Which of these NHL forwards will ‘Finnish’ with most goals this season?

Watch as Patrik Laine scores his 28th goal of the season as the Winnipeg Jets took the lead against the Arizona Coyotes. Blake Wheeler picked up his 60th assist on the goal.

If you’ve ever scrolled through hockey reddit you’ll know it’s a place where plenty of fascinating stats, facts, observations, GIFs, tidbits and random thoughts get posted from fans worldwide on a daily basis.

One user pointed out that after Thursday’s slate of games Mikko Rantanen, Sebastian Aho, Aleksander Barkov and Patrik Laine are tied for top spot among forwards from Finland with 29 goals, so it had us wondering which of those players has the best chance to complete the season on top?

Laine is the only Finnish player to reach the 30-goal plateau since Teemu Selanne did it for the 10th and final time of his career in 2011. This year, barring injury or a staggering season-ending cold streak, at least four Finns will get there – something that has never happened before in NHL history.

Prior to the season, the Winnipeg Jets sniper was among the odds-on favourites to win the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. The 2016 second-overall pick had a modest start to the season with three goals in the opening 12 games but November saw him score a whopping 18 times in 12 games, including this memorable five-goal performance against the Blues.

Laine went ice cold after that stellar month, though, scoring just four times in the next 36 games. He has gotten back on track with four goals and eight points in the past seven games. It’ll be a stretch for him to match the 44 he scored one year ago but Laine is more than capable of going on a hot streak, especially considering he skates on a line with elite playmakers Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.

Carolina Hurricanes eccentric owner Tom Dundon said after his team failed to qualify for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs that some major roster changes were coming but that one player was untouchable. That player was Aho and the breakout campaign he’s in the midst of has reflected well on his owner dubbing him the de facto franchise player. Aho finished last season with 29 goals in 78 games. It took him 66 games to reach 29 goals this year. He has scored in four straight after snapping a 10-game drought.

Rantanen has a 10-point lead on Aho for most points among Finns, so the overall scoring race should be his, but based on games remaining and trajectory his path to the Finnish goal title is most difficult. Rantanen only has six goals in his past 20 games but is still being productive on an elite line beside Colorado Avalanche teammates Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon, however the Avs will be in tough down the stretch with Landeskog expected to miss the next 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury.

The 23-year-old Barkov is the elder statesman of this quartet. The Florida Panthers centre set a new career high when he registered his 29th in Thursday’s heartbreaking loss to the Bruins and is on a serious heater with 10 goals in his past 11 outings, one of which was a legitimate goal of the year candidate.

The success of the four players above is symbolic of the Finnish revolution the NHL is currently seeing.

Last year, 33 Finns suited up for at least one NHL game; this year 41 have seen action. Last year 13 Finns scored double-digit goals; this year there have already been 12 with four players within two goals of doing it.

A Finnish player has been a top-three selection at the NHL Draft for three years running (Laine in 2016, Miro Heiskanen in 2017, Jesperi Kotkaniemi in 2018) and that trend should continue with Kaapo Kakko, the consensus No. 2 prospect eligible for the 2019 draft behind American Jack Hughes.

The country’s hockey momentum doesn’t appear as if it’s going to be slowing down anytime soon, so considering everything above, what say you?

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