Phil Kessel was always much-maligned here in Toronto thanks mostly to the cost of acquisition: Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. The Leafs could’ve had a truly elite center and a very good d-man, but instead had an elite goal-scoring winger. Whatever you think of the trade now, it was hard to separate at the time Kessel’s value on the ice from the cost to put him there in a Leafs uniform (even tough the cost wasn’t expected to be that high).
Our fifth rated prospect will likely suffer the same fate. Kasperi Kapanen was the centrepiece to the other Phil Kessel trade, the one that sent him to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and as long as he’s a Leaf that’s surely what he’ll be remembered for and the player he’ll be unfortunately compared to. The Leafs turned a house into a red paperclip.
That’s probably an unfair analogy for our fifth best prospect, but it’s hard to ignore the lineage of how he became a Leaf. Rather than fixate on the past and how he came to be a Leaf, let’s focus on what he can become as a Leaf.
|Jeff||Ryan H.||Shawn||Ryan F.||Adam||Dom||Jess||Katy||Readers|
|RW/LW||Kuopio, FIN||6’0||181||Right||Toronto Marlies||Trade (July 2015)|
|2010-11||14||KalPa U16||Jr. C SM-sarja Q||0||0||0||0||N/A||0||N/A|
|14||KalPa U16||Jr. C SM-sarja||26||14||8||22||N/A||10||N/A|
|2011-12||15||KalPa U16||Jr. C SM-sarja Q||8||12||4||16||N/A||4||N/A|
|15||KalPa U16||Jr. C I-divisioona||2||1||1||2||N/A||10||N/A|
|15||KalPa U18||Jr. B SM-sarja Q||2||0||0||0||N/A||2||N/A|
|15||KalPa U18||Jr. B SM-sarja||25||13||11||24||N/A||6||N/A|
|15||Finland U16 (all)||International-Jr||16||11||6||17||N/A||20||11|
|2012-13||15||KalPa U18||Jr. B SM-sarja||3||3||3||6||N/A||0||N/A|
|16||KalPa U20||Jr. A SM-liiga||36||14||15||29||N/A||16||-3|
|16||Finland U18 (all)||International-Jr||8||1||1||2||N/A||15||-1|
|2013-14||16||KalPa U18||Jr. B SM-sarja||2||5||1||6||N/A||0||N/A|
|17||Finland U18 (all)||International-Jr||5||1||1||2||N/A||0||-3|
|17||Finland U20 (all)||International-Jr||5||1||0||1||N/A||0||N/A|
|18||Finland U20 (all)||International-Jr||10||3||2||5||N/A||0||-1|
|2015-16||19||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||9||0||0||0||0||2||-3|
Kapanen’s first pro season was not bad for a 19-year-old. He mustered 25 points in 44 games in the AHL and had a decent showing at the World Juniors. His NHLe improved a great deal year-over-year and next season could see an even bigger rise.
|pGPSn||pGPSs||pGPS%||pGPS PPG||pGPS PP82||pGPSr|
|183 (5/18)||61 (6/18)||31.1% (11/18)||0.51 (11/18)||41.70 (11/18)||15.84 (11/18)|
- pGPSn: The number of matches between the subject and the player-seasons (one season by a single player, i.e, John Tavares 2008 OHL) in the historical sample.
- pGPSs: The number of statistical matches that became NHL regulars. This is determined by playing 200 NHL games.
- pGPS%: Simply s divided by n, this is the percentage of statistical matches that successfully became NHL players.
- pGPS PPG: The NHL points per game of successful matches.
- pGPS P82: The same as pGPS PPG, but stretched over 82 games.
- pGPSr: A bit of a hybrid number, this pGPS Rating combines the percentage and points per game to produce a number that includes both likelihood of success and potential upside.
Based on the success of his historical comparables, Kapanen is projected to become a third line forward.
To learn more about the Prospect Graduation Probabilities System, check out this post.
The Eye Test
Like a lot of the forward prospects in the Leafs talent pool, Kapanen is undersized, fast, smart, and dynamic with the puck. He is a very strong skater with a lot of scouts praising his east-west movement in particular. Combine that with his nifty puck skills and you have a player who is very good in tight and in 1-on-1 situations. The common knock on Kapanen is his ability in the defensive zone and getting back to it. He’s a hound in the offensive zone and does anything and everything to get pucks back and win battles, but back on defence he’s more like a house cat in a sunbeam. Of course, that’s a common description for most dynamic scoring wingers anyways so Kapanen isn’t exactly special in that case. Still, it’s an area Kapanen needs to work on to make it at the NHL level. He had a short nine game stint last year where he looked mostly invisible (to be honest, I forgot he played for the Leafs last year).
As Seen on TV
This is likely the biggest moment of Kapanen’s life and the Finnish announcer goes absolutely wild for it. Here’s hoping it’s not the last championship winning goal he scores.
And here’s some highlights of Kapanen. It was very difficult to find a video because it’s apparently not possible for these dudes who make highlight reels to choose anything closely resembling good music. Imagine how bad the rest of them were that “Don’t You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia was the best choice. Imagine.
Kapanen bursted on to the scene as a pretty highly touted prospect. He was taken 22nd overall by the Penguins in 2014 in what looked like a bit of a steal as he was rated higher than that by a number of scouting organizations. Perhaps the teams that passed on him knew something the rest of us didn’t as Kapanen’s progression has been a bit slow since he was drafted. He’s gotten better with every passing year, but not as quick as you’d have hoped from a guy with his draft pedigree.
Kapanen will likely need another year of seasoning in the AHL where he can build on a decent first campaign. Considering the logjam of NHL bodies up front that shouldn’t be a surprise anyways: he isn’t making the team unless he really earns it and he’s just not ready for that yet as there’s a number of players higher on the pecking order.
Next season will be very telling for his progression. His first season was good, but that’s all you can really say and that might even be a generous assessment. Making an NHL team led by Babcock as a youth has always been a challenge and Kapanen will need to prove he belongs over someone Babcock trusts. His play isn’t there yet and he’ll need to step it up a lot to make it clear he’s the best option available in 2017-18. Whether he’s actually capable of doing so will be an interesting development this season.
Right or wrong, Kapanen will have expectations to live up to in a die-hard market. The expectations that he was the “prize” for Phil Kessel, a player who had his own expectations to live up to.
Kapanen likely won’t ever be as good as Kessel, but he doesn’t have to be. He’s still a very good prospect who has potential to be a good player for the team in the very near future, just not yet.
The Rankings So Far
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #6 Connor Brown
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #7 Andreas Johnson
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #8 Dmytro Timashov
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #9 Travis Dermott
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #10 Nikita Soshnikov
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #11 Jeremy Bracco
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #12 Brendan Leipsic
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #13 Zach Hyman
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #14 Carl Grundstrom
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #15 Andrew Nielsen
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #16 Tobias Lindberg
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #17 Yegor Korshkov
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #18 Adam Brooks
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #19 Kasimir Kaskisuo
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #20 Garret Sparks
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: 10 players who received no votes from us
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: Honourable Mentions