Last season, I started documenting prospects in an exercise that I found quite rewarding. Since I started the series, we’ve seen almost 10 established young players (Ulrich Meleke, Onni Valakari, Benjamin Källman, Marius Noubissi, Leo Väisänen, Rasmus Karjalainen, Sterling Yateke, Santeri Hostikka, Samu Volotinen) move abroad to greater things, most of them coming from the top end of the ranking. Apart from those players, there has been a fair amount of domestic upward movement from the mid-to-bottom section of the list as well – i.e. Väinö Vehkonen and Nooa Laine getting picked up by HJK or the glut of players moving to RoPS.

In any case, I thought I’d continue this exercise this season as well, with one caveat. I haven’t had the time to follow either the Veikkausliiga or Ykkönen at anything approaching the same level I did last season, so any observation will mostly be based on prior knowledge and data from this season. On the other hand, the data I will be using will be of better quality than last season, as I will be using InStat’s full dataset, including location data for all events.

Since last season, some high profile players have also exceeded the age threshold I arbitrarily set last season (23) – Sebastian Dahlström, Eero-Matti Auvinen, Hanson Boakai, Joonas Vahtera being the ones mentioned in the final version of the 2018 list.

As this exercise is based on games played in the top two tiers of Finnish football, I’ll try to avoid getting influenced by national team performances, even if it can be hard at times. While I’m also trying to discount games played in Europe, it’s a little harder, and so will allow some slight biases to creep in from those games. In summary, this also means that players who haven’t played at either domestic level won’t be mentioned. The major point of the list is to try to gauge prospect value through looking at stats, so it would feel kind of pointless if there weren’t any stats to look at. This all means that this first list of the season is going to look quite different to the one I wrote last autumn, especially considering we’re only just over halfway through the first stage of the league season, and since Klubi 04 and JJK, who were heavily represented last season, are no longer eligible.

So here goes. A reminder that the I’m only covering players owned by a team in Finland, so notable prospects like Sergei Eremenko, Kaan Kairinen, Jude Arthur and so forth are disregarded. I’m also only interested in players younger than 23, and since age is tricky since it changes all the time, I’m going to use age seasons instead (that is, if you’re born in 2000, your age season in 2019 is 19). A reminder that I’m heavily favouring minutes played over most other statistics, as I think that it is what’s most important for young players. I’m also weighing minutes at the top tier higher than minutes at Ykkönen level, because of course I am.

Rank (previous) Name Age Team Minutes Primary Position
1 (1) Lassi Lappalainen 21 HJK 1401 LW
After a true breakout season for RoPS, Lappalainen has returned to HJK and looked… more vulnerable? He was always going to get less space playing for HJK, and will need to figure out how to be more effective with what little he gets. He’s still very dangerous, and probably the most valuable asset in the Veikkausliiga, but is a bit of a square peg in a round hole at the moment. A move is on the horizon, and it makes a lot of sense for all parties.
2 (5) Lucas Lingman 21 RoPS 1419 MC
Is there a player in the league who is more important for his team than Lingman is for RoPS? At the moment, he’s doing everything – advancing the ball through passing, carrying the ball, creating, tackling, intercepting. He’s largely been carrying the team since he arrived – essentially playing every single minute he’s available for – and there are surely greater things waiting for him. Do look up his sumptuous through ball for RoPS’ only goal away at Aberdeen this Thursday.
3 (8) Lauri Ala-Myllymäki 22 Ilves 1032 AMC
I thought Ala-Myllymäki was heading abroad at the end of the season, and that he didn’t surely wasn’t for the wont of trying, seeing as he signed a two year extension with Ilves pretty late into the new year. In any case, he’s back with a vengeance. Ilves are flying high, and he’s playing a big part in their success. At the moment, he’s overperforming his xG quite a bit, but there’s more to his game then scoring, so no worries. Rumours are starting to swirl, and for good reason.
4 (9) Juho Hyvärinen 19 RoPS 1355 RB
Hyvärinen is an interesting player, in that he is still very young, but has been around for so long that his development has been quite visible to follow. When he came up, he excelled in the air, subsequently he has developed into more of an attacking threat, especially with the ball at his feet, running at pace. There are still massive questions about his game, but for now, being 19 and playing your third full season at the domestic top level, and performing well, is enough to carry you pretty far.
5 (2) Ilmari Niskanen 22 KuPS 1388 RW
Ilmari Niskanen is – unless he can do something about it – essentially Nikolai Alho. Right sided winger, loves a cross, doesn’t really score enough, flatters to deceive, loved by his club’s social media team. It’s not a bad thing to be, but there is potential for more. Last season was a pretty good one in terms of end product, but an exceptional one by expected end product – the start to this season hasn’t exactly indicated any change to that pattern, which is a shame. I would love to see him kick it up a gear.
6 (7) Eetu Vertainen 20 HJK 999 CF
Vertainen should probably have been loaned out last season. The pressure he’s under right now is massive, and he just doesn’t have enough of a track record in the past to refer to when he isn’t hitting the target in the now. His xG numbers are roughly fine, mind you, so continuing in the same way is essentially sort of what he should be doing, but the monkey on his shoulder is probably screaming for him to mix it up.
7 (20) Kalle Katz 19 RoPS (HJK) 907 CB
I’m an admittedly big fan of Kalle Katz, and that sort of kept me from hyping him too much last season as I didn’t want my biases to colour my analysis. I was also weary because he was benched in favour of Ville Tikkanen and Valtteri Vesiaho in the U19 Euros last summer, which is valuable information in its own right. Well, at this point, both Vesiaho and Tikkanen are playing third tier football while Katz is holding his own for RoPS. He has visible faults, which is probably what has held him back: his lack of size can be problematic in the air. But his strengths are worth building a team around: he’s an excellent passer, an aggressive tackler and an overall athlete (unlike Vesiaho, for example).
8 (N/A) Jasin-Amin Assehnoun 19 Lahti 978 LW
Assehnoun debuted last season for a Lahti in decline. He didn’t do much, mostly playing a seemingly unfamiliar wing-back position, but clocked a fair amount of minutes. During the winter he got called up to the U-21 national team setup, and has been an important player for Lahti so far in 2019. Would like to see more end product – naturally – but he is ranked this highly mostly due to being second in the league in successful dribbles. That’s fun, and has historically been a good thing for a player.
9 (34) Niklas Jokelainen 19 RoPS 653 CF
RoPS are on the lookout for a new striker according to media reports. I hope they’re unsuccessful in their search because I think Niklas Jokelainen and Matias Tamminen are worth extended looks, especially Jokelainen in the short term. For the year, he’s at 0.4 xG per 90, which is plenty good enough – even if he’s only scoring at a rate of 0.15 per 90 at the moment. There’s much to like about his game, and he’s in the right type of environment to cash in on his promise.
10 (27) Tommi Jyry 20 KuPS 683 MC
Shows up as an excellent passer. He’s handy at progressing the ball. Was unfortunately injured this past week, but seems to have recovered as he played in the Europa League Qualifier this Thursday.
11 (N/A) Anthony Olusanya 19 Jaro 595 CF
Olusanya got a couple of brief mentions last season for being a rare, young attacker in an Ykkönen deprived of just that. This season he seems to have taken some major strides forward, both in terms of personal development as well as literally, as he was mostly played on the right wing last season, while being deployed more as a centre forward now. That move seems to have payed off, as he is third in xG per 90 (0.58) in Ykkönen while assisting 0.54 per 90. Interesting.
12 (N/A) Severi Kähkönen 19 Jaro 528 AMC
I want to keep Kähkönen and Olusanya sort of grouped, because they’re the same age, play for the same team, play in roughly the same areas of the pitch, and are both having excellent starts to the season. Both appeared last season, and both showed some glimpses of promise, but this season has been something else so far, for both of them. Olusanya has the upper hand because he has a couple of assists already, but in truth, the difference is negligible because of the small sample size. Next month, it will be bigger, though, and we will be much the wiser. For now, suffice to say that Jaro should be excited about their current crop of youngsters.
13 (N/A) Mehdi El-Moutacim 19 EIF 1231 GK
Mehdi El-Moutacim played pretty well for a high-flying EIF last season when he played, but ended up sitting on the bench quite a lot due to the good form of Jonathan Jäntti. This season, Jäntti – by far the best goalkeeper in Ykkönen last season – has gone to AC Kajaani (of all places) and El-Moutacim has taken over full-time. He’s not been quite as good as he was last season, and he is on the short side for a goalie, but he’s interesting for many reasons. With Markus Uusitalo, Miika Töyräs, Teppo Marttinen and Rasmus Leislahti sitting on the bench for their respective teams, he takes over as the foremost goalkeeping prospect in the top two tiers.
14 (N/A) Eemeli Virta 19 Lahti 958 MC
Last season, Teemu Jäntti came into the Lahti first team setup, and played a fair bit as a sort of utility player, logging minutes at left back, centre back, central midfield, attacking midfield etc. His profile was kind of boring, but he got a bunch of playing time. Toward the end of the season, his place in the team had been taken by Eemeli Virta, and at this point in time, Virta has surpassed Jäntti in importance for Lahti, as well as in how highly rated he is. He profiles as a better passer and a more active defender, and although he doesn’t do much to excite, he’s constructing a decent platform on which to build.
15 (N/A) Axel Vidjeskog 18 Jaro 705 AMC
It’s nice to see Jaro embracing an identity revolving around their youth products. Vidjeskog, Kähkönen and Olusanya have all played an important part in their success so far. Vidjeskog is the youngest of the three, and he’s playing more of a withdrawn role. That being said, he’s still accumulating a fair amount of shots and chances created. A good start for an interesting player.
16 (N/A) Anttoni Huttunen 18 MyPA 1001 AMC
Huttunen is playing a lot in his age 18 season, albeit for a fairly dysfunctional team. He does most of his work in the opposition half, and would probably benefit from getting to spend more time there. At the moment, nothing really stands out – he’s shooting a fair bit, but mostly from distance, creating a fair amount of chances, passing a fair amount into the opposition box – but he’s young and improving.
17 (N/A) Aapo Mäenpää 21 IFK Mariehamn 969 RB
I thought Aapo Mäenpää looked an interesting prospect in 2017, but he struggled to repeat in 2018. In 2019, he has already surpassed his 2018 minute total, and his overall numbers are trending up. He isn’t a huge threat going forward – maybe by design, as left back Dylan Murnane is one of IFK Mariehamn’s key weapons going forward – but is winning more aerial duels than anyone in the league per 90.
18 (N/A) Salomo Ojala 22 FC Haka 1024 CF
Last season I followed Ojala a fair bit, but was put off by the low shot numbers (1.8 per 90), and although he ended up scoring pretty high in xG (0.36) it didn’t feel like enough to warrant a mention, especially at his age. This season, though, things are a little different. His shots are up to 3.1, his xG at 0.5, and he’s scoring at a better rate as well. It’s starting to feel more like a breakout, and even if he’s getting on slightly in age, there’s still time to take the step up.
19 (35) Martti Haukioja 20 VPS 1177 LB
Haukioja moved to VPS this winter, in a move that must feel like a mistake at this stage of the season (of course it’s possible that Ilves just didn’t want to extend him). For VPS, Haukioja has sort of surprisingly been quite an attacking outlet, leading the league’s under 22s in passes into the opposition box, although it hasn’t converted into end product so far. Defensively there are some holes in his game, and I wonder if he’s going to have to move central at some point due to his size.
20 (26) Mikko Kuningas 22 Inter 1093 MC
It feels like Kuningas is stagnating a bit. He has consistently been used more every season since breaking into the league in 2015, and is currently projected to exceed his 2018 total. It’s just that all his other numbers are trending down – shots, defensive activity, even passes. He’s still doing a fair bit of creating, but he’s passing less into the box and the final third. He’s completing his passes at a higher rate, which suggests that he’s being used in a more conservative manner – and overall, Inter are very different now compared to last season, so that may be the reason. Unfortunately I haven’t seen him play a lot, because he’s always been a player that has a certain feel to him and I wonder if he still does.
21 (25) Enoch Banza KPV/HJK 812 RW
Banza is playing a lot at the moment, which is nice, but he isn’t exactly displaying a lot of signs that he’ll be stepping into the HJK starting lineup next season. He’s not a bad player at all, but I’m still waiting for something more – more shots, more chances created, more goals, more dribbles, more something – because it’s all a little middle-of-the-pack at the moment.
22 (32) Evans Mensah 21 HJK 497 RW
I don’t quite know what to think of Evans Mensah. Since he joined HJK, he’s been fairly hyped, and he’s consistently had a fair amount of end product, but there’s always been a lingering feeling about him that he mostly just performs against the bottom feeders. I can remember notable performances against JJK and PS Kemi but I struggle to remember anything beyond that. That’s obviously true about most players – it’s easier to play against poorer opponents – but in his case it feels especially poignant. Has started the season well, is still very young, and there are some positive indications (his xG/Shot is higher now than it has been before, a problem in previous seasons), so maybe this is his season?
23 (N/A) Niilo Mäenpää 21 Inter 754 AMC
Mäenpää is a fairly nondescript midfielder who doesn’t really excel at any particular facet of the game, but does well enough overall that he keeps playing. Seems to be liked enough by the new look Inter setup, which bodes well for the future, but would still like to see something pop for him.
24 (15) Santeri Väänänen 17 HJK 196 MC
I’ll admit, Väänänen’s placement is not at all influenced by his statistics, but he’s looked quite bright for HJK so far, and he’s lauded as one of the biggest prospects of his generation. That Toni Koskela has given him a couple of starts already shows that his organisation has trust in him, and that he’ll be given a chance to repay that trust this season. Will rise quickly if his playing time does.
25 (17) Akseli Ollila 19 EIF 838 LW
Ollila was a welcome breath of fresh air last season, in an Ykkönen devoid of interesting attacking talents. This season, he seems to have regressed a bit, as he’s no longer overperforming his xG. Is still an interesting player, and would expect him to play in the Veikkausliiga next season.
26 (N/A) Sampo Ala 17 RoPS 305 CF
Ala is the player born 2002 with the most minutes in the league this season – and he’s already scored his first goal! That’s about it, though, as he’s mostly looking a little overmatched. At the moment it’s better than nothing!
27 (30) Omar Jama 21 EIF 1079 MC
Jama took a step down this season in search for playing time, which is respectable in its own right but a bit worrying for the sake of his development. He’s a metronomic passer and an active dribbler but suffers from being a little light in terms of physicality. Would need to add some dimensions to his game in order to go further, but as he is, I think he’s a perfectly fine Veikkausliiga-level midfielder.
28 (N/A) Momodou Sarr 19 VPS 941 RW
Like most of VPS players on this list, Sarr is here because he is young and is playing a lot. Unfortunately, there isn’t a huge amount that’s worth noting about his statistics. He’s shooting less than once per 90, isn’t creating a lot, nor is he dribbling or winning a lot of headers. Will get a chance to develop, and will get a bump up the chart if he does.
29 (N/A) Johannes Kytilä 19 MyPA 1228 CB
I’m not a huge fan of Johannes Kytilä, but there’s enough there to be interested: he’s young, he’s big and he’s playing a lot (albeit for a bad team). He isn’t a particularly accomplished passer – or he isn’t allowed to be because he’s hoofing it long so often. Either way, the question is whether his step is quick enough to go further – at the moment, he’s picking up a lot of interceptions, but that sort of happens when you’re the worse team more often than not.
30 (13) Kevin Kouassivi-Benissan 20 HJK 317 RWB
Kouassivi-Benissan hasn’t quite broken into the HJK first team, even if he’s played a handful of matches for them. A loan wouldn’t be an awful thing for him, and I could see it being beneficial for whichever team picks him up. Can be a force with the ball at his feet, and it feels like that part of his game has been a bit restricted so far this season for HJK.
31 (N/A) Kevin Larsson 18 HIFK 428 RW
Young attacking midfielder who signed for HIFK this season. A bit surprised to see him play as much as he has, but pleasantly so. Hasn’t showed much yet, but he has time.
32 (N/A) Daniel Rantanen 21 EIF 1182 MC
I’m unsure about Rantanen but in theory I think he fits well alongside Omar Jama. Rantanen is a worse passer than Jama, but offers more going forward. He likes a shot, sometimes too much, and has contributed with 0.38 assists per 90 so far this season. If he can keep it up, maybe it suggests he’s figured something out?
33 (N/A) Tuomas Ollila 19 KTP 847 LB
Ollila is an energetic full back, with a nice burst of pace. I thought he looked pretty decent for Klubi 04 last season, and he’s playing a fair bit in 2019 as well.
34 (19) Teemu Jäntti 19 Lahti 641 MC
Jäntti’s calling card is his versatility, which is also what makes it difficult to analyse him based on statistics, as it’s difficult to know what to compare him to. Last season he played large parts further forward, this season he’s being deployed more conservatively which means he sees more of the ball, but does less with it. Should try to shed the utility label and find a niche that works for him.
35 (N/A) Yussif Moussa 21 Ilves 634 AMC
Moussa is a shot-happy young midfielder for Ilves, with decent chance creation numbers and decent defensive activity. Something like a Mosa-lite, maybe?
36 (46) Paavo Voutilainen 20 KTP 947 CB
After struggling to break into the FC Lahti team for a couple of seasons, Voutilainen decided to take a step back in order to get a better chance of taking two steps forward. A member of the Finnish team at the U19 Euros last summer, Voutilainen has some stock as a prospect, and it’s nice to see him finally play regularly. He’s a good passer, but has some work to do in terms of his defensive ability.
37 (44) Tommi Jäntti 19 RoPS 485 AMC
Jäntti is ostensibly more of an attacking midfielder, but hasn’t shown enough so far to convince me that he’ll be much more than a Veikkausliiga-player. Needs more end product (wrote this before he scored a potentially crucial goal away at Aberdeen!)
38 (N/A) Matias Lahti 20 EIF/Inter 869 MC
Lahti came out of nowhere to start a handful of games for Inter last season. This year he’s been loaned out to EIF for some additional experience, where he seems to be enjoying himself. He’s doing well both defensively, while contributing in attack, so there’s a decent chance that Inter might have some use for him next season if he keeps up the pace.
39 (N/A) Tiemoko Fofana 20 Ilves 712 CF
Fofana had a memorable debut last season, scoring a penalty and getting injured for the rest of the season. This season he’s playing alright for his age, hovering around 2 shots per 90 and 0.3 xG/NPG per 09, in around 700 minutes. If Ilves want to stay on top of the league, he’s going to have to get better at getting into scoring positions.
40 (48) Rony Huhtala 21 MyPA 953 CF
I tried to include Huhtala as much as I could last season because I really like him, but he ended up suffering a goal-drought for the ages and so a higher placement wasn’t warranted. The thing is, though, that he’s pretty unique in Finland, and that’s something that someone’s going to pick up on at some point, and when they do, I believe he has the raw materials to go far. He’s like a Finnish Jamie Vardy – quick, energetic, tireless – and would be well suited for a team playing an active press or a lot of counters.
41 (36) Joel Mattsson 20 HIFK 627 RW
Mattsson joined HIFK this season from IFK Mariehamn, and has been rewarded with a fair amount of playing time. Like Nikolas Saira, he feels a little too much like a tweener type – not quite enough end product to be a winger, not quite good enough defensively to be a right back. Can hopefully pull it together in Helsinki, HIFK need some young success stories.
42 (N/A) Alexander Jibrin 21 AC Oulu 1042 CB
After a year as something of an understudy, Jibrin has stepped into the AC Oulu backline permanently this season. He looks a capable player – decent defensive numbers, alright in the air, capable passer – but needs to show more in order to move further up on the list.
43 (N/A) Anton Eerola 20 KTP 928 MC
Eerola is an all-rounder in midfield, who stands out in the interception stat. One to follow.
44 (12) Diogo Tomas 22 Ilves 351 CB
Biggest dropper on the list, mostly because he’s out of the team more this season than he was last season, and you can’t say Ilves are looking worse for it. Defensive statistics still like him though – he’s good in the air, has a high amount of interceptions and tackles.
45 (N/A) Juhani Pikkarainen 21 KPV 487 CB
Profiles as a decent passer whose pretty good in the air. The form of his team raises some question marks, but his youth provides some solace for the time being.
46 (N/A) Antti Ulmanen 20 EIF 634 CF
Hasn’t achieved major success so far this season, but has played more than last season, which is something. Will need to start scoring if EIF want to climb the table, and his 0.2 xG per 90 isn’t exactly an indication of that happening any time soon.
47 (N/A) Jonas Häkkinen 20 VPS 1171 MC
Häkkinen has the 6th most minutes among under 22s, and profiles as a decent passer whose pretty good in the air. The form of his team raises some question marks, but his youth provides some solace for the time being.
48 (N/A) Samu Alanko 21 VPS 862 LW
Alanko left VPS for the Austrian lower leagues a couple of years ago, and returned last season. He hasn’t been great this season for a struggling Vepsu, but stranger things have happened than a 21 year old left winger suddenly developing into a star (see: Karjalainen, Rasmus).
49 (N/A) Nuutti Laaksonen 20 MyPA 930 RB
Laaksonen debuted for Lahti last season, but was deemed surplus to requirement after his contract ended in December. Playing time is easier to come by at MyPA, naturally, and he’ll want to make the most of the opportunity. Wins a fair amount of his headers, and contributes defensively, but the way his team plays doesn’t exactly give him a huge amount of licence to show what he can do in attack.
50 (N/A) Nikolas Saira 20 HIFK 932 LW
Saira has played a fair amount already for a player his age, and although that’s usually a good thing, in his case I’m not so sure. I’m still not quite sure I know what he’s about, as he doesn’t look particularly quick nor technical for a winger, and he has never really stood out statistically.

Bubbling under

So that’s the first prospect list of the season. As it’s still fairly early, some notable players have been left out due to not playing enough. Here is a list of the ones foremost on my mind:

Abion Ademi, Elias Mastokangas, Arlind Sejdiu, Naatan Skyttä, Pyry Lampinen, Eetu Rissanen, Martin Salin, Eemeli Raittinen, Jeremiah Streng, Maximo Tolonen, Matias Tamminen, Tomi Kult, Valtteri Vesiaho, Ville Tikkanen

Thanks for reading, I’ll be trying to update the list at a monthly pace, so follow me on Twitter if you’re interested!


2 thoughts on “2019 Finnish League Prospects Power Ranking – July update

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