Prospect development camp is well underway at Consol Energy Center for 37 Pittsburgh Penguins hopefuls. One prospect who stands out among the eager crowd is 17-year-old Kasperi Kapanen, a Finnish player who was drafted 22nd overall by the Penguins in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Kapanen’s campaign in the Finnish league has been so impressive that Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford stated that Kapanen could possibly make his debut in the NHL as early as next season. Kapanen looks like a promising player, but debuting him next season is not imperative.
Kapanen played 47 games in the top Finnish league last season, scoring seven goals and accumulating seven assists. While these statistics might seem underwhelming, Kapanen is without a doubt a highly skilled player. Kapanen is fast and proficient on the ice and owns an impressive hockey sense for his age. He also possesses the ability to make a play in any given situation and has proven to be a competitor.
While Kapanen is well on his way to becoming a top six forward, he still has a lot of learning to do and it shouldn’t be done in the NHL quite yet. One reason why Kapanen should steer clear of the NHL next season is his size. I’m not saying that Kapanen can’t hold his own on the ice, but he has room to build more muscle and increase his strength to become a stronger player.
Another reason why Kapanen should avoid the NHL next year is the differences in North American hockey compared to Finnish hockey. Kapanen will have to adjust to certain variations such as playing in smaller rinks.
If Kapanen were to be called up to fill in for an injured player, I wouldn’t become unhinged. I would be happy to see a young, promising player get the opportunity to play, but Kapanen should spend this upcoming season training, adjusting and bettering himself, not focusing on the pressures of playing in the NHL. Bringing Kapanen up is not an urgent need and it would be wise to allow him to grow as player in America for a year.