Finland’s top-tier hockey league, the Liiga, features a number of NHL hopefuls. The 2021-22 Liiga season kicked off on 9 September.
Let’s have a look at some of the Liiga’s most intriguing NHL prospects (with the drafting NHL club in parentheses) starting with the NHL Draft class of 2021.
Aatu Raty (New York Islanders)
Center Raty (born 2002) was drafted by the Islanders in 2021. Once ranked in the top three, Raty was taken by the Isles in the second round and 52nd overall. He participated in the Isles camp in the fall but will play the season with Karpat Oulu.
Raty dominated the World Junior Summer Showcase, scoring 14 points in six games for Finland. However, he didn’t produce in Karpat’s preseason games. He had just one point in five contests.
In the Liiga, Raty made his season debut on October 6th. On October 21st, he told local newspaper Kaleva that he expects to join the Isles organization in the spring should the Liiga season end early.
Aleksi Heimosalmi (Carolina Hurricanes)
Defenseman Heimosalmi (2003) was drafted by the Hurricanes 44th overall. He is set to make his debut with Assat Pori this season. A promising all-round D-man.
Samu Tuomaala (Philadelphia Flyers)
A speedy winger with a lethal wrist shot. Tuomaala (2003) aims to take a spot in the Flyers organization, Karpat Oulu being Plan B. The Flyers’ second-round pick and 46th overall in 2021.
Ville Koivunen (Carolina Hurricanes)
Another Karpat player, the winger is set to debut in the Liiga this season. Koivunen (2003) has good hockey sense; grabbed 23 goals and 49 points in 38 games with the Karpat U20’s last year.
And then some earlier draftees…
Aku Raty (Arizona Coyotes)
Aatu Raty’s big brother, Aku, was drafted by the Coyotes in 2019 and is yet to sign with the club. Winger Aku Raty (2001) hasn’t really made his mark yet in the Liiga with Karpat. New season, new opportunities?
Anttoni Honka (Carolina Hurricanes)
World Champion in U20’s and U18’s, Honka (2000) is thriving in JYP’s defense. The skilled blueliner racked up 31 points last season. Big brother Julius Honka failed in the NHL and is playing in Sweden now.
Leevi Aaltonen (New York Rangers)
Winger Aaltonen (2001) is hurting for the next step. He’s been a minor factor in the Liiga so far—this season, he gets a new start with KooKoo. The Rangers’ fifth-round pick from 2019.
And now, let’s move on to the 2022 NHL Draft Class…
One of the youngest players ever to appear in the Liiga, Lambert (2003) could be in the top three of the 2022 NHL Draft. Prior to the new season, had 46 Liiga games to his name. The Finnish-Canadian talent plays for JYP Jyvaskyla.
Winger Kemell (2004) is a promising goal scorer. Potted 22 times in the U20 league last year. Lambert’s JYP teammate.
Kemell became something of an early-season sensation, topping the 2021-22 Liiga in goals (9) and points (13) after 11 games.
Slafkovsky (2004), a Slovak and the only non-Finn on this list, starts his third season in the TPS Turku organization. The winger has already represented Slovakia’s “A” team at the Worlds and Olympic qualification.
The Liiga features 15 teams, each playing a 60-game regular-season program. The top six qualify for the quarter-finals. Teams ranked 7–10 advance to a “play-in” for the two remaining quarter-final spots.