Finland has added to its managerial group for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, naming Columbus Blue Jackets GM general manager Jarmo Kekalainen as an assistant to GM Jari Kurri.
“Being involved in the Olympics is anyone’s dream in ice hockey.” Kekelainen told IIHF.com. “I didn’t have to think much about my answer when Erkka [Westerlund, head coach] called me.”
The Finns, who captured silver in 2006 and bronze in 2010, are once again expected to challenge for a medal and will benefit from Kekalainen’s keen eye. He’s already blazed trail as the first European GM in NHL history and has gained a reputation throughout the league as a tremendous scout and talent evaluator.
According to NHL European scouting director Goran Stubb, Kekalainen will be responsible for scouting Finns in the NHL before joining the team in Sochi.
“I have watched most of the current players since they were drafted, except the 2011 and 2012 draft years, when I only followed players coming out of Finland. Players like [Chicago prospect] Teuvo Teräväinen,” Kekalainen explained. “Of course the players have matured as players and as people, but at least I have some knowledge of their fundamental character traits,”
Loaded with talent in goal (Tuukka Rask, Antti Niemi, Pekka Rinne, Kari Lehtonen, Niklas Backstrom), the Finns will need to find some depth on defense as veterans Toni Lydman (concussion) and Joni Pitkanen (heel) are currently out of action and won’t be ready to play.