From July 29 through Aug. 4, some of the best under-20 players from the United States, Finland, and Sweden met at the home of the U.S. National Team Development Program in Plymouth, Mich. Each team has the same goal: Winning the 2024 World Junior Championship starting in December. This summer exhibition–dubbed the World Junior Summer Showcase–is all about evaluation. Which players should be on the World Juniors rosters?

Four players drafted by the Seattle Kraken saw playing time at the event: Finns Jani Nyman (No. 49 overall in the 2022 draft), Niklas Kokko (No. 58/2022), and Visa Vedenpaa (No. 168/2023), and Swede Zeb Forsfjall (No. 180/2023). I was able to watch all of Team Finland’s games and two of Team Sweden’s games. How did the players look? Are they likely to make the World Juniors rosters for their respective nations? 

Since it’s a slow month on the hockey calendar, and this is a good excuse to check in on a few prospects, let’s dive in with Kraken-related takeaways and videos from the World Junior Summer Showcase.

Jani Nyman, LW, Finland

Showcase statistics. Nyman had two goals, zero assists, and three minor penalties (roughing x2, tripping) in four games played.

Tape analysis. Nyman played the left wing in a top-six role for the entire tournament. He did not play on the penalty kill, but he was a fixture on the first power-play unit. He served as one of the two trailing forwards on the man advantage–one of the players who attempts a controlled-carry zone entry to set up the unit in the offensive zone. (The Kraken used Andre Burakovsky, Jordan Eberle, and Alex Wennberg, among others, in a similar role in 2022-23.) Once established in the zone, he was most commonly on the right side half wall, looking to unleash one-timers from the right-wing circle. He scored on one such opportunity. 

He looks like he has “it” when it comes to this kind of shot. By no means do I mean to suggest he’s going to score like Alex Ovechkin or David Pastrnak on the man advantage, but could he get close to Daniel Sprong’s production with his shot someday? Some players drill this shot constantly and never quite find it consistently enough. Nyman doesn’t have this problem. If given the opportunity in the NHL, I’d project him to rack up five-plus goals each season on that shot alone. 

The rest of Nyman’s game is an incredibly challenging evaluation, I think. He has a number of strong discrete skills. He can shoot and pass at an NHL level. He can use his body to protect the puck and his strength to win board battles. He uses a physical style to drive play toward the opponent’s net regularly. And he plays with some edge, frequently entering the fray to stand up for a teammate. 

But I also saw a player who struggled to stitch together his skills into cohesive, high-end play. He is a slower, hunched skater. He struggled to get the puck through the neutral zone with control at five-on-five because he can’t get much separation from the defense. He won’t win many chase situations and, worse, he often seemed to give up on plays where a foot race became necessary. On the defensive end, his feet deadened too often, and he was left to reach on a poke check. This led to a preventable tripping penalty in one game. Off the puck, he offered very little engagement defensively. 

So, I oscillated between thinking “this is one of the most exciting prospects Seattle has” and doubts that he just won’t be able to succeed at a higher level where skilled players can exploit his flaws. I also started wondering whether there is some kind of sheltered bottom-line-and-power-play role that could get his shot onto NHL ice even if the other aspects of his game don’t progress, but I was left a bit pessimistic about that concept. 

All of that said, Nyman is still young. He just turned 19 on July 30. He has plenty more development yet to come. And the “highs” are quite high for Nyman already. Indeed, good friend of the Sound of Hockey Podcast, Chris Peters, had Nyman as a player that stood out positively at the Showcase. I’ll be watching Nyman’s season closely.

World Juniors verdict. Nyman will be a top-six (likely top-line) left wing for Finland at the World Junior Championships.

Zeb Forsfjall, C, Sweden 

Showcase statistics. Forsfjall had one goal, zero assists, and one minor penalty (cross-checking) in four games played. 

Tape analysis. Team Sweden used Forsfjall as its bottom-line pivot and on the penalty kill. Through the two games I watched, I found it very easy to love this player. Forsfjall has easy, joystick-style mobility on the ice. He can get to anywhere the play dictates. His straight-line speed is also very good, even if a step down from elite. Finally, he displays strong puck-possession skill through the neutral zone. 

Beyond that, his skills aren’t “loud,” but he gets results. He deploys a high-energy and engaged play style, particularly in the defensive zone. He has good instincts on the penalty kill and uses his speed to pressure opponents at the correct times. 

As an undersized center, Forsfjall has a bit of Yanni Gourde in his game. But he’ll need to add some bulk if he’s going to play a hard-charging, forechecking style like No. 37 in deep sea blue. Forsjfall was willing but not always effective at winning puck battles at the World Junior Summer Showcase.

On the offensive side, Forsfjall showed enough passing and shooting skill to score opportunistically. 

The question on Forsfjall is two-fold: Can he add strength, and can he continue to develop his offensive game? With modest gains in each area, it’s not difficult to imagine him finding a job as an NHL role player down the line. If this is the outcome, it’s outstanding value from a sixth-round draft pick.

World Juniors verdict. I highly doubt Forsfjall will be on Team Sweden this year, but if he can get a little stronger over the next year, I could imagine him securing a bottom-line, energy role for Sweden in 2025. You can’t say that about too many players drafted 180th overall in the NHL Draft.

Niklas Kokko, G, Finland

Showcase statistics. Kokko allowed 8 goals on 87 shots on goal, for a .908 save percentage. He won two games and dropped one.

Tape analysis. Kokko played three of the four games in this exhibition tune-up and looked calm and collected doing it. He used his big frame well, anticipated plays, and flashed a quick glove to deny a couple clean breakaway looks. 

From my vantage, he looked like Finland’s second-best player across these four games. Cam Robinson of Elite Prospects was similarly complimentary of Kokko’s performance. As of this check in, Kokko’s development seems to be “on track” for an aggressive move to the AHL in the 2024-25 season as a 20-year-old. 

World Juniors verdict. Kokko appears firmly entrenched as the projected starter for Team Finland at the 2024 World Juniors. Performance this fall will be a factor, but absent a collapse from Kokko, the job should be his, with Topias Leinonen his backup.

Visa Vedenpaa, G, Finland

Showcase statistics. Vedenpaa allowed 4 goals on 24 shots on goal, for a .833 save percentage. He was the losing goalie in his only start.

Tape analysis. Vedenpaa faced a number of tough looks in his one start, but he held up his end of the bargain for the most part. He’s trained in the same style as Kokko, but noticeably a bit smaller in the net. Vedenpaa found himself out of position at times, but he was often able to save himself with skilled and athletic plays. 

World Juniors verdict. Vedenpaa won’t be in net for Finland this year, but his presence with the national team suggests he is in the running for the job in 2025. If he is one of the team’s final cuts or accompanies the team as an extra player who never suits up at this year’s World Junior Championship–as Kokko did last year–it will be a strong endorsement of his future outlook. 

Other takeaways from the Showcase

Admittedly, I was watching Team Finland closer than the other squads, but the only player that I thought beat out Kokko in this exhibition was Finnish forward Lenni Hämeenaho. 

New Jersey picked the native of Kajaani, Finland, at No. 58 in the 2023 NHL Draft–just after Seattle’s run of three second-round picks. Hämeenaho had played his entire draft season in Finland’s top professional league, Liiga, and performed incredibly well for his age, tallying 25 points in 59 total games. In my adjusted “NHL equivalency” calculation, his data netted out in the late-first-round range. Combined with scouting reports endorsing him as a second-round option (he ranked No. 56 on the Big Board), I thought a number of factors lined up to make him a strong option for Seattle with one of their second-round picks. Seattle didn’t go that way.

At the World Junior Summer Showcase, Hämeenaho showed off a diverse skillset as a top-six winger. He can skate, pass, shoot, possess the puck, forecheck, and backcheck, all from a frame that appears almost NHL-ready. He was often the best player on the ice, even though he was surrounded by players drafted higher. The knock on him before the draft was that he may have a low ceiling. And that may be. None of his skills looked “elite” to me. He’s probably a middle-six winger in the best case. But at this exhibition he was able to link up a number of strong skills and deliver a very impressive performance. He’ll be a player I watch and wonder about from a Kraken perspective.

Beyond Hämeenaho, two players that stood out to me were the 2024 draft-eligible Finnish center Konsta Helenius and the 2025 (!) draft-eligible U.S. center James Hagens. 

Helenius is a bit undersized and struggled on the faceoff dot at times, but he brought an impressive defensive game and showed signs of offense too despite playing against players a year or more older than him. He was one of Finland’s better players up front and could be a top-15 pick next summer.

Hagens, who is just 16 years old, did not look out of place despite playing two-plus years up. He played a lower-leverage role, but showed flashes of pretty much every trait you could want in a player. If the 2025 NHL Draft is destined to be the “Michael Misa” year, Hagens could be in the conversation with any player after that.

Curtis Isacke

Curtis is a Sound Of Hockey contributor and member of the Kraken press corps. Curtis is an attorney by day, and he has read the NHL collective bargaining agreement and bylaws so you don’t have to. He can be found analyzing the Kraken, NHL Draft, and other hockey topics on Twitter and Threads @deepseahockey.

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