The first sentence of Kasperi Kapanen’s Wikipedia entry is “Kasperi Kapanen is a Finnish ice hockey player.” Generally, that’s enough to make me actually want a player. I don’t think the Canucks have ever played a Finnish player that I disliked, from Jyrki Lumme and Esa Tikkanen in the 1990s to Jarkko Ruutu and Sami Salo in the 2000s.
As for his actual hockey playing capabilities, which I kind of have to bring up because I usually dislike judging players based on their passports, EliteProspects calls him “small and slippery with creative hands and impressive 1-on-1 arsenal” which makes me wonder why he decided to stick it out in Finland rather than commit to joining a Canadian Hockey League club. He seems like the kind of player that would have a bit more success on the smaller ice.
KASPERI KAPANEN – KalPa (Finland)
Weight: 174 lbs
Birthdate: July 23 1996
Kapanen is the appropriate height and weight for a 17-year-old consuming any and all affordable protein supplements in an effort to bulk up. He’s not going to worry too many defenders due to his size as he breaks into North American pro hockey, recording just 10 penalty minutes in 62 games in all competitions this past season, but I imagine, as with Kevin Fiala, that “talent” is a more difficult commodity to find than “ability to take stupid penalties”.
Kapanen, as you probably know, is the son of former NHLer Sami Kapanen, who played 11-and-a-half seasons in the NHL, scoring 458 points in 831 games. Sami was also a smallish forward who had a lot of longterm success in the NHL, and his son Kasperi is already bigger than him, so I don’t think size should be anybody’s issue.
The main concern anybody has is “well, if Kapanen is such a skilled player, why didn’t he produce a lot in Finland this year?” Kalpa scored a league-low 101 goals this season, 33 fewer than any other team (in a league where scoring isn’t particularly high anyway, one goal every two games behind the second worst team is pretty bad). Not all of that reflects poorly on Kapanen, the team’s youngest player, who also missed some time this year to a shoulder injury. Kapanen was actually on Finland’s eventual gold medal-winning World Junior roster, but was hurt in the week leading up to the event.
So, yes, for a player with such supposed dynamic offensive ability, I’m sure we’d prefer some numbers to back that up, but he is pretty tempting at pick No. 6. I think his game is better suited to the smaller ice, since deking around a defender from the half boards means he’d be set up right in the slot as opposed to at the top of the circle.
Anyway, here’s a highlight from Kapanen. It’s as nice of a goal as you’ll see from any draft-eligible prospect this spring, and the best camera angle too:
Meanwhile, Kapanen’s home town is Kuopio, known as the cultural capital of Eastern Finland. It was there that English poet laureate Michael Palin was inspired to write the following song about Finland, which has since been adopted as the country’s unofficial national anthem: