Islanders prospect healthy scratch for Team Finland
New York Islanders prospect Matias Rajaniemi has been designated as a healthy scratch for Team Finland’s preliminary game against Team Switzerland.
The New York Islanders only have two players who suited for their respective nations at the World Juniors Championships in Edmonton. Simon Holmstrom is representing Team Sweden while 2020 sixth-round pick Matias Rajaniemi is representing Team Finland.
But for Team Finland’s second preliminary game, against Team Switzerland, the 6’4″ Rajaniemi was listed as a healthy scratch for the Finnish side.
Going into the tournament Team Finland GM Kimmo Oikarinen told me that Matias had a role to play for the team and that his role would likely grow in the tournament. Two games in, Matias went from playing 3:51 in a 5-3 over Germany in Game 1 to not playing at all.
Oikarinen’s words before the tournament should be seen as a GM trying to manage expectations for a player who was always going to be the seventh man.
Rajaniemi is the only blueliner for Team Finland who’s consistently played at a senior level. He’s played at the SM-Liiga level against men for the last two years, but even there he’s seen his ice-time dwindle.
In 19-20, Rajaniemi was routinely on the ice for 22+ minutes for the Lahti Pelicans. This year he’s averaging around 13:36 a night. Even at the senior level, the Islanders sixth-round pick from 2020 features little. That was certainly going to impact Team Finland’s decisions when it came to the blueline.
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Rajaniemi, who only turned 18 on September 11, of this year, could still find his way into a game at the premier under-20 international tournament. Team Finland still have to play Team Slovakia on December 30 before ending their preliminary schedule against Canada on New Year’s Eve.