NHL NEWS: Finnish players conspicuously absent from NHL list of best point scorers
No Finns among top 30 players on NHL points table*
By Heikki Miettinen
Buffalo Sabres centre Ville Leino might wish that NHL ice hockey games were played in Helsinki Finland on a regular basis.
Leino scored a goal in Helsinki’s Hartwall Arena when Buffalo battered Anaheim 4-1 in the opening game of the 2011-2012 NHL season in early October. So far that has been his only goal this season.
Buffalo and Leino have signed a contract for several years, and this season alone Leino, a native of Savonlinna in Southeastern Finland, will earn USD six million. So, the price of the two points that he has salvaged so far is three million dollars apiece.
Finland are the current World Champions in ice hockey, a fact that one can be excused of forgetting when observing this season’s NHL statistics to the end of October.
The Finns are conspicuously absent from the front page of the league’s points table. Instead, in addition to the Americans and the Canadians, a player from Austria, one from Slovenia, four from Sweden, and of course a whole bunch from the Czech Republic have made the list.
Also somewhat surprising is the fact that no Russian players are to be found among the top 30 point scorers, either. Washington captain Alexandr Ovetškin is currently found in the 35th place, slightly above the thus far most productive Finn Teemu Selänne, who is 41st, and incidentally now well embarked on his 42nd year.
One can ask what would happen to the reputation of Finnish ice hockey in the arenas of the NHL if it were not for the contribution of the over-35-year-old oldtimers?
In the points table, the veteran Selänne is followed by Kimmo Timonen, 36, and Sami Salo, 37.
And what about the brothers Koivu? Namely Saku and Mikko.
After ten played games, both Koivus have a big fat zero in the scored goals column of the table.
Mikko Koivu, who has a giant contract with Minnesota, has so far earned five points this season.
Saku, in turn, has only amassed three points, a result that is hardly flattering for the number two centre of the Anaheim Ducks.
Only five players born in the 1990s are currently to be found among NHL’s top 30 point scorers. The number is surprisingly small.
Sweden's Erik Karlsson, 21, is one of the five interesting young talents.
Karlsson skates well, handles the puck competently, and on the side manages to take care of his actual job, too, namely to be a useful defenseman.
On Saturday night, Karlsson collected 0+2 points when the Ottawa Senators beat New York Rangers after a penalty shootout.
If the Finnish players born in the 1990s aspire to be noticed on the NHL points table, they would do well to get their act together quickly.
So that the attraction of the North American ice hockey does not completely waste away in the eyes of the Finns, it would be most welcome to see other than over 35-year-old veterans among the Finns who manage to score points in the league.
The talk of the lost generations of Finnish ice hockey really does not seem that far-fetched.
There are young players on the rise, but the gap between them and the oldtimers is frighteningly wide.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 31.10.2011
* Note: As luck would have it, no sooner had this article appeared in the print paper before Mikko Koivu scored 1+1 in Minnesota's 2-1 overtime win away to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, and his brother Saku got 1+1 in Anaheim's 5-4 overtime defeat in Washington.
So they are both on the goalscoring board, but...
Who was it who scored 2+2 in that galling Anaheim loss against one of the current front-runners in the league?
None other than Teemu Selänne, 41 and counting.
Young Teemu has not lost it, it seems: he might be the third oldest player in the NHL this season, but a point on Sunday last and the four against the Capitals have now elevated him to the top of the Anaheim standings and even into the current NHL top ten.
With 14 points (5+9) from 13 games up to Friday night (4.11.), he was in 9th spot, and is now the 25th most effective scoring player in the history of the league.
Selänne is now only 44 points shy of the No.1 Finn of all-time in this department, Jari Kurri (retired), who holds 19th place. Considering that Selänne managed to score 80 points last season, his overtaking Kurri before he hangs up his skates is by no means an impossibility.
There are still no other Finnish names in the current season Top 50 points-scorers, by the way.
Jussi Jokinen (Carolina Hurricanes, 57th) and Kimmo Timonen (Philadelphia Flyers, 57th) both have nine points and are the second-highest ranking Finnish players in the NHL scoring tables.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Ville Leino steals the show at NHL opener (10.10.2011)
Selänne gets a reception fit for a rock star (5.10.2011)
Finns in the NHL - seasons stats 2011-12
HEIKKI MIETTINEN / Helsingin Sanomat