In 2018, the Montreal Canadiens got the third total choose within the NHL Draft, their highest choose since 2012 when the group chosen offensive ahead Alex Galchenyuk with the identical choose.
Final yr’s draft featured a robust pool of prospects together with Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Brady Tkachuk, Filip Zadina, Quinn Hughes and Barrett Hayton. Probably the most promising of those prospects is Finnish middle Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who had a formidable rookie season with the Canadiens.
Primary total choose Rasmus Dahlin (left) , second total choose Andrei Svechnikov (center) and third total choose Jesperi Kotkaniemi (proper) pose for a photograph through the first spherical of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airways Middle. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports activities)
Associated: Jesperi Kotkaniemi – The Hype and Expectations
Remaining Pre-Draft Rankings
When the time got here to announce the group’s choose, Basic Supervisor Marc Bergevin referred to as on Director of Beginner Scouting Shane Churla to announce Kotkaniemi of Ässät within the Finnish Elite League.
Many Habs followers have been shocked and disenchanted as few had heard of the younger middle. All of the hype was targeted on gamers like Dahlin, Zadina, Tkachuk and Svechnikov, all sturdy gamers on the World Junior Championships and have been persistently rated within the Prime 5 main as much as the draft.
Little did they know, Kotkaniemi is a pressure to be reckoned with. In his final rating earlier than the draft, TSN’s Bob McKenzie ranked Kotkaniemi fifth amongst eligible gamers, and NHL Central Scouting ranked him sixth amongst gamers in Europe.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi of the Finland Nationals follows the play in opposition to the Russian Nationals through the 2018 Beneath-18 5 Nations Match recreation at USA Hockey Area on February 14, 2018 in Plymouth, Michigan. Russia defeated Finland Four-Zero. (Picture by Dave Reginek/Getty Photographs)
Bear in mind, the Central Scouting rating got here out earlier than the World Beneath 18 Championship, the place Kotkaniemi was a standout participant and a significant motive Finland took residence the gold medal.
By taking Kotkaniemi, the Habs addressed their largest weak spot. The group lacks depth, measurement and expertise on the middle place. To achieve success within the NHL, energy down center is a necessity. At 6-foot-2 and 187 lbs, Kotkaniemi has the scale to make a huge effect, and he has the talents to match.
Associated: Participant Improvement Is Habs’ Greatest Hope
Kotkaniemi’s 2018-19 NHL Season
After the draft, many analysts have been fast to say that Kotkaniemi was not NHL-ready and would want to play one other yr or two in Finland or another league in addition to the NHL.
But regardless of the criticism, Kotkaniemi gave Habs administration no alternative however to place his identify on the opening night time roster on account of a formidable tryout and the group’s lack of depth. This made historical past, as Kotkaniemi was the primary participant born within the 2000s to make the roster on any NHL group.
New York Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss makes a save on Montreal Canadiens middle Jesperi Kotkaniemi (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mary Altaffer)
The rookie middle was the youngest participant within the NHL this season and he performed in 79 of the 82-game schedule.
Kotkaniemi made important strides all through the season. He completed with 11 objectives and 34 factors, which put him ninth in rookie scoring and fourth amongst gamers drafted in 2018.
Thirty-four factors isn’t spectacular, but it surely’s wonderful for a participant who wasn’t imagined to make the group. To not point out the strain of enjoying in a metropolis like Montreal, the place hockey is sort of a faith.
Associated: 5 Causes Kotkaniemi Stays With Canadiens
Offseason Knee Surgical procedure
Two weeks after the season ended, Kotkaniemi underwent arthroscopic surgical procedure on his left knee. Followers don’t have anything to fret about nevertheless, as Bergevin instructed the media that the damage was solely minor, and it didn’t cease Kotkaniemi from enjoying this previous season nor would it not delay his offseason coaching.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Montreal Canadiens, 2018 NHL Draft, Dallas, TX, June 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
is alleged to be staying in Montreal within the meantime to finish his
rehabilitation program below the steerage of the Canadiens’ coaching employees.
Kotkaniemi’s 2019-20: A Look Forward
After absolutely recovering from surgical procedure, Kotkaniemi can have all summer season to arrange for the upcoming season. In contrast to final yr, when he had the distraction of the draft and different media obligations, the quickly to be sophomore can have loads of time to work on his energy and skating.
Toronto Maple Leafs John Tavares takes a face off in opposition to Montreal Canadiens Jesperi Kotkaniemi (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
will look to construct off a formidable rookie marketing campaign and keep away from the sophomore stoop.
Don’t be stunned if the younger middle follows within the footsteps of one other Finnish-born participant, Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche. Like Kotkaniemi, Rantanen’s rookie season was strong however not spectacular. Rantanen tallied 38 factors in comparison with Kotkaniemi’s 34. Rantanen then adopted it up with a implausible 84-point sophomore season and a visit to the Stanley Cup playoffs. With assist coming from new gamers like Ryan Poehling and potential offseason signees, it’s potential that Kotkaniemi will pull off Rantanen-like numbers, permitting the Habs to make it to the playoffs in 2019-20.
Associated: Hope for Habs Followers Comes From Poehling & Others