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Last added: Megan SchultzFollow Elite Prospects on Twitter Follow Elite Prospects on Facebook Follow Elite Prospects on Instagram 
2018 U18 World Junior Championship
GROUP A

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WJC-18
# PLAYER GP G A TP
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flag Maxim Cajkovic (F)
4
4
7
11
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flag Jack Hughes (F)
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3
6
9
3. 
flag Niklas Nordgren (F)
4
6
2
8
4. 
flag Oliver Okuliar (F)
4
4
3
7
5. 
flag Kaapo Kakko (F)
4
2
5
7
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 RECENT ARTICLES
Apr 24Adam Boqvist looking forward to his second NHL draft
Apr 23PROSPECT REPORT: The Coyotes are better than they seem
Apr 23Elias Pettersson – Swedish hockey’s new golden boy
Apr 18The Playoff Report – which prospects are excelling in the postseason?
Apr 13Swedish prospect Filip Hållander to miss the World Juniors
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December 06, 2017

Aleksi Heponiemi – Poised for success

While much will be made of the seven first-round picks Finland plan to bring to the 2018 World Junior Championships in Buffalo, it is an undersized second-round pick you should be keeping your eyes out for. Generously listed at 5’10” and 150 lbs, Aleksi Heponiemi has never not had to fight off concerns about his size. His skillset has rarely been in question, mind you, just his ability to apply it at an increasingly difficult level of play. So far though, he has silenced his every critic.

Coming off a season in which he scored 86 points in 72 games for Swift Current Broncos (WHL) – the team that drafted him 10th overall in the 2016 CHL import draft – scouts were convinced this young Finn had enough skill to be a first-round pick but, just like others before him, his lack of size dropped him down to Round 2 where the Florida Panthers snagged him with the 40th overall pick.

Cue Heponiemi returning to the WHL this fall for a second season where he was once again paired up on a line with fellow 2017 pick (Arizona Coyotes, 5th round, #128 overall) Tyler Steenburgen of Canada. Now – before the 2016-17 season – Steenburgen had always been known as a gifted goal scorer and Heponiemis playmaking abilities had always been elite, but when coach Emanuel Viveiros put them together, it sparked something. While both players each delivered respectable, point-per-game seasons in 16-17 their offensive output this season has been so explosive it has the Broncos fans dreaming of their first WHL championship in over two decades.

Currently occupying the top two spots in the WHL scoring race and averaging over two points per game, Heponiemi and Steenburgen are single-handedly putting to rest the WHL’s reputation as a more defensively oriented, lower scoring league than its CHL siblings; the OHL & the QMJHL.

As far as the Finnish WJC roster goes, Heponiemi hasn’t always been considered a “lock” to make the team and even now that he has (making the preliminary roster is a close as it gets to a sure thing), there is no guarantee he will see time among the top-six forwards. Players like Kristian Vesalainen, Eeli Tolvanen, Janne Kuokkanen and Rasmus Kupari have all spent time in major leagues playing professional hockey while Heponiemi has still only excelled at the junior level. Then again, let us not forget that the junior level is where the WJC is actually played.

Put Heponiemi on a line with a player like Tolvanen who can fill the same role as Steenburgen does for the Broncos and you can bet there’d be sparks flying within the first few shifts.

In the end, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how the WHL superstar is utilized on a stacked Finnish roster but regardless of what role he will serve, you can be sure that Aleksi Heponiemi will be looking to prove his critics wrong once more.

FINLAND’S PRELIMINARY WJC ROSTER

GOALIES
Niilo Halonen, HIFK
Lassi Lehtinen, Lukko
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, HPK

DEFENSEMEN
Miro Heiskanen, HIFK
Henri Jokiharju, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Olli Juolevi, TPS
Kasper Kotkansalo, Boston University (NCAA)
Roope Laavainen, HPK
Eemeli Räsänen, Kingston Frontenacs
Robin Salo, Sport
Urho Vaakanainen, SaiPa
Juuso Välimäki, Tri-City Americans

FORWARDS
Aleksi Heponiemi, Swift Current Broncos
Joni Ikonen, KalPa
Jere Innala, HPK
Juha Jääskä, HIFK
Otto Koivula, Ilves
Joona Koppanen, Ilves
Janne Kuokkanen, Carolina Hurricanes
Rasmus Kupari, Kärpät
Eetu Luostarinen, KalPa
Sami Moilanen, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Markus Nurmi, TPS
Aapeli Räsänen, Boston College (NCAA)
Eeli Tolvanen, Jokerit
Jerry Turkulainen, JYP
Eetu Tuulola, HPK
Kristian Vesalainen, HPK

Hampus Duvefelt



24 April, 2018

Adam Boqvist looking forward to his second NHL draft

Unlike most of his peers, Adam Boqvist went to the NHL Entry Draft one summer before it was his draft year. Not because he wanted to learn about the event, take...

23 April, 2018

PROSPECT REPORT: The Coyotes are better than they seem

It was another difficult season in the desert as the Coyotes finished with the worst record in the Western Conference. But, under the radar, Arizona had a solid...

23 April, 2018

Elias Pettersson – Swedish hockey’s new golden boy

The expectations were certainly high when Växjö Lakers signed Elias Pettersson to a three-year deal in early April last year. The young forward had just finishe...

18 April, 2018

The Playoff Report – which prospects are excelling in the postseason?

The old trusted adage that you need grit and experience to succeed in the playoffs is proving less and less true every day. Every day reports filter in from var...

13 April, 2018

Swedish prospect Filip Hållander to miss the World Juniors

Team Sweden will already be without first overall pick to be, Rasmus Dahlin, when the U18 World Championships starts in Russia next week. Unfortunately for the ...

11 April, 2018

“The Black Ace” – a badge of honor for an NHL prospect

As legend has it, the origins of the term Black Ace can be traced back centuries. 1876, to be specific. That is the year in which famous Old West lawman ?Wild B...

10 April, 2018

PROSPECT REPORT: The Sabres need to win the draft lottery

The Buffalo Sabres became the first team ever to finish 31st in the NHL this year.  For their struggles, the Sabres will have the highest odds at the draft lott...

09 April, 2018

Oilers prospects turning heads during Swedish playoffs

Edmonton Oilers’ fans didn’t have a whole lot to cheer about this season. Outside of Connor McDavid‘s second straight Art Ross Trophy, which i...

05 April, 2018

The next batch – rookies that could rule the NHL in 2019

The Calder Memorial Trophy of 2018 hasn?t even been handed out yet and still you want us to take a look at next year?s candidates? Really? Fair enough then, let...

03 April, 2018

Rasmus Dahlin shut down for the season: “I need to recover”

Rasmus Dahlin won’t play any more hockey this season. The 17 year-old defenseman, destined to go first overall at the NHL entry draft in Dallas in June, m...

01 April, 2018

Prospects get their shot with the Swedish national team

Several Swedish prospects will get their chance to don the yellow and blue jersey. On Sunday, four junior aged players were named to the Swedish national team t...

28 March, 2018

A class of their own – NHL rookies of 2018

Until Brock Boeser suffered a scary back injury at the beginning of March, the race for NHL rookie of the year was an exciting one. While still not completely s...

23 March, 2018

A Russian hero – Kaprizov had a knack for scoring big goals early

Some players look like they are going to be NHL superstars as soon as they are born. Many of the players in the NHL nowadays have hockey in their bloodlines and...

22 March, 2018

A Brit in the NHL draft – Liam Kirk is reaching for the dream

We’ve seen them show up every once in a while, players with a rather exotic background in terms of hockey culture. Their stories are often filled with sac...

20 March, 2018

Boqvist and Bouchard in tight race to follow Dahlin

While it would be a stretch to call the 2018 NHL entry draft a dull affair, we do have a pretty good idea of how it will start out. It?ll be Frölunda Indians de...

19 March, 2018

Report: Connor McDavid to play at the World Championships

His Edmonton Oilers won’t reach the Stanley Cup playoffs, but that doesn’t mean Connor McDavid‘s season is over once the NHL regular season is...

15 March, 2018

Despite playoff exit – Erik Brännström hopes his season isn’t over

March 14th is no date to end your hockey season. For Vegas Golden Knights’ prospect Erik Brännström, it’s way too early. The slick defensemen experi...

13 March, 2018

The best team in junior hockey right now

The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds have lost seven games in regulation all season. Yes, you read that right. Seven losses in regulation, total. How many games they...

11 March, 2018

Expected trade gives undrafted Swedish prospect a better shot at the NHL

It was an unique situation. Sure, Victor Ejdsell had a great season, winning the  scoring title after piling up 57 points (25+32) with Bik Karlskoga. Still, the...

07 March, 2018

Vegas’ prospect pool deepens with breakout season from Nicolas Hague

Much has been said about Vegas Golden Knights? inaugural season, and deservedly so. The team everyone deemed unlikely to even make the playoffs currently leads ...

02 March, 2018

For Dominik Kahun, strong Olympic performance could present NHL opportunity

If you found yourself growing increasingly impressed by Germany while watching the Olympic Mens’ Ice Hockey tournament unfold, I got news for you: you wer...

28 February, 2018

Capitals’ goalie-of-the-future has his eyes set on the NHL

Goalies usually peak later than other players and, hence, drafting them can be a tougher task. One of the top goalies in the world, Sergei Bobrovski, was never ...

23 February, 2018

Is Filip Zadina the best forward in the 2018 NHL Draft?

You couldn?t help but notice him out there. Shift after shift, game after game. Wearing number 18 for the Czech Republic, there was never a moment where 18-year...

21 February, 2018

A beginner’s guide to prospect development in the United States

In what is now to be considered an article series, this second edition of ?Beginner?s guide? takes us to the United States where we take a look at how domestic ...

19 February, 2018

Maple Leafs’ Russian prospect looks ready for North America

When he was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second day of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Yegor Korshkov wasn?t keen on moving overseas yet: ?I wouldn?t...

15 February, 2018Will the star-studded, new-look Frontenacs be a playoff threat?
15 February, 2018Heiskanen carries burden of expectation going into Olympics, NHL career
13 February, 2018Erik Karlsson’s homage to Rasmus Dahlin: “He’s much better than I was at that age”
12 February, 2018Has the grind gotten to Eeli Tolvanen ahead of the Olympics?
10 February, 2018Why Vancouver Canucks fans will love Jonathan Dahén
09 February, 2018What’s going on with Dylan Strome?
07 February, 2018Kapanen eager to establish himself in Toronto
04 February, 2018Europe vs. North America – who’ll have the first goaltender in the 2018 draft?
03 February, 2018The steal of the 2017 draft – Eeli Tolvanen looks NHL ready
02 February, 2018Kailer Yamamoto has hit his stride in the WHL 
01 February, 2018Not an afterthought anymore – Swedish sniper looks to give Sabres value
31 January, 2018Mathias Emilio Pettersen – Scouted for over a decade
30 January, 2018Canada’s golden hero is having a season for the ages
30 January, 2018Ranking: They lead the way at mid-season Calder Trophy race
29 January, 2018Seven prospects to keep track of during the Olympics
27 January, 2018What’s the best fit for Rasmus Dahlin?
26 January, 2018Who is going to stop Russia’s All-Star studs at the Olympics?
25 January, 2018Dominik Bokk – a German that shunned the Draisaitl route
25 January, 2018Logan Stanley – An old school player in the modern era
08 January, 2018The WJC summed up in seven thoughts
08 January, 2018The future of Avalanche blueline resides in Canada
06 January, 2018Gold medal recap: Canada wins gold at WJC in Buffalo
05 January, 2018WJC Semifinals Recap – Sweden, Canada advance to gold medal game
03 January, 2018WJC Quarterfinals Recap: The Czechs upset Finland – Canada cruises to semifinals
02 January, 2018WJC 2018 Quarterfinal Preview – here are the match-ups
01 January, 2018Casey Mittelstadt clear MVP through group stage; 2018 draft-eligibles shine
01 January, 2018Recap of Day 6: Sweden tops Group B, USA pulls out late win against Finland
31 December, 2017Kurashev leading second wave of talented Swiss prospects
31 December, 2017Recap of Day 5: Canada tops out in Group A – Sweden takes third straight win
29 December, 2017The call him “The Hunter” – meet the Caps’ rising prospect
29 December, 2017Recap of Day 3: Slovakia upsets United States, Finland dominates Denmark 
28 December, 2017Recap of Day 2 – Canada pushes past Slovakia to remain perfect
27 December, 2017Will Czech Republic’s Necas and Chytil continue to produce their magic?
27 December, 2017Recap of Day 1 – Czechs confirm dark horse status with win over Russia
26 December, 2017Russia looks to extend WJC streak with largely unknown squad 
26 December, 2017Rasmus Dahlin highlights Swedish squad looking to end medal drought 
26 December, 2017Talented Finnish team eager to make amends after last year’s fiasco
26 December, 2017Who belongs where? – The WJC players and the NHL teams they are drafted by
25 December, 2017Too good for the World Juniors – here are the players you’ll miss in Buffalo
25 December, 2017WJC Countdown: Zibanejad ends Sweden’s gold drought in OT
24 December, 2017United States send roster loaded with offensive talent to Buffalo
24 December, 2017WJC Countdown: Chubarov nets twice in 1999 final
23 December, 2017WJC Countdown: David Aebischer leads Switzerland to first-ever World Juniors medal 
23 December, 2017The curious case of Sean Day
22 December, 2017WJC Countdown: Peter Forsberg sets tournament record with whopping 31 points 
22 December, 2017Revolutionizing the game of hockey: who will be next?
21 December, 2017WJC Countdown: The NHL lockout allowed Canada to ice a historically-good team in 2005
21 December, 2017Back in the spotlight
21 December, 2017Russia’s Svechnikov fighting for roster spot, high draft position
20 December, 2017WJC Countdown: Kapanen’s heroics etch his name in Finnish history
20 December, 2017Predicting the top scorer for the 2018 World Junior Championships
19 December, 2017European free agents providing value for NHL clubs
19 December, 2017WJC Countdown: Kazakhstan upsets Canada in front of tiny crowd
18 December, 2017WJC Countdown: United States wins first-ever gold medal after bizarre own-goal
18 December, 2017The five WJC defenders most likely to be on an NHL roster this fall
17 December, 2017WJC Countdown: Russia snaps gold medal drought in 2011 with three ridiculous comebacks
17 December, 2017Canada leaves skill at home in favour of balanced team
17 December, 2017CHL talent has history of producing gems on American roster
16 December, 2017The matter of talent development in Sweden
16 December, 2017WJC Countdown: Tavares’ MVP showing and Eberle’s clutch goal lead Canada to fifth-straight gold
15 December, 2017Makar looking to join rare group of Canadian NCAA stars
15 December, 2017A beginner’s guide to the CHL
14 December, 2017Cool as a cucumber – Rasmus Dahlin ready to embrace the pressure of the WJC
14 December, 2017Is Canada leaving too much skill at home?
14 December, 2017Is Flyers’ prospect Hart a lock for the Canadian starter’s job?
14 December, 2017Edmonton Oilers give Kailer Yamamoto the chance to shine at the WJC
13 December, 2017The Olympic Kids – prospects that starred on the big stage
13 December, 2017Can any of the WJC underdogs break through in Buffalo?  
12 December, 2017A Russian trend – three forwards headed for the first round?
12 December, 2017Deep Russian squad looks to extend medal streak 
11 December, 2017The 2018 WJC underdog that could win it all
11 December, 2017The World Junior Championships – an audition for the Olympics
10 December, 2017Sweden’s elite talent looks to end cycle of WJC mediocrity
10 December, 2017Lukas Vejdemo – taking the patient route to the NHL
09 December, 2017Nicklas Lidström on Rasmus Dahlin: “He looks like Brian Leetch”
09 December, 2017Where are they now? – Three forgotten WJC stars
08 December, 2017Breaking down Team Canada’s roster snubs
08 December, 2017Finland on the rebound after disastrous showing at last year’s WJC 
07 December, 2017Away from the spotlight
07 December, 2017Why Adam Boqvist wasn’t picked for the Swedish WJC camp
07 December, 2017Sabres faithful may get chance to see Mittelstadt shine
06 December, 2017The hunt for the next Erik Karlsson
06 December, 2017Americans look to finally come through on home ice 
05 December, 2017Canada no longer dominates the WJC like they used to 
05 December, 2017Redefining the modern defenseman
05 December, 2017What the Swedish WJC team should look like