So here’s the thing. This really shouldn’t be a surprise at this point. Roni Hirvonen has been playing very well for some time, and Topi Niemela…well…no Finnish defenseman in the history of Liiga is having a season like he’s having. He was not only a lock, but a lock made out of adamantium with a vibranium locking mechanism.
Roni Hirvonen’s numbers:
Season
Team
League
GP
G
A
P
PIM
2019-20
 Ässät
Liiga
52
5
11
16
14
 Finland U18 (all)
International-Jr
9
6
6
12
10
 Finland U20 (all)
International-Jr
3
1
2
3
14
2020-21
 Ässät
Liiga
54
6
15
21
54
 Finland U20
WJC-20
7
2
4
6
18
2021-22
 HIFK
Liiga
26
4
9
13
18
 Finland U20
WJC-20
 Finland U20 (all)
International-Jr
11
12
3
15
14
Topi Niemela’s numbers:
Season
Team
League
GP
G
A
P
PIM
2019-20
 Kärpät U20
U20 SM-liiga
1
0
1
1
0
 Kärpät
Liiga
43
1
6
7
8
 Finland U18 (all)
International-Jr
9
0
4
4
2
 Finland U20 (all)
International-Jr
9
0
4
4
2
2020-21
 Kärpät U20
U20 SM-sarja
6
1
3
4
0
 Kärpät
Liiga
15
0
4
4
2
 Finland U20
WJC-20
7
2
6
8
6
2021-22
 Kärpät
Liiga
27
5
17
22
6
 Finland U20
WJC-20
 Finland U20 (all)
International-Jr
9
2
5
7
8
Both players had a strong WJC performance last year, and the expectations are just as high, if not higher this year as Finland continues to be one of the three most dominant teams over the past decade. Ambitions are probably set higher than a Bronze this time out.
As for Niemela, he’s had a modest slow down in the scoring race in Liiga of late, and while his pace will still be great, and outstanding for a young defenseman, his absence for the World Juniors will probably take him off the leaders boards.
You can probably expect to see Hirvonen utilized as the 1C for Finland, or at very least the 2C, and Niemela will be a top pairing defenseman and running the powerplay.
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When Leafs fans aren’t cheering for Team Canada, it’s likely that Team Finland will be the team to watch.
You can read all about the Finnish duo weekly in TLN’s Prospect Roundups: