, 22-year-old forward Matias Sointu leads the team in scoring with 10 goals in 17 points in 29 games. Ilves has signed three lockout players.
Newly acquired Tampa Bay goalie Anders Lindbäck has been one of the best goalies in the league. Before the national team break last week, Lindbäck had let in only one goal in four games.
Philadelphia forward Max Talbot signed with Ilves in early November and has played ten games with the team so far scoring two goals and five points. Talbot has however been very effective shorthanded player with fellow lockout forward Daniel Paille who has one goal and one assist in three games.
21 years old D-man Jyrki Jokipakka signed an entry-level contract with Dallas Stars last summer. Jokipakka has five goals and 13 points in 30 games but is also minus-14 in that span. His overall play has been good though.
Part II out tomorrow.
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