Welcome back to Next Ones, an ongoing series examine each one of the Penguins top prospects. This week’s edition is all about the pens 2014 first-round draft pick, Kasperi Kapanen.
Birthplace – Kuipio, Finland
Hight – 6’0
Weight- 18o lbs
2013/14 Stats: 47 games, 7 goals, 7 assists, -8
Team: (KalPa, SM-Liiga)
If it seems like years since the Penguins have had a high-profile prospect at the forward position, that’s because it has been years.
Kapanen is the first forward Pittsburgh has drafted in the first round since Beau Bennett in 2010, and just the fourth forward they’ve drafted in the first three rounds overall in that time.
If Pittsburgh was looking for a skilled forward with top-six potential, then Kapanen was the perfect choice. The 18 year old had some of the slickest hands and quickest feet of any forward in his draft year, which he put to good use playing for KalPa in the Finnish Elite League this season.
Pretty stuff, right?
Like I said, speed, agility, and an elite-level wrist shot are Kapanen biggest attributes. And although he is small by NHL standards, his ability to avoid checks and make defenders miss is second to none. Any time you hear scouts describe his game, the word “slippery” usually comes into play.
Having said that, he does have some major areas for improvement. While he has excellent hockey awareness, packing an extra five or ten pounds of muscle onto his frame would be of certain benefit. He’s used to playing against men in Finland, but the NHL is a whole different level entirely.
Playing a more team-centirc, pro style game would also benefit him greatly in breaking into the NHL. His stats (7 goals, 7 assists in 47 games) don’t exactly jump of the page at you taken without context.
But consider this: KalPa, the team he plays for in Finland, is awful–like, dead last in their league awful, and at just 17 years of age, he was far and away the best player on his team. Yes, he only had 14 points, but Kalpa’s leading scorer finished the season with just 20. Put him on a team with some legitimate talent and the sky is the limit.
He impressed everyone in attendance at the Penguins prospect development scrimmage last week, and many are saying that he has a real shot to make the team out of training camp.
His story parallels that of teammate and countrymen Olli Maatta. Coming into training camp, Maatta was told he had little shot to make the team, but Maatta blew everyone away every time he stepped on the ice, and made the team as a result.
Kapanen will have to do the same thing, and so far he has.
And while he is young even for his class, Kapanen’s maturity is unrivaled. After all, he grew up in America watching his father, Sami Kapanen play in the NHL for twelve years.
He know’s what it takes to make it in the NHL, and I suspect that that, more than any natural talent, could be his biggest attribute going forward.