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Kasperi Kapanen: 1,883 days as a Maple Leaf

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We say goodbye to someone who at first we ignored.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Five Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

1,883 days sounds like a lot, and I suppose it is, especially in hockey terms. There are players whose entire NHL careers fit into a much smaller number of days than that. Kasperi Kapanen’s time with the Maple Leafs certainly felt long, but it is also the marker of a different calendar. Where you divide lines between roster eras is subjective—I’ll leave it to you in the comments—but really big news makes for a good starting point and Kapanen arrived in the Leafs system simultaneous to some very big news on July 1, 2015. Kapanen arrived on “day one” of a new generation of the Maple Leafs.

Kapanen was almost an afterthought in our first post about the Kessel trade in 2015. Kessel leaving was huge news. What the Leafs got back in that trade was pushed off as something to be talked about at a later date. Kapanen deserved better in hindsight. Tyler Biggs however...

That day is where I pin the start of the new generation of the Leafs roster. The Leafs had drafted Mitch Marner a few days earlier, and William Nylander was drafted the year before and already moved over from Sweden to play for the Marlies. Kyle Dubas had also already joined the team as an Assistant GM, replacing someone who we’re not worried about five or six years later. Leafs Captain Dion Phaneuf was soon to be cast off too, dumped on Ottawa at the next trade deadline, and a 17 year-old Auston Matthews was heading to play in Switzerland on course to be drafted by the Leafs one year later.

Kapanen arrived on the team right in the middle of this tumultuous change.

Kappy makes his debut

The first thing you noticed watching Kapanen on the Marlies was his speed and how he could use it to outmanoeuvre anyone.

The second thing you noticed was his occasional lack of control over that speed, whether the trouble using it to make plays when his teammates were way behind him, or the trouble controlling himself at the end of a play. He had the unfortunate habit of smashing into the end boards and making you think he had broken his leg.

But he would always come back.

Kapanen was ranked at #6 on our Maple Leafs Top 25 Under 25 this year. That’s exactly the spot where he debuted on our list back in 2015, despite elseldo ranking him at 16. While he made it up as high as #4 at one point, it’s interesting that he wound up leaving the list five years later at the exact same spot where he entered. That’s a testament to the Leafs drafting, with players like Nick Robertson and Rasmus Sandin leapfrogging Kapanen in the ranks, and Auston Matthews arriving and staying at #1.

The Highlights

His first NHL goal was one that tied up a game and led to the Leafs clinching a playoff spot.

He showed up for big moments in the playoffs. How about the game winner in double overtime in 2017?

And about that speed, can we ever forget him outracing Marchand here for the shorthanded goal in 2018?

The speed was used everywhere, and so were his moves.

Speaking of moves.

And all those plays setup by his teammates, this one on a goalie whose name you might recognise from somewhere.

I’m sure the moment that stands out in his mind is winning the gold medal with the Finnish Team in the 2016 World Juniors. Let’s watch that one again, presented, naturally, in the original Finnish.

The goal is a big moment on its own since it won the gold medal, but also because the game was in Helsinki, Finland, so he did it all in front of the home crowd (including Teemu Selanne) which you can see is pretty happy about defeating the Russians. It was a moment so big for Finland that they put it on a stamp.

So Long, Cheeks Klapanen

Of course, there’s some other moments we will remember too. Especially this one, still in recent memory in the “what were you thinking” department.

Also, his fashion choices sometimes strayed into the “what were you thinking” department too.

This will certainly not be the last we hear about Kapanen. Given Sidney Crosby’s ability to turn obscure players like Mark Donk into household names that score 50 points a season, he will likely turn up in many post-trade analyses next season.

Good luck, Kappy. You’ll need it on a team so easily eliminated by the Habs in these playoffs.

Poll

What’s in store for Kapanen in Pittsburgh?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    The next Mark Donk will score 50 points on Crosby’s wing.
    (185 votes)
  • 4%
    A long slide into obscurity.
    (14 votes)
  • 19%
    They’ll flip him for picks when they go full rebuild at the end of the next season.
    (60 votes)
  • 16%
    Penguins fans will grow to hate him when he never actually scores on the breakaway anymore.
    (51 votes)
310 votes total Vote Now