Oliver Kapanen Is Lighting Up Liiga

Kapanen was the captain for his country at the World Junior Hockey championships, showing the kind of leadership he has.
Finland v Sweden: Quarterfinals - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship
Finland v Sweden: Quarterfinals - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship / Dale Preston/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens have stocked the cupboard in all areas, which has resulted in great centre depth. Oliver Kapanen is another prospect in the mix for a potential top-nine centre role in the future.

With Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach likely to man the top two lines down the middle, the Habs have riches to spare. It appears right now that Owen Beck is the likeliest option to grab the third-line role with the Canadiens when he is ready. But Kapanen might just have something to say.

With KalPa in the Finnish Liiga, Kapanen has been on fire this season. Like Sami and Kasperi, Oliver has blazing speed and good offensive touch. But his game has risen and it seems likely that he has another level in him.

One aspect that should endear him to Habs fans is his powerful release. On a team starved for offence, Kapanen could take some of the weight off Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Juraj Slafkovsky’s shoulders. While still presenting as a strong two-way pivot in the bottom six. 

Even if he doesn’t play centre, shifting him to the wing isn’t out of the question. It certainly doesn’t hurt the team having two natural centres on one line. Which is precisely what could happen when he arrives for the Canadiens. 

Kapanen’s net-front presence has taken considerable strides as well, which should be monitored. If he continues to hone those skills, he could be effective on the powerplay. And even more so as a beneficiary of juicy rebounds. 

I’m not saying that Kent Hughes should stop stocking the centre portion of the prospect pool. It would be foolish to believe every pick will turn out an everyday NHLer. But there is some very real potential for a strong bottom-six group of centres. 

Along with Beck and Kapanen, Florian Xhekaj could develop into a very good fourth-line centre. If that happens, a guy like Jake Evans could be dangled in a trade. And before anybody scoffs at the idea, he is a veteran with Stanley Cup playoff and final experience. 

Back to Kapanen, though, the 20-year-old Timra, Sweden., native has 3-6-9 totals in his last 10 games. He also has a strong +5 plus/minus differential. And his 1.12 points per game average isn’t far off from hanging with the league’s best. 

The Laval Rocket are sure to have some stiff competition next season, with Beck and Kapanen. Jan Mysak is already there, and Brandon Gignac and Lias Andersson set up a solid centre corps. The mix of youth and veterans presents a perfect environment for development and growth.

Kapanen has 12-15-27 totals through 44 games. The 2021 second-round selection remains unsigned, but that could change this summer. And if so, he will add a nice option for the Rocket next season.