A couple of weeks after the transfer window slammed shut, it’s time to, once again, take stock of the prospect situation in the top two tiers of Finnish football. If this is your first time here, I’ve already posted two lists this season (July and August), and with the season wrapping up in early October, I suppose we can call this the penultimate list of the season.

In terms of outgoing prospects the transfer window was slow compared to previous years – the last remaining blue chipper was moved in a significant deal, but nothing else of note happened except for FC Nordsjaelland snapping up a couple of promising teenagers who were probably a couple of seasons away from debuting in Finland but will probably now go straight into the Danish club’s first team setup (I kid, but not really). There was some whispers surrounding Lauri Ala-Myllymäki and Lucas Lingman, but never really anything that amounted to more than speculation. Winter will be busier, with contracts ending and teams rebuilding from the top up, so interesting times ahead!

A reminder that the I’m only covering players owned by a team in Finland, so notable prospects like 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.

2019 Graduates:

Lassi Lappalainen, Bologna

The list:

Rank (previous) Name Age Team Minutes Primary Position
1 (1) Lucas Lingman 21 RoPS 1986 MC
Lingman has proven himself as a good, creative passer, who is equally as capable at carrying the ball up the field as he is at passing it. He has been one of the most consistent players for a team that has gone through a lot of changes in the past two years, and he has established himself as a starter for the U21 national team in the process. With one more season left on his contract, I wonder if HJK would be interested enough to A) pay up, and B) swallow their pride.
2 (2) Lauri Ala-Myllymäki 22 Ilves 1874 AMC/CF
I’ve been harping on about Ala-Myllymäki’s xG overperformance, and how his goal amount is bloated from a bunch of penalties – these things remain true (although, his non-penalty goals are regressing towards his xG). He does a lot of other things well, and I think it’s likely that he’ll become a full international as soon as the national team play a friendly, so there’s reason to believe that he’ll attract interest from abroad.
3 (12) Ilmari Niskanen 22 KuPS 1935 RW
Last month Niskanen was pumpkining a bit, which led me to prepare something of a descent in the rankings, then he woke up and started both scoring and assisting like last season. 4 goals and 6 assists at this point of the season is a surprisingly good total, and his upturn in form has been critical for a KuPS side starting to look like potential league winners. I think he belongs to the top tier of prospects, but that’s mostly because the top tier no longer contains any slam dunk prospects like it did only a year-or-so ago. He remains a deadly threat from out wide, but the Nikolai Alho comp won’t go away.
4 (3) Jasin-Amin Assehnoun 21 Lahti 1558 LW
Is Assehnoun a winger or a wing back? It doesn’t really matter, I don’t think, as he excels both in attack and in defence. In searching for comps, a young Santeri Hostikka with better defending came up as an intriguing comp, with Eero Tamminen being a less glamorous alternative.
5 (7) Salomo Ojala 22 Haka 1688 CF
I’m still not convinced about the upside, but it’s impossible to dismiss the kind of dominance he’s displaying. I don’t think it’s an impossibility that he’ll get a national team call-up in one of the traditional January friendlies, which would be an opportunity for him to show his ability against tougher opposition.
6 (21) Santeri Väänänen 17 HJK 562 MC
I’ve been skirting around it for a while, and so I’ve arrived at this: I think Väänänen is probably the best young player playing regularly at this level, depending on your definition of young. If I had to choose between Väänänen and almost any other player, I’d go with Väänänen, except if I wanted to win in the immediate future, in which case I’d go with someone like Lingman instead. I don’t see it as an impossibility that he’ll get picked up in the January window, though, which also adds to the helium.
7 (4) Juho Hyvärinen 19 RoPS 2017 RB
Unless he gets injured, Hyvärinen will likely end the season as the U22 outfielder with the most minutes played in the top two tiers of Finnish football. He seemingly has another year left on his contract, so next season will be crucial in determining how far he’ll go in his career.
8 (5) Kalle Katz 19 RoPS (HJK) 1419 CB
Last season, Katz showed his ability to carry the ball upfield, logging one of the highest dribbling seasons for a centre half since 2013. This season, his dribbling has been restricted, which is something I think is a bad thing, because he is going to need it if he’s going to keep playing centre half – mainly because his aerial ability is going to present a potential weakness that will have to be countered with a strength in some other facet of his game. If he can hone his on the ball ability, he has the potential to become a really interesting player, if not, he’ll probably have to grow a couple of centimeters.
9 (9) Akseli Ollila 19 EIF 1664 LW
Ollila was good last season, and has shown ample development this year – although his end product is better, what’s more impressive are the overall improvements in his game. He’s essentially EIF’s primary attacking weapon, which is pretty big for a 19-year old.
10 (8) Severi Kähkönen 19 Jaro 1154 AMC
Kähkönen’s numbers look especially gaudy because he (according to InStat) has played in centre midfield more than he has further forward, which means that he is being compared to midfielders rather than attacking midfielders/wingers in my setup. Either way, he’s doing a lot in attack, in a variety of ways, which is encouraging. For his sake, I fear he’ll play at Ykkönen level again next year, which will obviously be Jaro’s gain.
11 (10) Anthony Olusanya 19 Jaro 1141 LW/CF
Olusanya has played an intriguing season for a Jaro team in ascent and has shown impressive growth compared to last season. Whether he’s a centre forward or a left winger will be one of the questions that will impact his career. At this point, I like Ollila more because his game seems more rounded, but I think both will have an opportunity to play on a bigger stage than currently.
12 (14) Yussif Moussa 21 Ilves 1197 MC/AMC
Moussa does most of his work in the opposition half, where he can be a threat with his shooting and dribbling. For a player with such an attacking profile, he does a lot of tackling, which is makes the package pretty interesting.
13 (N/A) Luis Henrique 21 HIFK 786 CF
Henrique joined HIFK fairly late, but has been a very positive addition to the new look Helsinki side, having an immediate impact by scoring or assisting at a pace of roughly once a game. Statistically, he profiles as 2016 Mikael Forssell – as a striker who gets few shots, but from good areas, with good creative numbers – which is high praise indeed. The numbers don’t yet include this weekends’ game, so with two more goals in his back pocket, the comp might get even more flattering.
14 (13) Tommi Jyry 20 KuPS 1052 MC
Jyry profiles as a good ball shuttler, who is capable of progressing the ball either through carrying or passing it. He has some end product, but has the potential to get more and the same can be said for his defending.
15 (11) Aapo Mäenpää 21 IFK Mariehamn 1382 RB
After a rough 2018, Mäenpää has returned strongly. He is an active defender, who is very capable in the air, and is decent enough on the ball. Kalle Taimi as a comp seems fair, and with age on his side, there’s potential for more.
16 (6) Eemeli Virta 19 Lahti 1548 MC
At the start of the season, I would have predicted Lahti to be one of the teams to struggle this season. They haven’t been great, but they haven’t really been involved in the relegation scrap all season, which should be considered a fairly successful all round performance. Virta has been one of the players on which Lahti have leaned the hardest, and he deserves a lot of credit for the performances he has put out. He intercepts a lot, wins headers, and moves the ball around neatly. It’s all a little Aleksi Paananen, but that isn’t a terrible comp for a young player.
17 (16) Eetu Vertainen 20 HJK 1101 CF
Vertainen finally managed to score his first goal of the season in August, with a placed finish after a bit of opportunistic penalty-box-hanging, something that doesn’t really change the trajectory of his season, but should get a load off his back. In fact, I hope it gives him more confidence to be less involved, and to stay in the box more, as that has traditionally been his weakness. Has the talent for more, and will get another chance to prove so next season, even if I think a move could be beneficial.
18 (18) Enoch Banza 19 KPV (HJK) 1178 RW
2019 has been a success for Banza in one aspect only, unfortunately, and that is that he has been able to stay fit enough to accumulate a decent workload of minutes at the Veikkausliiga level. He hasn’t exactly performed to expectations, and I’m not sure he’ll get a chance to play for HJK next year either. That shouldn’t discourage him, as there are ample examples of players with his exact profile who have gone abroad after only a season of good form after having left HJK, but he needs to take the next opportunity before time starts to run out.
19 (20) Anttoni Huttunen 18 MyPa 1535 LW
Huttunen is out for the season, but has shown enough that there should be clubs hovering if his contract situation would allow for a move in the offseason. Has trained with the HIFK first team this season, apparently, so that would seem like a natural potential destination.
20 (15) Axel Vidjeskog 18 Jaro 1063 LW
Vidjeskog is younger than Kähkönen and Olusanya, has played less, and has been less impressive, I think. That isn’t to say that he hasn’t been impressive, just that he’s facing stiff competition. Statistically, he compares fairly well to a younger Lauri Ala-Myllymäki  – if that’s who Vidjeskog is at 18, then I’m intrigued to see in which direction he’s going to develop.
21 (27) Jeremiah Streng 18 SJK 696 CF
Streng has battled his way into the first team, and at the moments seems like the primary option up front for SJK. Although it hasn’t been an inevitability, competition hasn’t exactly been fierce, with Matheus Batista not impressing and Billy Ions struggling with fitness. Streng isn’t the main culprit for SJK’s struggles to score, but it is something that can’t be dismissed. That being said, he has looked good at times – he moves well in the box, and has a tendency to get on the end of crosses (which is something that young players can struggle with at first), and SJK’s conservative approach in attack does him few favors. Although it’s early to draw that comparison, one should remember that Benjamin Källman didn’t exactly impress in his first season in the Veikkausliiga before breaking out in a big way in his second. Hopefully SJK will be patient with Streng, because the upside is big.
22 (N/A) Pyry Lampinen 17 Lahti 437 CF
Much of what I wrote about Streng could be repeated for Lampinen, except he scored with his first two shots for Lahti. He has been given a lot of responsibility in his first season in the top tier, but there are caveats involving questionable recruiting. He’s been played on the right a bit, which is something I don’t think he looks particularly suited for, but could be good for his development long term. The Källman reminder is relevant here as well.
23 (22) Matias Tamminen 18 RoPS 630 CF
Tamminen is third in this tier of players, but the ordering could just as well be any other way. He’s getting his feet wet and has scored a couple of goals already. Seems to have more of a poacher’s instinct than Lampinen or Streng – his second goal of the season, and his performances for KTP last season are testament to this – but it’s still early so we’ll see. Lex Källman persists in his case also.
24 (19) Teemu Jäntti 19 Lahti 831 MC
Jäntti has played a fair bit for a player his age, and he has a bunch of interesting characteristics – he’s dynamic, has a good shot and can carry the ball – but he hasn’t yet been able to put it all together. Isn’t a great passer, which adds to it, but there’s promise there if he can learn to harness it. His goal this weekend is something I think he could do more of – arriving late in the box from a counter.
25 (30) Daniel Rantanen 21 EIF 1765 MC
I’m unsure about Rantanen, but you can’t dismiss the numbers he is putting up. He’s scoring (albeit only against MyPa) and assisting, and he has the passing range to go far, but he can look a little laborious, which makes me wonder about whether he has the legs to play at a higher level. Is very similar to Anton Popovits in playing style and ability, so could be an option for teams looking at him (or Haka, if they are unable to lock him down).
26 (N/A) Naatan Skyttä 17 Ilves 268 AMC
I generally don’t like to add guys until they’ve played something approaching enough, and Skyttä hasn’t, but in the brief moments he has had on the pitch, he has stood out big time. His numbers are irrelevant at this point, but he simply looks like he belongs. If I’d do this list on talent alone, I’d be hard pressed to find someone to place above him. I don’t think there’s a reason not to play him for Ilves, and I think he could have contributed more than some of the alternatives, which is sad. Next year, he’ll be their best and most important player, unless someone snaps him up first.
27 (N/A) Elias Mastokangas 18 Inter 257 AMC
Mastokangas is in almost exactly the same position as Skyttä – he’s played little, but looked really good when he’s played. The primary reason behind his low amount of playing time is less his ability and more the inherent conservatism of a title chase. I liked him a lot when he made his first appearances two years ago, and am willing to make an exception for him.
28 (25) Evans Mensah 21 HJK 868 RW
I think it’s possible that HJK won’t exercise the option for 2020 in Mensah’s contract, which isn’t to say that he doesn’t have promise, but that he just has struggled to find any kind of consistency. He can dribble, he likes a shot, and is a generally *good* footballer, but has struggled in key games, and seems to perform best against the worst opponents, which isn’t optimal.
29 (23) Niklas Jokelainen 19 RoPS 775 CF
Jokelainen hasn’t really been getting into the RoPS team lately – I wonder if it’s due to availability or whether there’s something else going on behind the scenes. Look under the hood and he’s actually been pretty good, just hasn’t scored from the chances he’s gotten. He’s better than this, but time will tell if he’ll get the chance to prove it.
30 (23) Kevin Kouassivi-Benissan 20 RoPS (HJK) 527 LW
Of the group of young wingers on the books at HJK, I think Kouassivi-Benissan is the most likely to become a productive player for them. Efforts to make a right back out of him have been unsuccessful, and his best performances so far have been further forward on the wing. Already scored his first goal for RoPS, and will hopefully play a big part in the rest of their season. Jasin-Amin Assehnoun with 1000 less minutes seems like a tempting comp.
31 (31) Martti Haukioja 19 VPS 1408 LB
Haukioja has been a surprisingly good attacking outlet for VPS, but his defense has left some room for improvement. Not sure he has the engine to be able to do both effectively, but if he does, he could become a good player.
32 (24) Mehdi El-Moutacim 19 EIF 2085 GK
El-Moutacim is the U22 leader in minutes played in the top two tiers. His passing can be a bit erratic, mostly because he keeps attempting high risk-low reward passes, but I think it shows confidence and personality.
33 (42) Mauro Severino 20 TPV 758 RW
Severino has been good on his return to TPV, and I think he’s looked good whenever I’ve seen him play. Hopefully he’ll get another chance at Veikkausliiga level.
34 (32) Omar Jama 21 EIF 1700 MC
I’m admittedly a fan of Jama, and there are plenty of good reasons to be just that. I think he would fit a lot of the better Veikkausliiga teams quite well. At EIF he anchors their midfield, but has also been capable of chipping in with a couple of assists. His defensive output leaves something to be desired, and that might be the big holdup.
35 (34) Kevin Larsson 18 HIFK 476 RW
Larsson hasn’t been in the side a lot lately – hopefully he’ll see some more minutes now that HIFK don’t have a lot to play for.
36 (N/A) Ville Tikkanen 20 SJK 581 CB
Last year, there was something of a competition between Tikkanen, Katz and Valtteri Vesiaho: for two spots in the U19 Euros starting XI defence, and for the prestigious placement on this here list. Vesiaho and Tikkanen ended up playing the bulk of the U19 Euros minutes, but Katz was placed higher on the list. It’s taken Tikkanen a while to get back on the pitch for SJK, but he’s there now, and he’s been pretty good.
37 (N/A) Joonas Sundman 21 SJK 948 LB
Sundman is like the left sided Aapo Mäenpää – good in the air, fairly solid defensively, could do with some more end product. I’m unsure about the upside, but full back is a problem position for the national team, so small improvements have the possibility to carry him surprisingly far.
38 (29) Mikko Kuningas 22 Inter 1615 MC
Again, Kuningas is a competent Veikkausliiga player, and an important cog in a well working Inter machinery. He’s being played at wing back occasionally, and he is still a good creator for a midfielder, but I’m getting the feeling that he might be reaching his ceiling.
39 (46) Diogo Tomas 22 Ilves 760 CB
Tomas is something of a personal favorite of mine, which is why he gets a bit of leeway. He’s great in the air, and I think he’s a very capable defender – especially one-on-one. Has been playing more recently, which is nice to see.
40 (N/A) Maximo Tolonen 18 SJK 397 AMC
It hasn’t exactly worked out for Tolonen. He’s still young, and he’s been patiently waiting for an opportunity to break into the SJK first team, but being benched in favour of Jesse Sarajärvi can only mean one (or two) of two things: not showing enough in training and/or games or absolutely blatant nepotism. The talent is there – he’s still a key performer for the Finland U19 team – but we’re still waiting for it to materialise.
41 (33) Tuomas Ollila 19 KTP 1588 LB
Ollila is the left sided version of Hyvärinen, in that he has some defensive deficiencies but makes up for it by being effective in attack. Has some major struggles in the air, which is troubling for a full back, and probably makes him more suitable as a wing back.
42 (35) Johannes Kytilä 19 MyPa 1990 CB
Kytilä has the third most minutes of all outfielders at Ykkönen level this year and hasn’t always looked great to be honest. He has the size, and is competent in challenges, but can look slow and is a key part of a defence that’s just too easy to break down. Youth is a good excuse, but not for forever.
43 (36) Momodou Sarr 19 VPS 1534 CF/RW
Sarr is having a fascinating season in that his scoring and assisting is at a fairly decent level, but everything else is less promising. In the brief moments I’ve seen him play, he hasn’t looked particularly convincing, which is why he’s a bit lower than his playing time would suggest.
44 (37) Tiemoko Fofana 20 Ilves 1318 CF
I fear Fofana would have needed to play better for Ilves to maintain their title challenge. He doesn’t get enough action in the box, even though whenever I watch him play, it looks like he should. His creativity numbers are pretty decent, though, so maybe that’s what keeps him in the team.
45 (45) Simon Lindholm 18 EIF 743 MC
I still struggle to place Lindholm, as I’ve yet to see him stand out in any way. A conservative placement based on playing time until this changes.
46 (50) Joonas Lakkamäki 17 MuSa 816 RB
Little has changed from last month: Lakkamäki is a youth international full back who has been playing a fair bit so far this season. Can struggle a bit in the air, and with runs in behind, but is diligent defensively as long as the play stays in front of him.
47 (39) Teppo Marttinen 22 KPV 1610 GK
Marttinen had a bit of a mare versus HJK this month, but he’s still the young goalkeeper with the most played minutes in the top tier. I still prefer that to sitting on the bench for a better team, or not playing at all.
48 (N/A) Tuukka Andberg 21 HIFK 603 CB
Andberg has been around for a while. It took some time for him to get in the side this year, but he has showed some good   – if inconsistent – performances and been rewarded with a call up to the U21 national team.
49 (41) Rony Huhtala 21 MyPa 1301 CF
Huhtala is good, alright? You’re just going to have to take my word for it. Is on a hot streak, and will need to stay hot if MyPa are going to stay up.
50 (N/A) Joakim Latonen 21 TPS 1057 LW
Latonen struggled to get into the side last year in the Veikkausliiga, and has not been an automatic started this year either. He’s an active shooter and a good creator, and I hope he’ll keep his place in the side next year.

Bubbling under:

Samuel Uusitalo – has received a fair bit of playing time for Jaro as injuries have piled up and has looked a strong defender in the brief time I’ve seen him play.

Jyri Kiuru – has started two consecutive games for SJK under Brian Page – I’m not a huge fan to be honest, but on the other hand, me being a fan hasn’t really helped Rony Huhtala either, so who knows.

Altin Zeqiri – moved to Lahti during the summer, has played a little, and has looked sharp.

Thanks for reading, the final list of the season will appear in about a month, so follow me on Twitter to get it fresh out of the oven!


One thought on “2019 Finnish League Prospects Power Ranking – September update

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