The new season is upon us! The Finnish cup started last Saturday and the winter transfer window closed the previous Monday – for leagues with a winter-centric schedule – so, while there will likely be a bit of roster turnover before the end of the Finnish window, now would be as good a time as any to have a look at the status of the prospects playing in the top two tiers of the Finnish league system.
Since I last wrote one of my power rankings, some things have changed: FLPR alumns Ilmari Niskanen and Lauri Ala-Myllymäki have moved to the 3. Bundesliga and Serie B respectively, one of the top goalkeeping prospects Matias Riikonen has moved to FC Copenhagen and all three prospects from last seasons list (residing in my head) – Naatan Skyttä, Albion Ademi and Elias Mastokangas – have made moves, with Mastokangas, strangely, only moving on loan to IFK Mariehamn, remaining available for selection on this here platform. Maksim Stjopin has also transferred to FC Nordsjaelland, although he only played barely a game’s worth of minutes in 2020 so wouldn’t have appeared on this initial list anyway.
Some other FLPR favorites have also found new homes: Anthony Olusanya has moved to HJK (and will probably line up for Klubi 04 at Ykkönen level next season), Severi Kähkönen has moved to AC Oulu, Anttoni Huttunen has moved to KTP where he will line up with Matias Tamminen who was signed by Inter and then loaned to Kotka. Juho Hyvärinen has gone to Inter, Niklas Pyyhtiä to Honka, Axel Vidjeskog to KuPS, Nooa Laine to SJK and… almost everyone else has moved to Ilves. It might sound like an exaggeration, but their list of signings so far goes: Teemu Jäntti, Kalle Katz, Rasmus Leislahti, Tuomas Ollila, Momodou Sarr, Maximo Tolonen and Eetu Vertainen – that’s 7 names who have appeared on the list – some higher than others – who remain eligible for selection. At the very least, it saves me some scheduling problems.
What the above means, is a fairly thorough hoovering of the best domestic Ykkönen talent from the last couple of seasons. Whether it is a legitimate change in strategy by the clubs (which I doubt is the case, apart from Ilves) or just something that has been forced upon them by evermore tightened purse strings is anyone’s guess. The proof will be in the playing time allocation, and if the past is any indication, there will be some good players available for loan come the summer. What it also means is that the pool has been drained to some extent. There will obviously be space for more prospects to break through as the season progresses, but that is dependent on the existence of said prospects.
Some players had seasons to forget in 2020, for one reason or another. For example Matti Peltola missed almost all of the season to injury, and so will not appear on the initial list. Another highly touted Klubi midfielder, Santeri Väänänen, was also injured for such a long part of last season that I’ll give him a more conservative grade to start with on purpose and revise once he gets on the pitch and shows the injury problems are behind him. Under the surface, there were also some impressive performances in low minutes by young players in 2020. Names like Kai Meriluoto and Casper Terho won’t appear on this list due to the low playing time, but expectations on their likes are high, and the bar for playing time quite low.
Let’s brush up on the specs: I’m only covering players owned by a team in Finland, so notable loanees 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 2021 is 21). A reminder that I’ll be 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. In this first edition, I’ll be using data from 2020 as the basis for the ranking, but as the season progresses the performances in the impending season’s games will be the lone contributing factor. This means that a lot of high profile youth internationals, or guys who have done well in friendlies or the early rounds of the Finnish cup, won’t get a mention until they’ve clocked some minutes in either of the top two league tiers.
As an addition to the previous format, I’ve added a tiering/grading system. The purpose of it, is to create a more realistic separation between rankings. In reality, the difference between #3 and #4 might be bigger than the difference between #4 and #30, which can be difficult to convey in a list of 50 so by attaching the players to tiers, the true talent levels will be better illustrated. The tiers represent my view of the player’s peak potential, and goes as follows:
A – Player has the potential to be a regular player for an elite team (e.g. Lukas Hradecky, Teemu Pukki)
B – Player has the potential to be a regular for a good but not elite team (e.g. Tim Sparv, Kasper Hämäläinen)
C – Player has the potential to have a multi year career abroad, but will mostly play for ok teams in ok leagues (e.g. Roope Riski, Petteri Forsell)
D – Player has the potential to go abroad for a little while, but will fail to make an impact and will spend his late twenties in Finland (e.g. Dani Hatakka, Petteri Pennanen)
E – Player has the potential to play at Veikkausliiga level (e.g. Ville Saxman, Loorents Hertsi)
F – Player has the potential to play at Ykkönen level, potentially with some occasional Veikkausliiga apps (e.g. Kalle Multanen, Aleksi Pahkasalo)
To add nuance to the tiering, I will attach +/- to the grades. The idea is to fit the grades to the talent distribution: there won’t be many A grades, because very few A level players tend to play at this level. I’ll also add a variance to the tier, this will illustrate how certain I am of the player’s potential. It will be highly correlated with age and career playing time, but can also be affected by playing time issues (injuries, poor management) or physical profile (if you have loud physical tools, you can be forgiven a lot more weaknesses than if you don’t). You can think of it as the range of outcomes: a C level player with high variance could become anything from an A to an E, feasibly.
I’ve also cut down on the amount of text per player – this makes it easier for me to whip the list together, and will maybe allow me to expand on any particularly interesting player in separate posts. Alright, here goes.
|Rank:||Player name:||Team:||2021 ageseason:||Position:||Tier:||Variance:|
|1||Elias Mastokangas||IFK Mariehamn (Inter)||20||AM||C+||Medium|
|2||Niklas Pyyhtiä||FC Honka (TPS)||18||AM||C+||High|
|4||Miika Koskela||AC Oulu||17||CB||C||Medium|
|6||Altin Zeqiri||FC Lahti||21||RW||C||Medium|
|8||Jeremiah Streng||HIFK (SJK)||20||CF||C||Medium|
|15||Severi Kähkönen||AC Oulu||21||AM/CF||C-||High|
|18||Matias Tamminen||KTP (Inter)||20||CF||D||Medium|
|19||Matias Niemelä||Klubi 04 (HJK)||19||GK||D||Medium|
|30||Niklas Jokelainen||AC Oulu||21||CF||E||Medium|
|50||Johannes Kytilä||Klubi 04||21||CB||E-||Low|
Thanks for reading, make sure to follow me on Twitter and let me know why *your* favorite player should have been included!