When the 2018-19 season starts, the Toronto Maple Leafs will likely promote some young guns to the big club.
The pre-season is just around the corner and that can only mean one thing: the Toronto Maple Leafs are soon to play an actual game soon!
Many familiar faces will be returning to the fray and continuing to improve, some new arrivals will look to make an impact, and a few young guns will look to make an impression. Put it all together, and that makes them exciting to watch.
Speaking of exciting, Kasperi Kapanen seems destined to finally make the team full-time after serving time developing with the Marlies. The speedy Finnish winger has shown flashes of excellence during brief appearances the past few years and now has a chance to prove he’s an NHLer.
Here’s what we can expect from Kapanen in his first full season with the Buds.
What Has He Done Lately?
Last season, Kapanen split time between the Leafs and the Marlies. As the stats suggest, he ended playing well in both situations.
During his time with the Marlies, Kapanen recorded 12 goals, 12 assists, and 24 points in 28 games played as per HockeyDB. Over a full AHL season, he would have ended up with 65 points, which is pretty impressive for a 21-year-old.
After making sporadic appearances with the Leafs in the early months, Kapanen got called up for good in late January and never looked back. Across 38 games, he registered 7 goals, 9 points, a 50.4% Corsi-for (5v5), and an impressive 62.8% SThr.
One thing that stood out during his time with the Leafs was just how fast he was, and that became a valuable tool Mike Babcock implemented on the penalty kill. This is best represented in the clip above and his goal against the Nashville Predators.
Kapanen clearly showed he is finally ready to make the Leafs roster permanently and his stats reflect that.
What Is He Getting Into?
When the 2018-19 season kicks off, Kapanen will likely find himself on the Leafs roster as there’s no benefit for him to return to the Marlies. Who he will be lined up with, however, is unclear at this point.
A possible line combination that Kapanen could be part of would include Par Lindholm and Connor Brown. While there is uncertainty with how that line could go (Lindholm has never played an NHL game), it could work well as a fourth line.
For one, Brown had a down year offensively due to being “relegated” to the fourth-line with the arrival of Patrick Marleau. Looking at this SKATR chart, both Brown and Kapanen match up relatively well and it’s possible the two could raise each other’s play.
As for Lindholm, he is fresh off a season where he recorded 18 goals, 29 points, and 47 assists in the SHL according to EliteProspects. Combine this with the offensive potential of the aforementioned players and it’s possible this line could be just as dangerous as the Leafs’ top 9 unit.
Whoever he ends up with, rest assured Kapanen will make that line exciting to watch.
What Can He Do in 2018-19?
With the season just weeks away, Kapanen is set to hit the limelight full-time and remind Leafs fans why he was included in the famous Phil Kessel trade from 2015.
Both the eye-test and stats show Kapanen is a good player and has the potential to be one of the Leafs’ most reliable two-way players. He has speed to burn and can be comfortably slotted on both the power-play and the penalty-kill.
He also has a knack for coming up with a clutch effort in big moments, as demonstrated by his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins and his overtime tally against the Washington Capitals. Every team with championship aspirations always relies on big plays from unlikely sources and Kapanen can easily fit that bill well.
As for the coming season, Kapanen should be in for a productive year at both ends of the ice. A 15+ goal, 35+ point campaign seems like a realistic bet for him with the potential for more if he finds himself higher in the lineup.
What I’m trying to say is this: Kapanen will be a treat to watch all season. Just don’t blink or you might miss him on a breakaway.
Thanks for reading!
All stats unless otherwise noted are from Hockey-Reference.com.