Montreal Canadiens ink Oliver Kapanen to ELC

Kent Hughes put pen to paper with 2021 Draft prospect Oliver Kapanen after a solid season in Finland.

The Montreal Canadiens signed prospect Oliver Kapanen to a three-year entry-level contract on Saturday morning, the club announced. 

Kapanen was drafted in the fourth round (64th overall) of the 2021 NHL entry draft. He spent this past season in the Finnish Liiga, where he scored 34 points (14 goals & 20 assists) through 51 games. He also played eight games for Finland both in the World Junior Championships and the Men's World Hockey Championship, accumulating seven goals and two assists.

Mainly what Kapanen showcased is a nose for the net and he channelled some of his inner - Joe Pavelski - creating havoc with his hand-eye coordination in front of the net. He has never been viewed as a big-time goal scorer, so that isn't the expectation. But his smart, two-way game paired with being able to create in front of the net should lead him to a successful professional career.

I expect that he and Owen Beck will battle throughout the season, bringing the best out of one another. Right now, I think that Beck is a little ahead of Kapanen, but at the end of the day, once both of them get some coaching in Laval, they will provide Montreal with some enviable centre depth. That is something that the Habs have needed for a while.

Another important tidbit about Kapanen's 2023-24 season is that he performed particularly well during the Liiga postseason. The 20-year-old product of Sundsvall, Sweden proved to be a clutch playoff performer, recording 14 points through 13 games. Seeing as he will be developing in the system, he could ideally become a solid piece for the Habs, while still on his entry-level deal.

By the time Kapanen hits his prime, the Habs will certainly be in their contention window and presumably have great depth down the middle to aid them. The balanced attack that the Canadiens can derive from a strong centre core, should put them in a good spot to compete for a Stanley Cup. In the meantime, however, expect training camp in the fall to be one full of big battles, to play in the NHL right away and to be on the shortlist, should a call-up be necessary.