Three years after being the biggest piece in the trade that saw Phil Kessel move to Pittsburgh, Kasperi Kapanen is ready for his first full NHL season with the Leafs.

Drafted 22nd overall by the Penguins, he’s had three straight seasons of starting in the AHL with the Marlies and getting increasingly bigger tastes in the NHL. After dominating the in 28 games and having some success playing 38 games with the Leafs last year, Kapanen actually fell back one spot from #5 in 2017’s list to #6 this year.

The truth is, I don’t think any voters think any less of him now, it’s just that the guy ahead of him made an even bigger jump. Personally, Kapanen has already become one of my favourite Leafs to watch and I’m hoping he gets more ice time and a bigger role so he can explode.

He’s in a group of other top-ish prospects in the Leafs organization who are either very close to the NHL, started to get a taste in the NHL, and/or look poised to have their first full seasons in the NHL for 2018/19. When we made the rankings I had Kapanen 7th, and while I kept looking for every reason to get him higher than that I just couldn’t — that’s less a knock on him, considering how excited I am to see him for a full year (hopefully on the third line with Kadri where I think he can wreck shit), and more to do with how MORE excited I am about everyone else ahead of him.

The Stats

Kasperi Kapanen - Elite Prospects

2010-2011KalPa U16Jr. C SM-sarja Q00000
KalPa U16Jr. C SM-sarja261482210
2011-2012KalPa U16Jr. C SM-sarja Q8124164
KalPa U16Jr. C I-divisioona211210Playoffs447110
KalPa U18Jr. B SM-sarja Q20002
KalPa U18Jr. B SM-sarja251311246Playoffs20000
Finland U16YOG64262
Finland U16 (all)International-Jr161161720
2012-2013KalPa U18Jr. B SM-sarja33360
KalPa U20Jr. A SM-liiga3614152916
Finland U17WHC-1753694
Finland U18WJC-1875384
Finland U18Hlinka Gretzky Cup41120
Finland U18 (all)International-Jr811215
KalPa U18Jr. B SM-sarja25160Playoffs46172
Finland U18WJC-1851120
Finland U18 (all)International-Jr51120
Finland U20 (all)International-Jr51010
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton PenguinsAHL41120Playoffs73250
Finland U20 (all)International-Jr103250
Finland U20WJC-2051010
2015-2016Toronto Maple LeafsNHL90002
Toronto MarliesAHL44916258Playoffs143582
Finland U20WJC-2072352
Finland U20 (all)International-Jr92462
2016-2017Toronto Maple LeafsNHL81010Playoffs62020
Toronto MarliesAHL4318254316Playoffs92688
2017-2018Toronto Maple LeafsNHL387294Playoffs71010
Toronto MarliesAHL2812122412
Finland (all)International83030
2018-2019Toronto Maple LeafsNHL-----

The Player

I want to get one thing clear right from the very start. For me, one of the saddest parts of the Leafs’ game 7 loss to Boston was that people forget about Kapanen’s short handed goal that gave them a 4-3 lead. If the Leafs hung on to win that game, that goal would be forever etched into every Leaf fan’s memory as LEGENDARY.

So I’m not gonna lie, Kapanen is damn close to being my favourite player on the forecasted Leafs’ roster. There are a few reasons why: he’s really fast, he punked Brad Marchand for that amazing short handed goal in game 7, he’s really fast, he punked Patrick Kane at the Worlds, he’s really fast, he’s scored some incredibly huge goals for the Leafs (tie goal in the game vs Pittsburgh where they clinched a playoff spot, OT goal vs Washington), and he’s really, really fast.

All of that is why, in my opinion, he’s one of of the few forwards in the Leafs organization that I think can make a significant impact in the NHL any time soon. Andreas Johnsson might, but I’m not sure about him at this time. He might not replace JVR’s production as a third line winger, but I am secretly hoping he can turn his speed and skill into the a Michael Grabner-esque career. Maybe reach 30 goals a few times, and provide good value as a penalty killer.

The one thing he has to work on is HOW to use that ridiculous speed of his. It’s all well and good to be fast, but he could use some improve play making and smarts to utilize it a bit better at times. During his first two years’ worth of tastes in the NHL, you’d see him blaze into the zone with the puck and be met by a variety of defenders putting up a wall between him and the net. When he got to that point he often seemed indecisive and passive, rendering any opportunity he could have created ineffective. Take a look at the first goal in this video. That wasn’t something he was willing and/or able to do in the NHL.

What I’d like to see him learn to do, and it’s something I did notice him do a bit more often last year, is start making real plays in those moments. Find a cross-ice pass for a scoring chance, make a hesitation move or curl-and-drag to get through a defender, keep going with his top gear to really blow by defenders. We know he has SOME ability as a playmaker, given that he’s had more assists than goals in his AHL career. It might be a matter of him figuring that part of his game out at the NHL level, or having 4th line linemates in the NHL, or trying to be more ‘safe’ in the NHL, or a mix of it all. As Katya said of his first NHL stints: “He had no verve, only obvious nerves.”

Either way, I think there is another level for him to unlock if he can learn some tricks to better take advantage of his speed. Right now, his speed is most effective at generating chances off a turnover, or those hail mary passes from the defense where he can catch opposing, slower defensemen at a disadvantage with so much room to get around them. Whether or not he reaches that potential still remains to be seen.

Justin Bourne seems to agree with me, given what he wrote about Kapanen’s play in the AHL in back in September 2017:

When he’s at his best, his feet don’t stop moving when he has the puck (which is a far more common problem than you’d think, even at the highest levels). He makes confident cuts, and he just keeps coming until the dam can’t hold him anymore, and he breaks through.

Keeping his feet moving, making cuts, and using his speed confidently and aggressively in the offensive zone is what I want to see more of this year.

Funnily enough, after focusing all on his speed what I think is an underrated part of Kapanen’s offensive game is his nose for the net. Think about the goals he’s scored in the NHL: his first career goal that tied the game vs Pittsburgh, his two goals in game 2 vs Washington including in overtime, and a few others I linked below. They’re all goals where he’s in front of or around the net for a redirection, a rebound, or a tap in off a good pass in the slot. That’s an ability that I think can serve him well if he’s playing with linemates that know how to get him the puck in front.

That’s why I’d love to see him on the third line at 5v5 with Kadri, and maybe the second PP unit. If he plays most of the year there I could fully see him being a 20-goal, 40-point guy.

But enough rambling, let’s all enjoy a serious of fantastic highlights from our young Finnish Speed Demon.

The Video

Our Thoughts


Sometimes I think people get a little ahead of themselves with Kappy (ten career points as yet; it’s a bit early) but there’s still so much to like about him.  There were times as the year went on where his brain seemed to be moving as fast as his feet, and if he can sustain that, look out.

The Poll

Is #6 the right ranking for Kasperi Kapanen?

Too high72
Too low140
Juuuuuuuuuuust right!798