Cue the Eddie Murphy references, Penguins 2014 first round pick Kasperi Kapanen is coming to America!
From Jonathan Bombulie at the Citizens Voice:
After practice, I asked coach John Hynes about the status of top prospect Kasperi Kapanen, whose Finnish team was eliminated from the playoffs yesterday. He said the situation was still being assessed. A short time later, the assessment was over. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford said the process of bringing Kapanen to WBS has begun. He should be in town within a week.
Kapanen will be the most gifted offensive prospect to come through Wilkes-Barre since Beau Bennett. You know that talk from last week about Pittsburgh adding some youth to its playoff lineup? If Kapanen arrives here and isn’t overwhelmed by the transition to the smaller ice, he immediately moves to the top of that list.
The PG report he mentions is:
#Pens in the process of bringing prospect Kasperi Kapanen to WBS by end of the week, per GM Jim Rutherford who said "That's the first step."— Jenn Menendez (@JennMenendez) March 31, 2015
There have been (since officially refuted) reports that the Penguins weren't very happy with some of the players on their NHL roster.
It would be a rather extreme step to bring in an 18 year old -- one who had a pretty pronounced scoring slump over the second half of his season in Finland, no less -- and throw him into the pit for the NHL playoffs. About the last time a player came to the NHL for the end of the season after playing a full year in Europe might have been Carl Soderberg for Boston in 2013. Soderberg, though, was 27 years old at the time and a veteran. And he only played 2 playoff games.
Kapanen is the opposite of a veteran, but Wilkes-Barre will be a good first step for him. Like Bombulie says, if he absolutely lights up the AHL and takes to the smaller rinks like a fish to water and showcases a ton of skill, it will force Pittsburgh to notice and consider. But much like Olli Maatta , Derrick Pouliot and Scott Harrington- who all made their professional debuts in WB/S for the playoffs back in 2013 -- so too should Kapanen.
For now, it doesn't seem likely that Kapanen is well-rounded enough to be in a position to help the NHL Penguins. However bringing him over to extend his season and introduce him to North American pro hockey is a great thing and should serve him well in the months and years to come as he tries to break into the full-time lineup for the Pens.