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August 18, 2013 | 8:40pm ET
Olympic outlook: Finland
Tab Bamford takes a look at what the 2014 Finnish Winter Olympic team could look like.

CHICAGO, IL -- Last week, we started looking ahead to the 2014 Winter Olympics by evaluating how the United States' roster might look in Sochi. Now, it's time to look at how Finland's roster might take shape in February.

In 2010, Finland finished on the medal stand, defeating Slovakia 5-3 in the bronze medal game. They had a good tournament, led by Minnesota netminder Niklas Backstrom and forward Niklas Hagman, who scored a team-leading four goals in six games in Vancouver. Three years later, the likely roster has not changed much for the Finnish, who could be looking at these Olympics being the final push from an older group of stars.

One player from the 2010 team, defenseman Toni Lydman, is expected to retire and a few others players -- specifically Teemu Selanne -- could be taking their final tour around the NHL. How will age play a factor in Finland's attempt to improve on their bronze?

Returning Goaltender: Niklas Backstrom
Additions: Pekka Rinne (s), Antti Niemi

Finland could be as strong between the pipes as any roster in Sochi. Rinne projects as the likely starter, but it's hard to discount Backstrom leading the team to the bronze in 2010 and Niemi winning the Stanley Cup a few months later as a member of the Blackhawks.

Health is a major concern looking forward, though, as Rinne and Backstrom finished their 2013 seasons injured. If one of these three is injured, Finland could look to Tuukka Rask, Kari Lehtonen or Antti Raanta (who signed with Chicago this spring). Indeed, it could be hard to keep Rask off the roster even with Backstrom, Niemi and Rinne available.

Returning Defensemen: Kimmo Timmonen, Sami Salo, Joni Pitkanen, Lasse Kukkonen, Sami Lepisto
Additions: Teemu Laakso, Ossi Vaananen

Likely to be one of the older bluelines in the 2014 Games, Finland will have a lot of veteran leadership returning from their 2010 squad. They could bring back almost their entire group from 2010 if Lydman wants to represent his country a few months after stepping away from the NHL. Laakso and Vaananen, a second round pick of the Coyotes in 1998 with 479 NHL games on his resume, could be the two that fill in the back end.

Laakso, who will turn 26 later in August, registered nine points in 49 games for Cherepovets Severstal of the KHL last year. He has played in 17 NHL games, most recently nine with Nashville during the 2011-12 season. Vaananen, who turned 33 today, has spent the last three seasons with Jokerit Helsinki (SM-liiga), where he was a teammate of Jarkko Ruutu, Erik Karlsson and Valtteri Filppula during the lockout.

Returning Forwards: Teemu Selanne, Mikko Koivu, Saku Koivu, Valterri Filppula, Niklas Hagman, Tuomo Ruutu, Jarkko Ruutu, Olli Jokinen, Antti Miettinen
Additions: Jussi Jokinen, Sean Bergenheim, Lori Korpikoski, Mikael Granlund

Finland will have a group of forwards loaded with international experience. As was the case on the blueline, there won't be many available spots for new faces, but there are a few that stand out as quality candidates. Jokinen, Bergenheim and Korpikoski have been productive at the NHL level since the 2010 Games, and should fit in nicely.

The wild card in Granlund, who, at 21, could be the son of a few of his potential teammates; Selanne played his first NHL game with Winnipeg the year Granlund was born. But he's a dynamic player who could lead the next generation for Finland.

Tab Bamford is a Columnist for The Fourth Period Magazine. Be sure to follow him on Twitter.
 

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