This is the fifth update of my prospect ranking series that I kicked off this summer (you can read the July update here, the August update here, and the September update here – I did a breakdown of the final top 10 here).

This represents the final update of the season. Some of the players are already on the move, some players will disappear off the list next season as JJK and Klubi 04 have been relegated and some players will outgrow prospectdom. At the moment, however, these are the results based on the performances delivered during 2018.

A reminder that the ranking of each player is based on a combination of age, playing time, playing level, importance to the team and performance. This list will only cover players playing in Finland, who are owned by clubs in Finland (so no loan players from abroad). I’ve set the age cut-off at 23, so players aged 22 and younger are listed. A player’s age is determined by his age at the start of the season, not his ‘real’ age. This list will be skewed towards younger players, as I consider youth, projectability and potential upside to be more important than production. Please note that Ykkönen teams have played fewer games, so there have been fewer minutes distributed among these players (2800-3000 minutes is a lot of minutes for a Veikkausliiga player, 2300-2500 for an Ykkönen player).


Previously, we’ve had the following players move abroad:

Ulrich Meleke, Onni Valakari, Benjamin Källman, Marius Noubissi and Leo Väisänen.

Rank (previous in brackets) Name Age Team Minutes Primary Position
1 (2) Lassi Lappalainen 20 RoPS 2155 LW
2 (1) Ilmari Niskanen 21 KuPS 2905 RW
3 (3) Rasmus Karjalainen 22 KuPS 2141 CF
4 (4) Sebastian Dahlström 21 HJK 2844 MC
5 (5) Lucas Lingman 20 RoPS 2838 AMC
6 (9) Sterling Yateke 19 TPS 816 CF
7 (6) Eetu Vertainen 19 HJK/Klubi 04 1500 CF
8 (7) Lauri Ala-Myllymäki 21 Ilves 2322 AMC
9 (8) Juho Hyvärinen 18 RoPS 1302 RB
10 (10) Santeri Hostikka 21 Lahti 2047 LW
11 (19) Albion Ademi 19 Inter 1634 LW
Ademi was the player to make the most out of October garbage time, and ended up improving on almost all metrics from 2017. At this point, he’s a player to build around, especially as Inter are a bit short on attacking prospects (with apologies to Lassi Viholainen and Joona Järvistö). Needs to improve on shot locations, but if he can do that, he’ll be one of the best overall players in the division.
12 (11) Diogo Tomas 20 Ilves 2226 CB
Ended up being a very important piece for Ilves as their season came to an end. Will be even more important next season, as Jani Tanska was the first player to leave after the season ended. Still needs to improve, but the platform is there for him to build on.
13 (13) Kevin Kouassivi-Benissan 19 HJK/Klubi 04 2124 RB/LW
Last time around, I wrote that he was out of contract in the winter, but it turned out that HJK had an option on him which they have exercised. Such is the life of someone who relies on transfermarkt. Not sure it matters, though. Would still expect him to play somewhere else next season, albeit on loan. Biggest question mark is his final position. I like him as a right back if he’s allowed to bomb forward, otherwise he needs to play further upfield.
14 (14) Otto Ollikainen 17 HJK/Klubi 04 1979 MC
Ollikainen will be happy with his season: a good amount of Ykkönen minutes and a first appearance in the Veikkausliiga. Will want to avoid the third tier next season. Will he be considered for the new look midfield in 2019?
15 (22) Santeri Väänänen 16 HJK/Klubi 04 1225 MC
Väänänen will be happy with his season: a good amount of Ykkönen minutes and a first appearance in the Veikkausliiga. Will want to avoid the third tier next season. Will he be considered for the new look midfield in 2019? (Is there a sliver more upside than in Ollikainen, I wonder? Is a regular goalscorer for the U-17 National Team, whereas Ollikainen wasn’t…)
16 (12) Samu Volotinen 20 VPS 1897 GK
VPS suffered their annual late-season collapse, but Volotinen ended up being one of the players in the league whose status has improved the most. Out of contract in the winter so next season is slightly uncertain. Best young goalkeeper in the top two levels of Finnish football.
17 (16) Akseli Ollila 18 EIF 1650 LW
One of the disappointing aspects of this Ykkönen season was the lack of young forward talents on display (outside of Klubi 04, for obvious reasons). Ollila was an exception, ending up being a big contributor for high-flying EIF. His performances were fuelled by overperformance, but the lower the quality of league, the less i think that’s a problem. Ended up with 8 goals (6 NPG) and 2 assists. That’s good for 0.33 NPG/90 and 0.16 A/90 which adds up to almost half a goal contributed per 90. You’d take that from your 18 year olds. Has another season at EIF, it seems. Will probably play Veikkausliiga football in 2020 at the latest.
18 (15) Oskari Jakonen 21 TPS 1997 RW
Did a lot of things right, including providing 4 goals and 4 assists, but also lacked a lot of the the things you’d like to see from a winger. Didn’t dribble a lot, didn’t cross a lot. Some of his goals were a little… lucky, maybe? I don’t know, will go down a division but could be considered a decent option for someone looking to strengthen their flanks.
19 (18) Teemu Jäntti 18 Lahti 1267 MC
Jack of all trades, master of none is what comes to mind. Should be satisfied with the amount of minutes he managed in his rookie season, the next step is to hone the profile. What is his competitive advantage?
20 (17) Kalle Katz 18 HJK/Klubi 04 1645 CB
I’ve written a fair bit about Katz. I like him, his strengths are pronounced, his profile is unique. He stands out when he plays. Still, he needs to find a way to combat his aerial weakness. The football world is chock full of central defenders who are short, but they are exceptions to the rule, and that has the potential to be a deal breaker. Should see playing time in the Veikkausliiga next season.
21 (17) Nooa Laine 15 JJK 723 AMC
Laine is young and played a lot for his age, but will get relegated out of the list. At the moment, he is filed under flash in the pan. The near future will decide how harsh that is.
22 (21) Tariq Kazi 18 Ilves 964 RB
Ended up with a respectable amount of minutes. Not yet much of a presence further up, but put up some decent defensive numbers. Will follow with interest.
23 (23) Mikael Almen 18 Ilves 849 CB/LB
I wonder the extent to which Ilves are going to rely on academy products next season. They could feasibly play a full defensive line of youngsters who had around 1000 minutes in 2018, and still have a backup on the bench with a similar profile. (Edit: Haukioja’s move to VPS solved that problem!) It’s a risk, no doubt, but it makes them an interesting team to follow. That Almen came out of nowhere to play 850 minutes is a credit to the player development work being done in Tampere.
24 (24) Valtteri Vesiaho 19 HJK/Klubi 04 1674 CB
Will likely get a lot of responsibility in 2019 with the departures of Hannu Patronen, Ville Jalasto and (most likely) Faith Obilor. Has earned his shot, will be intriguing to see if he takes it.
25 (25) Enoch Banza 18 HJK/Klubi 04 1468 RW
Expectations were high, injuries got in the way at exactly the wrong times. Didn’t post particularly impressive numbers, also didn’t always look right. I think (at least) one of Banza and Kouassivi-Benissan is going to go on loan next season, and I’m leaning Banza – which should be seen as an opportunity more than a risk!
26 (26) Mikko Kuningas 20 Inter 2065 MC
After a couple of years of jumping around Kuningas settled down in a more withdrawn midfield role. Feels like he’s been around for a long time but is still young. That being said, we’re still waiting for a true breakout.
27 (27) Tommi Jyry 19 (Free Agent) HIFK 2000 MC
Jyry left HIFK at the end of a season that should be considered a success both for him and his team. I don’t imagine he’ll struggle to find a home in the league, and his departure will further emphasise the potential problem that is the current age profile of HIFK. Was last seen training with KuPS, is a player I’m expecting to follow closely.
28 (28) Aatu Laatikainen 21 VPS 2154 DMC
Laatikainen contributes little in attack, but retains possession well, wins a decent amount of his aerial duels and appears fairly high on the defensive metrics. It’s a boring profile but also one that is pretty rare in the league.
29 (29) Eero-Matti Auvinen 22 VPS 2531 CB
Played a good first Veikkausliiga season for a uninspiring team. Decent passer, will age out of prospectdom in time for next season.
30 (30) Omar Jama 20 VPS 1697 DMC
Much the same as Laatikainen, except with less defensive involvement and more expectation of forward involvement.
31 (31) Maximo Tolonen 17 SJK 807 RW
A decent amount of minutes for a dysfunctional team. Is a promising player but it’s difficult to separate the promise from the hype, which is why the expectations are higher. Should start adding some end product next season.
32 (32) Evans Mensah 20 HJK 1102 RW
Lots of promise, lots of involvement but struggles with decision making and ended up with almost half the minutes compared to 2017 – with injuries playing a decisive part in that. Needs to step up in 2019.
33 (33) Hanson Boakai 22 EIF 1677 RW
EIF is the team that got the most out of their young players last season, with Boakai, Ollila and Meleke earning mentions from yours truly. There were others as well, but these stood out. Boakai has end product and is a good dribbler which is a nice combination.
34 (39) Niklas Jokelainen 18 (RoPS) Ilves/JJK 1119 CF
Jokelainen is the most recent arrival at the RoPS talent factory (more on that a little later). Spent a year at Stoke, divided his time this season between Ilves and JJK. Is very raw, but should be an intriguing player to follow in 2019.
35 (40) Martti Haukioja 19 (VPS) Ilves/JJK 1026 LB/CB
Haukioja is mostly a left back but he’s tall and physical so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him transition infield. He played a couple of games at centre half for JJK so it isn’t without precedent. Will likely fight for first team minutes with Mikael Almen in 2019, hopefully both will play. (Edit: No he won’t, as he just signed with VPS.)
36 (34) Joel Mattsson 19 IFK Mariehamn 1730 RB/RW
Is an interesting player but suffers from playing for a team that’s rebuilding and from being moved around the pitch. I’d say it’s pretty likely that IFK Mariehamn will get worse before they get better so questions abound.
37 (35) Miika Töyräs 19 KuPS 773 GK
Earned a contract extension. I’m not a huge fan of Otso Virtanen so would like to see more of Töyräs.
38 (36) Ville Tikkanen 19 SJK 1056 CB
Decent, but unspectacular debut season in the top tier. Started brightly but fizzled out, and didn’t play for a while toward the end (maybe due to injury, I don’t know).
39 (37) Markus Uusitalo 21 HJK 576 GK
Firmly stuck as second fiddle at this point, which is worrisome. Rudakov is back for 2019 so will likely do a fair bit of bench sitting again next season. Should he consider a loan?
40 (38) Tatu Varmanen 20 Inter 1270 RB
I like him as a player, hopefully the new coaching structure will give him more of a platform to use his strengths.
41 (41) Joonas Vahtera 22 VPS 900 AMC
I’m a big fan of Vahtera, and he’ll play a big role in 2019 with Juha Hakola on his way out. Unfortunately injuries played their part this season, because if he had been capable of building on his previous seasons he would have been one of the standout players in the league. Will outgrow prospectdom ahead of next season.
42 (44) Joonas Sundman 20 SJK 1994 LB
Respectable amount of minutes, poor team. Something of a mulligan. Next season it is, then.
43 (45) Kristian Heinolainen 19 PS Kemi 1930 RB/LB
Heinolainen perked up towards the end of the season after being mostly a defensive specialist for large parts of the season. It’s difficult to know what to make of a team that was so insipid for such a long time. Apparently he’s signed for another year with Kemi, which must be considered something of a blunder unless there’s a relegation release clause.
44 (49) Tommi Jäntti 18 (RoPS) Klubi 04 2327 MC
Jäntti just moved to RoPS, which is interesting. He had some struggles in the final third, but that’s to be expected from a young player. Was one of the most used players in the second tier this season, and will likely get a lot of minutes in the league next season.
45 (42) Väinö Vehkonen 16 JJK 1409 CB
Same as Laine, played a fair bit for his age, but didn’t perform and will be relegated out of this list. Flash in the pan, or something more?
46 (47) Paavo Voutilainen 19 Lahti 862 CB
Voutilainen came into the side towards the end of the season, and will hopefully play a bigger part next season.
47 (48) Thomas Mäkinen 21 IFK Mariehamn 1731 MC
Apparently has already moved permanently to FC Åland – not sure if that’s true – which would indicate a career being put on hold. Is the purest midfield destroyer in the league, is a danger from set pieces, but apparently isn’t liked. I’m confused.
48 (N/A) Rony Huhtala 20 Klubi 04 666 CF
Did Rony Huhtala have a good season for Klubi 04? Not really. Was it better than you think? Almost certainly. His xG was roughly on par with Eetu Vertainen (only Ykkönen numbers) and was only bested by 8 players. That big fat zero in the goals column will do his chances of finding a Veikkausliiga job no good, but he represents the best chance of getting a good young forward on a free. And, honestly, he plays better than his numbers suggest – as long as you focus on anything other than finishing. I would be willing to place actual real money on him scoring, like, 8 goals or more next season if given the minutes – and he’s the only player under 21 in this year’s edition of Ykkönen for whom I would be willing to do that, make of that what you will.
49 (46) Teppo Marttinen 21 KPV (on loan from SJK) 2531 GK
Started off writing with Rasmus Leislahti in this slot, but realised that, really, Teppo Marttinen deserves it more. Young enough to be mostly projection, but also enough minutes under his belt to tell what the trajectory is, and he did well in 2018, playing every minute of every game. Question is, will he play for his parent club next season, or will he return somewhere on loan? KPV will probably hoping for the latter.
50 (50) Julius Tauriainen 17 Klubi 04 1727 MC
Will likely be playing third tier football next season, which is a disappointment, surely, but also closer to his level. Still young, though, and will likely be hoovered up by RoPS when out of contract anyway.

These players also received mentions during the season, but were dropped out of the list due to reasons, usually either a lack of quality of performance or lack of quantity:

Tuukka Kurki, Anton Popovitch, Patrik Alaharjula, Lassi Järvenpää, Roni Peiponen, Anthony Olusanya, Daniel Rantanen, Jarkko Heimonen, Henrik Ölander, Tuukka Andberg, Juho Montola, Hussein Mohamed, Hamed Coulibaly, Rasmus Leislahti.

Thanks for reading this series in 2018, follow me on Twitter to stay up to date in 2019 as well!


8 thoughts on “2018 Finnish League Prospects Power Ranking: Final Update

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