So, what has Finland provided us besides mountains so lofty and tree tops so tall? As far as international play goes, Finland has always been one of the toughest teams to play against, perfectly happy (and often wildly enthusiastic) to grind teams down against the glass or give them splinters in the coccyx.
People trying to intimidate early NHL arrivals like Jari Kurri would get an incredulous look right before he scored five points against you; those attempting to intimidate Esa Tikkanen or Christian Ruutu would get a rude awakening and occasionally a face full of stick.
What I'm saying is that these were Europeans who rarely had trouble adjusting to the supposedly "rougher" NHL (though I'm half convinced the earliest players to cross the pond were scouts and information gatherers for Nokia to build their SelanneBot(tm)). And those players were rarely one-dimentional, mixing a healthy dose of talent to go with pure evil in various amounts to find success in North America.
Some of that talent ended up with the Vancouver Canucks, and we've got three here to prove it (with some startlingly good trades to boot!). Ironically, none are known for rough-edged play or intimidating physicality, but we were happy to have them all the same.
Your nominees are:
"Streak-o" Skriko was grace on skates - he had a fluid stride and a stupidly accurate shot: in his second season here, he scored on nearly 20% of the shots he took, getting 38 goals in 80 games. He hit the 30 goal mark in each of the next three seasons, eventually finishing his Canucks career with 373 points in 472 games, and 11 short handed goals, good for 6th all time. This 8th round pick(!) was eventually traded for Mike Peca, which is hardly a down side.
"The Fragile Finn" is arguably the best all-around defender Vancouver's ever had: his blistering shot made him the far-and-away leader in power play goals from a defenceman with 48, and he is one of the all time leaders in points with 256 in just 566 games. The 6'3" Salo was also excellent at clearing the front of the net and was an underrated hitter, but he was pure business in his own end: just 202 minutes in penalties despite his effective play kept him where he was most valuable: on the ice. Missing over 150 games due to injury is a consideration, and ultimately why he wasn't re-signed here. He's also the product of a rather one-sided trade, coming from Ottawa in exchange for utility forward Peter Schaefer: a perfectly good player, but not Sami Salo.
Skriko was smooth, but Lumme could skate like poured gold. He gave the Cancuks a defender who could carry the puck out of his own zone, pass it to a forward, then end up in front of the net to tip in the shot. He totaled 83 goals (with a team leading 6 of those short handed) and 321 total points in 579 games, good for second best in team history. Granted, he may have gotten those numbers by playing as much in front of the opponents' net as his own, but his defense is not what he's remembered here for. Heck, he still ended his time here a +21, so that hides his defensive flaws, right? The trade that got him was also a good one: a second round pick to Montreal, and Vancouver got their second highest scoring defender.
Two players left off the list were fantastically talented uber-nightmare Esa Tikkanen (when even Wayne Gretzky can't think of something nice to say about you? You're a bad, bad man) and former Canuck and Pestilence understudy Jarkko Ruutu.
Despite abilities, penalty numbers, and over all calm demeanor, these three are the the representatives for Finland from the Vancouver Canucks. Who's best?