Rasmus Kupari had a strong performance at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament that saw him post seven points in four games for the Finns. It created some hype around him as a prospect entering his draft season but four of those points came against the Slovaks.
He entered the year as a consensus top 10 pick but has seen his stock slowly slip into the teens. There is no doubt that he has first-round talent and upside that will have his name called in the first round in Dallas.
He might’ve been passed by players with more sizzle to their season but Kupari is a very talented centre with good underlying numbers a teenager in the Liiga.
- Age/Birthdate: 17.50/ March 15, 2000
- Birthplace: Kotka, FIN
- Frame:5-foot-11/ 163 lbs
- Draft Year Team:Karpat(Liiga)
- U16 Pohjola Camp Roster (Titaanit)
- Jr. B SM-sarja Bronze Medal
- U18 WJC Silver Medal
- Jr. A SM-liiga Silver Medal
- SM-liiga Champion
- U18 WJC Gold Medal
Kupari was selected in the 2nd round of the CHL Import Draft by the Sault St Marie Greyhounds but opted to remain in Finland and made the leap to the Liiga after starting the year in the lower leagues. He is expected to have a full-time role with Karpat next season after seeing some time in the Mestis and Jr A Sm-Liiga last season.
He represented Finland at Ivan Hlinka, U18’s and U20 World Juniors this season.
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Despite not standing out in terms of percentiles, there are some really encouraging signs in terms of his numbers. He posted a really impressive GF% with his time in Liiga. He stands out in terms of SEAL and XLS%, which isn’t surprising given that he was a teenager spending most of the year in the top league in Finland and those goals for percentage is a cherry on top.
Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)
For the most part, he performed well with his most common line-mates.
Kupari was in a depth role, ending up as the third line centre, but produced extremely well with the ice time given to him.
Kupari sees 40.4% of his cohorts going onto becoming NHL regulars and he outscored almost all of his matches. They have an expected production of 43.2 points per 82 games.
Although he has seen his draft stock slightly slip as the season went on, it’s not due to how well Kupari played.
He is a super skilled centre who is agile on skates and uses those attributes to create offence in a variety of ways. He is uber quick with the puck on his stick and is able to create separation through quick dekes and a long reach.
Despite being on the smaller side, he isn’t afraid to take the puck to the front of the net or plant himself there for some re-directions or rebounds. Rolling off coverage to then attack into a different space or lane.
The Kotka native isn’t fast but uses that agility to charge into the offensive zone and push the offence – when he is on the ice, he likes to have the offence go through him. Although he lacks that high-end speed, he is very aware of what is going on and can burn his opponent when the smallest of chances arise through his puck movement in passing or dekes.
Kupari is willing to be physical on the puck along the boards in the offensive zone while never giving up on a play.
Despite the slight stature, Kupari is effective in the defensive zone by using his active stick, agility, and awareness to disrupt passing lanes. He does this in a way that he doesn’t have to physically engage when it isn’t needed. Just a quick cut into the passing lane to chip the puck out of danger, he retrieves it and then moves it out quickly. He would be more effective if he was willing to take the body in the defensive zone as he has shown in the offensive zone.
The hype train likely created unreal expectations for Kupari entering this season. He is a skilled prospect who will rightfully go in the middle part of the first round. He has a high-end upside as a complete player who can create offence in a variety of ways. The fact that he worked his way up to the Liiga this season and posted some encouraging scoring rates and underlying numbers should help his cause.
He had an up and down season, in terms of his varied performances at international tournaments, but is effective in all three zones to lead you to believe that he will be effective middle six centre in the NHL.
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From Future Considerations:
Decent-sized centerman, he shows good overall skating, with powerful strides. His top speed is decent and he’s quite agile on his skates. Helping matters, he keeps his feet moving when forechecking. With a long reach and his ability to read the ice, he showed that he is good at pressuring puck carriers and disrupting their flow, even pickpocketing them on occasion. But his strength is offense. And scouts consider him a catalyst in that regard. That’s his approach and he was anticipating potential passing lanes and frequently he’s able to position himself for a quick transition. He’s got decent puckhandling skills and was never afraid one-on-one to challenge a defender. Also, he’s willing to skate the puck to the net. Without the puck, he’s content to set up screens at the crease’s edge and get into position for deflections. At short range, he’s got a deadly touch. He’s a natural at the defensive side of the game. When backchecking, he is constantly on the hunt for a man to pick up. Positionally, he is very aware of his defensive responsibilities, whether he’s playing the wing or center. Committed as he is in his own zone, he could stand to upgrade his intensity and use his body more to disrupt the attackers, instead of only trying to cut down passing lanes. But there is plenty to like about his game
Kupari is a highly skilled, playmaking center. He is undersized, but is a strong skater with a high hockey IQ and hockey sense that makes him a dangerous offensive player and a reliable defensive player. Kupari started his draft year with a solid showing for Finland at the Ivan Hlinka scoring two goals and seven points in four games. He started the season playing at the pro level in Liiga despite being drafted by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at the CHL Import Draft, but after struggling somewhat with 12 points in 35 games was subsequently loaned to Hermes in the Mestis. Don’t be discouraged by this apparent set back as an undersized 17-year-old, undersized player it simply means Kupari needs more development time before he is pro ready. Kupari was also included on the Finnish World Junior team as an underage player, but was held pointless despite displaying his high skill set. Kupari has a high ceiling, and drawing comparisons to countryman Sebastian Aho gives you an indication of his upside, but he is a long term investment.
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CanucksArmy’s 2018 NHL Draft Rankings