17th ranked U24 Habs player - Oliver Kapanen

Oliver Kapanen has been overshadowed by prospects playing in North America, but he has the potential to be a top nine center for the Habs in the future.
Finland v Sweden: Quarterfinals - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship
Finland v Sweden: Quarterfinals - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship / Dale Preston/GettyImages

For the month of May, aside from the NHL Draft lottery, there isn’t much going on. So here at A Winning Habit, I’ve decided to rank the 24 best Canadiens under 24 years old. I opted to rank players that are closest to the NHL, so aside from David Reinbacher, there are no 2023 Draftees. 

So, without further ado, let’s go ahead with the 17th best player, in my opinion, Oliver Kapanen. 

Oliver Kapanen has been playing in the Finnish Liiga with Kalpa for the past three seasons, showing significant growth with each passing campaign. This past year, Kapanen scored 34 points in 51 games as a 20-year-old. His playmaking game continues to shine and he has displayed an ability to consistently beat pros with his speed and offensive instincts.

If Kapanen was playing in North America, many fans would talking a lot more about him. Although that hasn't happened, he has shown his leadership qualities captaining the Finnish World Junior team last year. While this year he will represent his home Finland in the upcoming World Championship.

It's impressive to see how far the Canadiens center core has come along, considering for many years it was an organizational weakness. Now, though, Kapanen is just one of quite a few centers who will keep the Canadiens in a good position for many years to come. Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach have got the top two center roles covered - while Jake Evans and Christian Dvorak likely cover the bottom six roles, but Owen Beck and Kapanen will soon be battling for those roles.

Back to Kapanen, though, whose 34 points this season were a career high - he also produced pretty significantly for Kalpa in the playoffs. Through 13 games, Kapanen produced an impressive 14 points. Kapanen has an innate ability to draw defenders in, before making difficult passes to open linemates and that translated through in the biggest games for his team.

It will be difficult for Kapanen to rise up the list, because the players ranked from 16 through number one are there for a reason. But I expect that when Kapanen does make his North American debut, he will turn heads pretty fast with his maturity and poise. He currently ranks 17th, which is second best for centers that haven't played in the NHL yet.