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Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: #2 Kasperi Kapanen

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The two-time Pittsburgh Penguin takes the #2 spot on our countdown.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Our annual, 2020 version of the top players under the age of 25 in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.

2020 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Radim Zohorna
#24: Judd Caulfield
#23: Will Reilly
#22: Jan Drozg
#21: Sam Miletic
#20: Lukas Svejkovsky
#19: Jonathan Gruden
#18: Niclas Almari
#17: Clayton Phillips
#16: Jordy Bellerive
#15: Anthony Angello
#14: Kasper Bjorkqvist
#13: Calle Clang
#12: Joel Blomqvist
#11: Valtteri Puustinen
#10: Josh Maniscalco
#9: Cam Lee
#8: Drew O’Connor
#7: Nathan Legare
#6: Pierre-Olivier Joseph
#5: Samuel Poulin
#4: Jared McCann
#3: Marcus Pettersson

#2: Kasperi Kapanen, RW

2019 Ranking: #4*

Age: 24 (July 23, 1996)
Height/Weight: 6’1, 192 pounds

Acquired Via: Trade with Toronto Maple Leafs on August 25, 2020

*Ranking taken from Pension Plan Puppets 2019 Top 25 Under 25

Highlights:

Elite Prospects Resume:

For a player who has been a full-time NHLer for roughly three seasons now, Kasperi Kapanen’s game is easy to figure out. He can be relied upon as a steady, offensive-minded winger. His speed and instincts have translated well in the big leagues, and while he has yet to hit the 50-point mark over a full season, there is no reason to believe that Kapanen cannot accomplish this alongside Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel or Evgeni Malkin and Jason Zucker.

Head coach Mike Sullivan made some comments recently that indicate Kapanen will be in a prime position to start the 2020-21 season. Sullivan intends to start the Finnish forward on line one with Crosby and Guentzel, which is what makes the most sense looking at how the roster is projected right now.

Our friends over at Pension Plan Puppets, who have had an up-close-and-personal look at Kapanen over the last several seasons, had this, and more, to say about Kapanen’s game:

Getting into the quote a little bit, Sullivan points out Kapanen’s speed, which is definitely his defining quality. Kapanen is a great skater, with blistering transition ability. However, the issue the Leafs (and fans) ran into was the imaginary wall looking like the front of the net that Kapanen would button hook in front of on breakaways. He has the speed, but he needs someone to finish it for him. That was where things fell apart for the Leafs, as they didn’t want him in their top-six and couldn’t help him on a third line that was quickly moving away from a top-nine into a bottom-six role.

Some may believe the Penguins overpaid for Kapanen’s services (mainly giving up their 2020 first-rounder and notable prospect Filip Hallander), but Jim Rutherford was dead set on making changes to his roster one way or another. We already know this. Rutherford identified Kapanen as his solution for his speed and skill, while still a relatively young player who turned 24 years old over the summer.

Kapanen has played up and down the lineup in Toronto in recent years, but he also has produced 80 total points since the start of the 2018-19 season. Given his youth and resume, he’s earned the opportunity that will be given to him to play in a full-time scoring line role and perhaps give the Pens some elements and attributes missing from their roster in the past few seasons.

The hope now is that Kapanen, who has partially lived up to his first-round billing, can live up to that pedigree with the team he was drafted by.