The next team up in the Flyers’ World Cup of Hockey will be Sweden’s close neighbors, Finland, home to some of the best Flyers of all time, and a lot of hockey players internationally (hello if you’re reading this Artturi and Sami). The Flyers have had quite a few players from the nation, though not a staggering amount, with many being incredibly memorable, for both positive and negative reasons.
Let us now take a look at our team Finland:
G - Antero Nittymaki
Ah, good ol’ Nitty.
He was in fact the only option since he is the only Finnish goaltender to ever appear for the Flyers, and had an up and down career. He was very successful in the AHL, having won the Calder Cup with the Phantoms in 2005, even winning playoff MVP. Then, in the NHL, he saw moderate success but ultimately struggled with both injuries and poor form. He, however, did set a Flyer record for most saves in a single game in 2008, making 54 saves against the Maple Leafs.
In 5 seasons with the Flyers, Nittymaki played in 161 games, compiling a 0.901% save percentage, 3.01 GAA, and winning 62 games.
LD - Kimmo Timonen
By far the best player on this list, Kimmo Timonen was an anchor of the Flyers’ blue line for seven seasons, having been traded to the Flyers along with Scott Hartnell in return for Nashville’s first round pick the Flyers had acquired in the Peter Forsberg trade.
Timonen was an immensely skilled offensive defenseman who was a stalwart on the power play, having scored 270 points in 519 games as a Flyer. He is almost certainly one of the best defenseman to ever lace up skates for this organization, and was a fan favorite. He would end his career after the 2014-15, where he won the Stanley Cup after having been traded to Chicago.
RD - Joni Pitkanen
He may not have been a Flyer for long, but Pitkanen was an iconic Flyer of the mid 2000’s. He was taken fourth overall in the 2002 NHL draft, and taking that into account, the result was disappointing, but not disastrous. He was a key component of the power play, and was a member of the 2003-04 all rookie team.
Ultimately, Pitkanen would only play three seasons with the Flyers, however, scoring 116 points in 206 games, and would retire from hockey early after a heel injury.
LW - Sami Kapanen
The speedy winger spent five seasons in the Orange and Black during the 2000’s, and featured in some iconic franchise moments. Many will remember the Flyers’ 2003-04 playoff series against the Maple Leafs, where unfortunately Sami Kapanen struggled after sustaining a heavy hit, only for moments later, Jeremy Roenick to score top shelf to send the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Kapanen was never a point machine, but rather an auxiliary player whose speed caused problems for opposition. In 311 games with the Flyers, Kapanen scored 110 points.
C - Valtteri Filppula
Well, the Flyers have only had two Finnish centers who actually played more than half a season with the club. Other than Filppila, the only other player on that list is.....
Valtteri it is. At least Filppula was somewhat useful.
RW - Illka Sinisalo
I had written the following on Sinisalo previously:
In Finland, playing for HIFK (Helsinki), Sinisalo forged his reputation as a reliable goal scorer. However, he largely went unnoticed as NHL teams did not scout heavily in Finland at the time. Despite this, the Flyers signed Sinisalo as a free agent, and he would go on to lead the franchise in goals from a European born player, netting 199 times in nine seasons. Ilkka’s shot was both accurate and speedy allowing him to score 30+ goals twice, as shown in this clip from 1982 against the Hartford Whalers:
Sinisalo was a key component of the Flyers’ teams in the 1980’s, and he scored 409 points in 526 games with the club over nine seasons. He was one of the most important players during the Flyers’ playoff runs in the decade, and will forever be remembered as a great goal scorer and trailblazer for Finnish hockey players in the NHL.
Honorable Mentions: Ville Leino, Janne Niinima