The average 17-18 year old person has many options when it comes to their future. Many chose to attend college to pursue a degree of their choice, while others head into the military or working field.
For 17-year old Kasperi Kapanen, taking up hockey for a living and continuing the family tradition was an easy choice.
Kasperi’s grandfather, Hannu, played five seasons with Jokerit and HIFK in Finland, and also represented Suomi at the 1976 Canada Cup and 1976 Olympics. Even his Uncle, Kimmo, and Great uncle, Jari, played professionally in Finland and Europe.
For the second straight season, Kapanen has the pleasure of calling his father a teammate and linemate on the ice. The 5’11, 172-pound right wing made his Finnish Elite League debut with Kalpa last season registering four goals in 13 regular season games. He also added one assist and a plus-1 rating in four playoff games. However, it was at the international level last season where Kapanen turned heads.
He led Finland with three goals and nine points in five games played at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Drummondville/Victoriaville Quebec. Kapanen then had an outstanding performance at 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Sochi, where he was second among all players with five goals. He also scored the game-winning goal in the bronze medal game against Russia.
This season with Kalpa, Kapanen scored seven goals and 14 points in 47 games played. He had to overcome an injury that barred him from competing for Finland at the 2014 WJC. Despite his injury, he remains a top prospect because very few players possess his top-end puck handling skills.
NHL Central Scouting ranks Kapanen as their top European skater, while ISS Hockey lists Kapanen as their 13th best prospect for their March draft rankings. TSN’s Bob McKenzie has the speedy sniper as his ninth best prospect in his mid-season draft rankings.
Just like his father, Kapanen is small and slippery. He’s not as gritty as his Dad, however, his hockey sense, elite speed, and craftiness with the puck are impressive in a draft class that has very few game changers.That reason alone will make Kapanen a coveted commodity by many.
He’s not the most dynamic player, but his knowledge of the game and knack for being around the puck makes him one of the draft's most dangerous snipers. One-on-one there are not many players that stack up to Kapanen’s ability. Obviously, he’ll need to continue to get stronger as he only weighs in around 170 pounds.
I see Kapanen as a potential top five pick depending on the team. A team like the New York Islanders comes to mind right away. Right now though, I have him pegged in my 11-17 range. How neat would it be if the Hurricanes selected Kapanen? He began skating at the age of four after Hartford relocated to North Carolina. The ‘Canes likely will be in that range and he would be a good addition to a franchise in desperate need of a pipeline restock.
All in all, Kasperi Kapanen has a chance to take his family’s name to a level it has never seen before.