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Leafs prospect Roni Hirvonen shines on opening day of World Juniors

Yesterday the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship kicked off in Edmonton with three games including all three of the Leafs prospects participating in the tournament.

Slovakia vs Czechia (No Leafs Prospects)

The opening game of the tournament featured Slovakia taking on Czechia in a game that featured no Leafs prospects. Slovakia put in a tough fight however they weren’t quite able to overcome the favourite heading into the game. The Czechs scored a late goal with less than two minutes left in the game to secure the 5-4 victory.

Finland vs Latvia (Finland - C Roni Hirvonen, RD Topi Niemela)

The second game of the day saw two Leafs prospects from Finland (Topi Niemela and Roni Hirvonen) take on an underdog Latvian team.

Former Leafs third round pick and current captain of the Finnish world junior national team Roni Hirvonen wasted no time getting himself on the score sheet in this tournament.

Hirvonen made two fantastic cross ice passes that led directly to goals for Finland which put them up 2-0 after the first period. He followed that up by scoring a skilled goal demonstrating his patience on the puck when he out-waited the slide of the Latvian goalie and shifted the puck from his forehand to his backhand and deposited it into the wide-open net.

Hirvonen finished the game with 1 goal, 2 assists, and 7 shots on goal.

Topi Niemela (former Leafs 3rd round pick) also played a solid game of defence for Finland in pursuit of their 6-1 win to start the tournament on a great note.

USA vs Germany (USA - C/LW Matthew Knies)

The final game of the day took place between the USA and Germany which featured Matthew Knies, a highly touted former second round pick of the Leafs.

Although Knies didn’t find his name on the score sheet with any goals or assists, his presence was still felt within the American squad.

Measuring in at 6’3” and 205 lbs, Matthew Knies is not hard to notice in a tournament like this especially after having played against grown men in the Olympics earlier in the year. His physical presence combined with his quick hands and high hockey IQ makes Knies a constant threat at both ends of the ice.

Knies wasn’t able to register any points in last night’s game however he occupied a spot in front of the net on the US powerplay where he made life difficult for the German goaltender leading to the first American goal. Knies also finished the game with 4 shots on goal.

Prospect Information

Roni Hirvonen (FIN ‘C’)

-Picked: 2020 Round 2 - #59 overall

-Position: C

-Age: 20

-Height: 5’9”

-Weight: 172 lbs

-Currently Playing: Liiga - Kärpät

Topi Niemela (FIN)

-Picked: 2020 Round 3 - #64 overall

-Position: RD

-Age: 20

-Height: 5’11”

-Weight: 170 lbs

-Currently Playing: Liiga - HIFK

Matthew Knies (USA)

-Picked: 2021 Round 2 - #57 overall

-Position: C/LW

-Age: 19

-Height: 6’3”

-Weight: 205 lbs

-Currently Playing: NCAA - University of Minnesota

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