Finland wants to win again
by Lucas Aykroyd|13 MAY 2022
Finland celebrated its first Olympic men's hockey gold medal in February and now hopes to make more history with a world title in Tampere.
photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images
When Finland won the gold medal at the 2011 and 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships, it was the first time it had captured two senior IIHF titles in the same decade. But now, hosting the Worlds in Tampere and Helsinki (13 to 29 May), the Finns have a golden opportunity to win this tournament after winning their first Olympic title in Beijing in the same year.

Completing the feat on home ice – unlike Sweden, the only other nation to “do the double” in Turin and Riga in 2006 – would be unprecedented. And the degree to which the Finns are favoured to succeed is almost as unprecedented. For instance, the last time Tampere hosted Worlds games (2003), Suomi came in with two already-established legends in Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, but they were just one of several contenders and wound up with a disappointing fifth-place finish.

This year, anything other than keeping the medal streak alive for coach Jukka Jalonen’s crew would be a huge let-down. And after 2019’s gold, 2021’s silver, and the Olympic title, they are regarded as the cream of Tampere-based Group B. With more than 20 Finns still active in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Jalonen has yet to fill out his 25-man roster. But with his reliance on two-way hockey from five-man units, it’s less about the big names for this group than total teamwork.


The Finns enter these Worlds with the same three 30-something netminders that carried them to gold in Beijing.

Olympic starter Harri Sateri finished 2021-22 with the Arizona Coyotes, posting a 4.22 GAA and 86.6 save percentage with the hapless team that just landed the third overall pick in the 2022 NHL draft lottery. However, not too much should be read into Sateri’s NHL stats. Big and unflappable at age 32, he remains a viable candidate to take Finland all the way this month.

Sateri split time at the 2021 Worlds with Jussi Olkinuora, who was named to the all-star team in Riga and is another 2022 Olympic returnee. Olkinuora, who spent the season with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, was one of many Finns who elected to leave the KHL after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Third-string goalie Frans Tuohimaa is in the same boat.

Goal is an area where the Finns have shown they’re perfectly capable of succeeding without NHL talent. As usual, it’s the least of their worries.


Finland limited its 2022 Olympic opponents to just eight goals in six games. A solid, reliable blue line was a big part of that equation. Again, the key Beijing personnel are back.

Ex-KHLer Mikko Lehtonen (signed with ZSC Lions for next season) led Finnish Olympic defencemen with four points. He will join fellow veteran Sami Vatanen (Geneve-Servette HC), who had three assists in Beijing, among Jalonen’s main puck-moving blueliners. Yet the emphasis remains on the group, not individual names.

Lehtonen topped all Finnish skaters in Beijing with a comparatively moderate average per-game ice time of 18:58, as Jalonen likes to spread out the minutes to keep the pace and intensity high. It’s been a successful formula.

The parade of skillful, gritty returnees continues with the likes of Atte Ohtamaa, Juuso Hietanen, and Ville Pokka. Henri Jokiharju of the Buffalo Sabres was originally expected to suit up, but won’t participate due to illness. Mikael Seppala didn’t make the Olympic roster, but is back for a second consecutive Worlds after playing a key role in Tappara Tampere’s Liiga championship run this spring.

This blue line is good enough to win with. However, certainly if the Dallas Stars lose their first-round playoff series to the Calgary Flames, Jalonen will look at adding more talent with the availability of Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, and Jani Hakanpaa.


Finnish fans are thrilled to have Mikael Granlund back in the fold. The skillful Nashville Predators veteran is coming off a strong NHL season (11+53=64). Granlund, 30, made a name for himself before entering the NHL when he scored an iconic lacrosse goal in Finland’s 2011 semi-final victory over Russia. Granlund had 28 power play points this season, and his crafty playmaking could lift the Finns to new heights with the man advantage.

Hannes Bjorninen, who scored the 2-1 winner in the Beijing Olympic final versus the ROC team, got a scare during Finland’s training camp in Joensuu when he suffered an eye injury. However, the savvy 26-year-old Lahti native is thankfully fit to play. Bjorninen will reprise his line with another legendary clutch player in the towering Marko Anttila, who assisted on his Olympic winner and famously scored multiple playoff winners in the 2019 run. Their Olympic linemate Saku Maenalanen has recovered in time after twisting his knee in an exhibition game against Sweden, one of four Euro Hockey Tour losses the Lions suffered before these Worlds.

The diminutive and nifty Sakari Manninen, who led the Finns with seven points in Beijing, could make more magic alongside fellow ex-KHLer Teemu Hartikainen. And veteran leader Valtteri Filppula, 38, will be eagerly watched as he bids to join the Triple Gold Club. In addition to gold in Beijing, Filppula captured the 2008 Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings.

There are, again, big names that could still arrive from the NHL. With his roster space, Jalonen will have interesting decisions to make should anyone from Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov to New York Rangers forward Kaapo Kakko become available.


Jukka Jalonen is a straightforward and honest communicator, and players adapt easily to his simple system. It’s remarkable how much mileage the 59-year-old Riihimaki legend gets out of whoever’s on his national team roster each year. He gets every line involved.

Jalonen has outcoached some famous names with NHL pedigrees in his recent gold-medal victories, from Canada’s Alain Vigneault in 2019 to the ROC team’s Alexei Zhamnov in 2022. It’s hard to imagine him topping his previous accomplishments, but getting the gold at home would be something unbelievably special.

The trio of assistant coaches – Kari Lehtonen, Mikko Manner, and Ari-Pekka Selin – remains the same as in Beijing.

Projected Results

With due respect to the Czechs and Swedes, the Finns appear to have have the best team in Group B. They’ll just need to avoid complacency as they get their legs going with back-to-back games against Norway and Latvia.

Expect Finland to finish first or second in the group. If recent history means anything, the Finns will play for a medal on May 29, and an historic gold is realistic. It’ll be especially exciting if the Finns face Canada in the Worlds final for the third straight time.