Top 10 prospects - #9 Oliver Kapanen

Oliver Kapanen has middle-six centre potential written all over him and his World Championship performance should excite Habs fans
Finland v Austria - 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Czechia
Finland v Austria - 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Czechia / RvS.Media/Robert Hradil/GettyImages

The Canadiens prospect pool once lacked centre with top nine potential, but that is now a thing of the past.

While adding a bona fide top-line centre is still something for Kent Hughes to consider, there is much less worry for lines three and four. One big reason for that is Finnish prospect Oliver Kapanen, who was brilliant for his native Finland during the recent IIHF World Hockey Championships. Kapanen showed that he could compete with NHL players and showed a knack for causing havoc for opposing goaltenders.

Kapanen is set to play in the SHL for the 2024-25 season after playing the better part of the last three seasons in the Finnish Liiga. Timra will be Kapanen's new home, which means he is at least one season away from playing in North America. This doesn't necessarily put him down a peg on the prospect pool depth chart, but it does give others ahead of him a leg up in terms of experience in the American Hockey League.

Montreal may very well add a centre with their fifth overall selection and there is a good chance that if they retain their 26th overall pick, the fate of it may be the same. Should that happen, Kapanen may slip down the depth chart, unless of course he has a strong year and decides he is ready to break into the Canadiens system. At this juncture, however, he sits firmly at ninth in the pool ranking and as the second centre.

Kapanen has all the tools to become a solid third line centre or a very good fourth line centre, depending on how things shake out. He doesn't exactly have the offensive skills to keep up in a top six centre role, but he plays a mature game and his nose for the net will create second chances. If his penchant for tipping and deflecting shots translates to the NHL level, it could mean he earns some time on the second power play.

Because there aren't any real standout traits to his game to elevate him ahead of the players above him, he remains at nine. But his blend of speed, smarts and a mature two-way game all but ensure that he will one day play regular minutes in the NHL. Owen Beck stands above him and with his sights set on a role with the Rocket, he could further cement himself as a third-line centre for the Habs.