If you thought Finland’s forward group was thin, just wait until you get a load of its defenders. There’s not much here in the way of top defensive pair talent, so ... man, the Finns better hope their goalies pull some miracles out in order to escape this group. It’s gonna be tough.
Jyrki Jokipakka, Calgary Flames
Sami Lepisto, Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)
Esa Lindell, Dallas Stars
Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins
Ville Pokka, Chicago Blackhawks
Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres
Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Maatta is a bit of a weird case. You’ll get wildly differing scouting reports depending on who you ask and when — so for now we’ll say he’s still a very young defender who has found a way to stick in the NHL. Where he goes from here is a mystery, which is what makes him a good player to keep an eye on.
It’s never a bad idea to keep tabs on a division rival’s player — so let’s make sure Vatanen doesn’t try anything shift while Joonas Donskoi is on the ice. No funny business, mister.
I know what you’re thinking — are these basically the only three players on this team Jake has heard of? The answer is... no, but just barely. We’ll keep an eye on Jokipakka for the same reason as Vatanen. Those Pacific Division players aren’t to be trusted.
First Game: Team North America vs. Team Finland, 5 p.m. PT, ESPN2