2011's Finns: where are they now?
by Lucas Aykroyd|23 MAY 2019
Finland's Ossi Vaananen proudly hoist the World Championship trophy following their gold medal win over Sweden at the 2011 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
photo: Matthew Manor / HHOF-IIHF Images
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Let’s face it: regardless of what happens at these Worlds, the 2010s have been very good to Finland's men in IIHF competition. Highlights include two Olympic bronze medals (2010, 2014), two World Championship silver medals (2014, 2016), three World Junior titles (2014, 2016, 2019), and two U18 titles (2016, 2018).

However, what really set the tone for this delightful decade was the gold medal at the 2011 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Head coach Jukka Jalonen brought an unheralded roster when Slovakia hosted the tournament for the first time. The Finns held their own in the group stage. It became apparent that something special might be brewing when they rallied from a 2-0 deficit to edge the stacked Russians 3-2 on shootout goals by leading scorer Jarkko Immonen and captain Mikko Koivu.

Then came the magic of the playoffs. After a 4-1 quarter-final victory over Norway, they blanked Russia 3-0 in the semi-finals, most remembered for Mikael Granlund’s virtuoso “lacrosse goal.” And after Finland scored five unanswered third-period goals to rout archrival Sweden 6-1 in the final in Bratislava, fans celebrated in the streets and squares of Helsinki with wild abandon.

As Jalonen goes for gold again with a new group of underdogs, let’s take a moment and check out what’s become of the championship-winning players from 2011.
Sweden vs. Finland (final) - 2011 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship
Finland beat Sweden 6-1 to win the 2011 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Bratislava, Slovakia.
SWE FIN 22 MAY 2019

Goaltenders

Niko Hovinen
Then: Lahti Pelicans veteran did not play in Slovakia as third goalie
Now: 2006 Minnesota Wild draft pick jumped to Iserlohn Roosters (DEL) this season

Teemu Lassila
Then: HPK starter and Vehanen’s backup beat Latvia, Germany, and Russia in round-robin
Now: Returning for second season with Orli Znojmo (EBEL) at age 36 

Petri Vehanen
Then: Ak Bars Kazan star led Worlds with 1.24 GAA and 95.4 save percentage
Now: Now 41, retired in 2018 to become Lukko’s goalie coach in his native Rauma

Defencemen

Topi Jaakola
Then: Oulu-born blueliner had one assist in his third of seven Worlds
Now: Played one game with TPS Turku this season

Lasse Kukkonen
Then: Served as assistant captain in gold-medal run, taking zero PIM
Now: Four-time Olympian coming back for seventh straight season with Karpat Oulu

Sami Lepisto
Then: Offensive-minded Columbus rearguard chipped in three assists
Now: At 34, coming off most productive KHL season with 36 points for Jokerit 

Janne Niskala
Then: Top scorer among Metallurg Magnitogorsk D-men had four points with Finns
Now: Five-time Worlds participant just captained Lukko for third consecutive year

Pasi Puistola
Then: 1978-born veteran, then playing for HV71, got three assists
Now: Retired in 2017, served as Tappara’s video coach this season

Anssi Salmela
Then: Led Jalonen’s eight defencemen in average ice time (18:49) in Slovakia
Now: After playing in Beijing, Linkoping, and Riga in 2017 and 2018, now settled with Biel

Ossi Vaananen
Then: Played Worlds after returning to Jokerit for first of his last six seasons
Now: Retired, recently had second child with partner Jenni Dahlman, played in February “Save Pond Hockey” benefit with Jari Kurri and Slava Fetisov

Jyrki Valivaara
Then: Assisted on Finland’s first goal of tourney (Jarkko Immonen vs. Denmark), two more helpers
Now: Retired in 2014 due to a hip injury, inducted into JYP Jyvaskyla Hall of Fame in February

Forwards

Juhamatti Aaltonen
Then: Started on top line with Mikko Koivu and Tuomo Ruutu, moved after four games to Niko Kapanen and Leo Komarov, finished with three points
Now: Split 2018-19 between Skelleftea AIK (10 points in 10 Champions Hockey League games) and Lahti Pelicans

Mikael Granlund
Then: Worlds rookie got legendary semi-final “lacrosse goal” vs. Russia, finished with nine points
Now: Captained Finns at 2018 Worlds, 477-game NHL veteran traded from Minnesota to Nashville

Jarkko Immonen
Then: Ak Bars Kazan sniper won scoring race with nine goals and 12 points, made all-star team
Now: Potted 15 goals and 37 points for JYP Jyvaskyla this season, just turned 37

Jesse Joensuu
Then: At 24, Islanders prospect made roster but did not suit up
Now: Assistant captain with Jokerit had 19 goals and 37 points this season

Niko Kapanen
Then: Scored twice in gold-medal run, including 3-1 goal versus Swedes
Now: Former NHLer retired in 2017 after final season as HPK captain

Mikko Koivu
Then: Hard-nosed team captain delivered two goals and eight points
Now: Finished 14th season with Minnesota Wild, now at 673 career points and 973 NHL games

Leo Komarov
Then: After second season with Dynamo Moskva, hard-working agitator had two Worlds assists
Now: Recorded 26 points in first season of four-year, $12-million deal with Islanders

Janne Lahti
Then: Coming off career-best 37 goals and 59 points with Jokerit, went pointless in five Worlds games
Now: At 36, HPK veteran limited to three goals in 19 games this season

Jani Lajunen
Then: Espoo Blues forward scored two goals in four games, including 2-0 semi-final goal vs. Russia
Now: Two-time Liiga champ with Tappara gearing up for third season with HC Lugano 

Petteri Nokelainen
Then: Scored gold-medal winner at 2:35 of third period versus Sweden’s Viktor Fasth
Now: Retired since 2016 after finishing with 10 games for SaiPa Lappeenranta

Janne Pesonen
Then: Won Worlds gold in his debut at age 29, shone with two goals and seven points
Now: After winning 2018 title with Vaxjo Lakers, five-time Worlds participant just finished a second season with SHL club

Antti Pihlstrom
Then: JYP Jyvaskyla attacker set up Nokelainen’s golden goal on the rush
Now: 34-year-old fell to one goal and three assists in 41 games with Jokerit this year

Mika Pyorala
Then: After so-so year with Frolunda Gothenburg, scored fifth Finnish goal in final
Now: At 37, Oulu native had 32 points for hometown Karpat in 2018-19

Tuomo Ruutu
Then: Coming off career-high 57 points with Carolina, scored six goals, including winner in 4-1 quarter-final victory over Norway
Now: After retiring in 2017, assistant coach with 2019 World Junior champions and speaker at IIHF’s Partnership for Progress Program seminar in Tallinn in April