A kid who can score
by Chris Jurewicz|23 APR 2022
Joakim Kemell will be one of the returnees at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.
photo: Chris Tanouye / HHOF-IIHF Images
Joakim Kemell cuts right to the chase when asked to describe his game on the ice.

“I like to score. It’s simple,” says the 17-year-old Finnish forward, who will be a part of any success that Finland has at the upcoming IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Landshut and Kaufbeuren, Germany.

If you search for articles or insight about Kemell on Google, or watch some of his highlights on YouTube, you’ll agree with his personal assessment. The kid likes to score goals. And he’s very good at it.

Have a look at some highlights here:
Now that you’ve seen what he can do, you likely agree that Kemell can score. What’s perhaps most impressive about the above highlight clip is those goals are being scored with JYP Jyvaskyla in Finland’s top professional league, the Liiga. Kemell, still a teenager, had a fantastic rookie season in the Liiga, with 15 goals and 23 points in 39 games. A bulk of his goals came in the first few weeks of the season prior to a shoulder injury that took Kemell off the ice for approximately five weeks.

Kemell admits that the injury set him back and slowed down his production later on in the season. But, despite the setback, he is among the top-ranked players on various 2022 NHL Entry Draft rankings boards. His stock may have dropped a tad with the slowdown due to injury, but hockey fans should take the chance to watch the sniper during the U18 Worlds as he will most certainly be picked in the top 10 of the upcoming NHL draft and should have an impactful pro career.

“It was a really nice season for me,” says Kemell from his team’s hotel room just before Finland is to open its U18 Worlds against Switzerland. “I felt like it was a crazy season for me. It gave me good experience because it was my first season with the men and they gave me little details on how to play better and everything. It was really good for me.”

He chuckles when asked what the main difference was from competing against players his age to those five to 10 years his senior.

“The biggest difference is physically, how they play and the speed,” says Kemell who, despite being 5-foot-11, loves to engage in the physical side of the game. “Yeah, I like it. Sometimes I just like to hit other players.”

Kemell’s injury occurred on one of those physical plays as he tried to stop an opponent with a puck and hurt his right shoulder. There was no tear, says Kemell, but it was serious enough to take time off the ice. At this point, with Finland trying to win its first U18 World Championship since 2018, he says he’s back to 100 per cent. And that bodes well for the Finns.

“We have a good chance at U18s. We have a good team,” he says. “We try to skate hard and just play the simple game, shoot the puck to the net, get the rebounds. Just a simple game.”

Kemell is raring to go at the U18 Worlds for a few reasons. This tournament is an annual showcase of many of the top-ranked undrafted NHLers and a final chance to show the scouts what they’ve got. It also comes on the heels of the 2022 IIHF World Juniors that started with hope and optimism on Dec. 26 but were cancelled just three days later after a number of teams had to be quarantined with numerous cases of Covid-19. The cancellation was a blow to many of the young players, including Kemell who played in Finland’s two games at that event.

“It was really great experience for me but it was so sad when they ended,” he says. “Now I have a new chance with the international team.”

The World Juniors have been re-scheduled for August of this year but it’s unclear where players like Kemell will be at that point (he does say he would love to play in the event). But that is a decision for another day.

Now, the focus is on delivering a gold medal for Finland, something the nation has done twice since 2016 but, prior to that, hadn’t struck gold at the U18s since 1999 and 2000.

Once the U18 Worlds are over, Kemell will undoubtedly put some more focus on the NHL Entry Draft, which is scheduled to start on 7 July. He says he has no preference of what team takes him and is feeling pretty calm about the situation.

“I’m very excited for the draft, I don’t have too much pressure for that,” he says.