The Buffalo Sabres hold the second selection in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, which will be held later this month. Could the Sabres use that pick to select Kasperi Kapanen, the top-ranked European skater heading into this year’s draft?
Kapanen, 17, is a Finnish right-winger topping the list of European skaters from the NHL Central Scouting this year. Some are considering this to be a light draft year in terms of European players, but Kapanen could be just what an NHL team needs. Kapanen has NHL bloodlines and has proven his hockey senses time after time, often playing above his age level.
Kasperi Kapanen spent this past season with KalPa Kuopio in the SM-Liiga, playing alongside his father, former NHLer Sami Kapanen. His father spent years in the NHL with the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers and has been playing in Finland since 2008. It’s just a matter of time before Kasperi gets drafted by an NHL team and makes a name for himself on the North American stage, following in the footsteps of his father, who was drafted 87th overall in 1995.
This season, Kasperi appeared in 47 games with KalPa Kuopio, notching seven goals and seven assists. He finished fourth in points scoring on the team and second in goals, behind only Kalle Kerman’s eight goals. Not bad for a kid who’s the youngest on his team by almost a year, and who is 23 years younger than the oldest player on the team (his father).
Last season, Kasperi had four goals in 13 regular season games and one assist in four playoff games.
The Kuopio native also has plenty of experience on the international stage.
He missed this year’s IIHF World Junior Championships with a shoulder injury, but participated in three international tournaments during the 2012-13 season. He played in the U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, the U18 World Junior Championships and the U17 World Hockey Challenge. In the past, he has experience at the 2011 Europe Youth Olympic Games and the Pohjola Camp, which he attended at the age of just 14.
Hockey’s Future praises Kapanen’s “rare combination of skill and hockey IQ,” saying that these qualities put him among the top prospects in his age group.
Could the Buffalo Sabres select Kasperi Kapanen with their second-overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft? If so, he’d join Rasmus Ristolainen and Joel Armia to complete a trifecta of Finnish prospects in the Sabres organization. Kapanen has proven himself on the international stage and has the ability to play above his age level with guys who are easily twice his age. He could definitely see success at the NHL level in the near future — now it’s just a matter of time to see where he ends up.
For further reading about Kasperi Kapanen:
- Top prospects Bennett, Kapanen survive Combine [NHL.com]
- Kasperi Kapanen on Twitter
- Kasperi Kapanen, Sami’s son, scores amazing between-the-legs OT goal [Puck Daddy]
- NHL draft prep: Top 10 forwards [CSN Philly]
- NHL.com Draft Profile: Kasperi Kapanen [NHL.com]