The return of the World Cup of Hockey has been an undertone throughout this season. It hasn’t been the main focus, because the tournament isn’t until September – but its presence has been felt, particularly as nations (or Team Europes, or Team North Americans Under 23 Years Old, which are not actually nations) have begun building their teams.
Initial team rosters were released all the way back on March 2, just after the trade deadline and long before we knew who the teams playing for the Stanley Cup would be – but those rosters were not yet completed.
Today, they are. And in the first announcement of the day, Jyrki Jokipakka has officially joined Team Finland.
Kevin wasn’t one of the first 16 players named to the team, as the first four Finnish defencemen chosen were former Texas Stars teammate Esa Lindell, Olli Maatta, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Sami Vatanen. It’s quite a young group Jokipakka has been named to – he, along with Vatanen, will be an elder statesman for the blueline at 25 years of age when the puck drops.
The other Finnish defencemen named to the team are Sami Lepisto (at 31, the real old man of the group) and Ville Pokka.
Jokipakka has played for Team Finland before, most notably in the U19s and U20s. He scored three points in six games as the Finns went on to a disappointing sixth place finish in the World Juniors back in 2011.
He first came over to North America in the 2013-14 season. Initially selected in the seventh round, 195th overall in the 2011 draft by the Dallas Stars, the 6’3, 215 lb. defenceman went on to play a full season for their AHL club, the Texas Stars. He graduated to the NHL the following year, and was officially a full-time NHLer by 2015-16 when the Stars traded him to the Flames in exchange for Kris Russell.
Since coming to Calgary, Jokipakka has scored six assists over 18 games, and averaged 17:54 while playing. His responsibilities have increased with his new team, as he’ll likely spend the upcoming season stabilizing the bottom pairing for the Flames.
He’s not the most exciting player – but if he ends up being a quality depth piece, as he hopefully will for the Finns as well, then he’ll be more than welcome in the lineup.