Free washer | Sudden craze for CH hope Oliver Kapanen

A rather unknown Canadian prospect, Oliver Kapanen, is causing a sensation at the Ice Hockey World Championship, after a promising end to the season in Finland.


Published at 11:59 a.m.

This young 20-year-old right-handed center drafted at the end of the second round in 2021 scored five goals in his first three games, after a surprising run in the Liiga playoffs with KalPa, where he obtained 14 points, including 7 goals, in 13 matches.

This is a notable progression for this 6-foot, 178-pound boy, who has never attracted much attention in Montreal.

However, you must avoid falling into exaggeration at this stage of your career. In this regard, Kapanen’s coach in KalPa, Petri Karjalainen, nevertheless jumped into the pool of praise recently. He even dared to compare him to Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes.

“When you need to create something or preserve a lead, he is the type of player that coaches like, a type of Sebastian Aho,” Karjalainen told TVA Sports colleague Nicholas Cloutier at the end of April. Kapanen and Aho have similar strengths. They are not necessarily spectacular, but very effective in all facets of the game. You win matches with players like them. »

You have to be unfamiliar with the Montreal market to dare to make such a comparison. This is putting undue pressure on the young man. Karjalainen doesn’t compare him to a good NHL center, but to one of the best in his profession, 89 points, including 36 goals, in 78 games last winter.

Kapanen will turn 21 this summer. At the same age, Aho was coming off a 65-point season, including 29 goals, in 78 games in his second full year in Carolina. Kapanen has 34 points, including 14 goals, in 51 Liiga games.

Nicholas Cloutier had the wisdom not to begin his text with Karjalainen’s gross exaggeration, undoubtedly knowing that there is no one more biased than a coach to talk about his player. He also shows a little more level-headedness by subsequently affirming that the young man will not become the Canadian’s first center, but that he could become a second or third line center for a good while.

The latest steroid-filled compliment from Europe has gone awry. A longtime journalist in Sweden predicted a Norris Trophy for Mattias Norlinder and dared to compare him to Nicklas Lidstrom. This statement ignited social networks and remained smoldering for a few years, until Norlinder was seen in the flesh for the first time in Montreal. There were flashes that gave us hope for at least an NHL-caliber defenseman, but those hopes are dashed today.

Let’s put on our pragmatic glasses. Kapanen has scored five times at the World Championship so far. He managed two against Norway on Monday and three against England the day before, the last two with Finland already up 4-0. He was shut out, like the rest of his teammates, in the opening match against the Czech Republic.

Kapanen played 12:58 against England, one of the lowest totals among Finland’s attackers, but a few more minutes against the Czech Republic and Norway to return to average among his attacking teammates.

He achieved a great feat by earning a position with the team, but Finland is deprived of its best offensive elements, Mikko Rantanen, Aho, Aleksander Barkov, Roope Hintz, Teuvo Teravainen, Anton Lundell, Artturi Lehkonen, Patrik Laine, Kaapo Kakko and company. Even Jesperi Kotkaniemi would have been welcomed with open arms. Mikael Granlund is the only NHL regular among forwards.

That said, Kapanen’s performance in the second half of the season is interesting, even if Liiga is not on the level of the KHL (Russia), the SHL (Sweden) or even the Swiss National League.

Kapanen has just signed a two-year contract with Timra, in the SHL. He thus levels up. However, that would not prevent him from participating in the CH training camp in September if he receives a contract from the organization by then.

As is generally done in such cases, he would be given the privilege of returning to Europe if he did not deserve a position with the team, although his development would undoubtedly be accelerated by playing a season in the American League, on an ice rink of North American dimension and in a way of playing closer to the NHL.

Ken Holland and his goalkeepers…

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PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Ken Holland

In his time as general manager of the Detroit Red Wings, Ken Holland was staffed with great teams, but rarely with elite goaltending, aside from perhaps Dominik Hasek’s stint in the early 2000s. Holland is therefore not in uncharted territory in Edmonton.

Holland offered Jack Campbell $25 million for five years in July 2022, but he has been bad since spending the winter in the American League. Young Stuart Skinner is uneven.

After being forced out of Game 3 of the series against the Canucks, Skinner will likely give way to Calvin Pickard on Tuesday night. Pickard, at age 32, will be making his first playoff start in the NHL.

Incredible that such a powerful team has to rely on a career American League goaltender to overcome a 2-1 deficit in this series…

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