Finland is synonymous with hockey, so it comes as no surprise that Finnish teams have featured significantly in the Champions Hockey League over the past seasons. But just how much success have they had?
Over the past six CHL seasons, ten Finnish teams have participated in Europe’s elite hockey league, with one - JYP Jyväskylä, even reaching the pinnacle. Although Finnish teams were initially a formidable presence and feared opponent, that has waned in recent years. In 2014/15, nine Liiga teams made their CHL debut in the Group Stage. Seven would make it to Round 16, four would make the cut for the Quarter-Finals and one would grace the Semi-Finals. Fast-forward to the last two CHL seasons – just one Finnish team has featured in the Quarter-Finals. Will Finnish teams be on the rise in 2020/21?
We’ve sliced-and-diced the stats to bring you our top picks from Finland’s Liiga.
Heading in to the heart of central Finland we come across the twelfth-placed team on the CHL All-Time Leaderboard - JYP Jyväskylä. JYP, who were crowned CHL Champions in 2017/18, are the only non-Swedish team to have lifted the European Trophy in CHL history and have participated in five out of the six seasons of the league so far. More impressively, they have made the playoffs in every season. In their fourth year in the CHL, this proud Finnish club went 8-1-4 in the series and blanked the Växjö Lakers 2-0 in the Final to become Finland’s first team crowned as CHL Champions.
In recent years, JYP have struggled to secure CHL qualification and will be absent from the upcoming 2020/21 CHL season.
Just ahead of Jyväskylä on the CHL All-Time Leaderboard are eleventh-placed TPS Turku. Like JYP, TPS have participated in five out of the six CHL seasons past. In three of those seasons, TPS were able to achieve a solid 60% or greater win percentage.
The 2016/17 CHL season was one of their better performances in the competition, as TPS went 4-2-0 in the series and would allow an average of just 1.33 goals into their net per game. They finished the season with a 66.67% win percentage and would feature in the top three teams for most goals scored per game, scoring an average of 3.33. Regrettably, in their most recent season in 2018/19, TPS were unable to make it past the Group Stage.
TPS missed out on the Liiga playoffs and on CHL qualification for 2019/20 that year for the first time since the inaugural 2014/15 season. But it's not all struggles for the famous black and white team, who are renowned for their junior program and claim fame to NHL exports like defender Rasmus Ristolainen, as well as forwards Mikko Rantanen and Kaapo Kakko.
The fourth ranked team on the CHL All-Time leaderboard is Tappara Tampere, who are the only Finnish team to have qualified for, and played in, each and every CHL season to date. However, their performances have been patchy and they are yet to brush the monkey off their back to make it further than the Round of 16.
Tappara’s best performances have been their 2015/16 and 2017/18 seasons, where they posted a 75% win percentage and win-loss score of 6-2 in the series on both occasions. In 2017/18 they topped the CHL for best penalty kill (90.48%) and the following season they notched an incredible 4.38 goal average per game, the best of any CHL team. Their impressive team statistics are followed by equally impressive NHL exports, including the likes of forwards Aleksander Barkov and Patrik Laine. There are undoubtedly moments of brilliance by Tappara, and some incredible statistics to boast, but the question remains – can they break into the Top 8 this year?
Kärpät are the heavy-weights of Finnish hockey. With eight regular season wins and seven championship victories in Liiga since 2003/04, Kärpät’s programs have crafted young-stars – including the likes of Jesse Puljujärvi and Sebastian Aho, in addition to producing trophies.
Participating in all but the 2017/18 CHL season, Kärpät have never achieved a win percentage lower than 60%. In fact, their debut season included a trip to the Semi-Finals where they went 10-2 and posted an 83.33% win percentage. In their second season they recorded an equally impressive 69.23% win percentage on their way to the Final to become the 2015/16 Runners-Up. Although the 2016/17 CHL season was far less successful for Kärpät, they were still able to achieve some outstanding statistics, such as a 100% penalty kill success rate and the lowest goals against average per game, letting in only a single goal per game on average. Although this team have come excruciatingly close, they are yet to taste major CHL success. Will this change during Kärpät’s seventh CHL stint this year?
What do you think? After a notable absence in the 2019/20 CHL season, will a Finnish team be able to break the dominance of the Swedes and raise the 2020/21 trophy ? Tell us who you think the best Finnish contender is!