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NHL Prospect Profile: Jesperi Kotkaniemi

AJ Haefele Avatar
June 18, 2018

Statistics

Scout Quotes

Alert and versatile forward with good speed and a wide range of attributes who has performed well beyond expectations as a 17-year-old playing key minutes in Finland’s top league. Kotkaniemi comes across as a smart, clean player with or without the puck and can play either center or wing. He is used on the penalty kill and in late-game situations, showing defensive prowess regardless of the job he’s assigned. He has a nose for sniffing out opposing intentions, and his quick hands and keen vision can turn a run-of-the-mill enemy breakout into a quality chance for him or his mates. One skill that stands out is his playmaking ability — Kotkaniemi is quite creative with the puck and threads the needle with ease. Kotkaniemi is a central figure on the power play, where he likes to control the puck along the wall and look for backdoor cutters or point men open in the high slot. Although he comes across as a playmaker rather than a finisher, Kotkaniemi has an excellent shot/release combination and can corral a puck in traffic and still wire it on net. He makes up for an average first step with excellent awareness and anticipation, and he’s difficult to knock off the puck once he maintains control. Strong on his skates and heavily involved in puck battles, Kotkaniemi is highly reliable on odd-man rushes but also nimble enough to cut sharply across the grain and throw defenders into a state of confusion. – The Draft Analyst

Kotkaniemi is probably a year or two away from the NHL. Expect him to spend next season in Finland continuing to refine his game. He could stand to put more muscle on what is currently a skinny frame. This is not unusual for an 18-year-old prospect though. Kotkaniemi could develop into an effective two-way centre at the NHL level, capable of playing against top lines, killing penalties, and playing on the powerplay. – Last Word on Hockey

AJ’s Thoughts

Kotkaniemi has been one of my favorite prospects most of the season. He’s not the kind of skater I normally enjoy watching but the rest of his game is so impressive that I look past the skating issues. He does need to work on that because right now his boots are a little heavy and his balance isn’t great. Regardless, this is the most complete center in this year’s draft. He’s an exceptional playmaker with very high hockey IQ and he sees the ice better than any forward in this draft not named Svechnikov.

The highlights for Kotkaniemi don’t stop on offense as he’s a great defensive center, as well. His performance in the Liiga at his age was extremely impressive and he’s setting up to be one of the stars of this draft class. His meteoric rise up draft boards could culminate in him being selected as high as third overall.

Highlights

Avalanche Fit

If he lands in Colorado, Ottawa’s front office likely handed over the fourth overall selection because there’s no way he drops all the way to 16. He’d be a great fit, however, because even if his offense never becomes elite, his all-around game is a perfect fit for Colorado’s needs down the middle. Too bad it’s not likely for this universe.

Rankings

#8 Hockey Prospect
#13 Future Considerations
#13 McKeen’s Hockey

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