Photo Credit: KalPa / Meri Hyvärinen
Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler
Oliver Kapanen is a 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who plays for KalPa in Kuopio, Finland.
Kapanen hails from Sundsvall, Sweden. Even though Kapanen was originally from Sundsvall, he is a Finnish citizen. His father Kimmo Kapanen was playing for Timrå IK at the time of Oliver’s birth. Timrå is a short 13 kilometer drive up the road from Sundsvall.
Kimmo isn’t the only family member who played hockey competitively. Oliver’s uncle is former Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers winger Sami Kapanen. Sami’s son, Kasperi Kapanen played several seasons in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization and is now playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the club who initially drafted him. Oliver’s grandfather Hannu Kapanen played for JoKP in the 1980s and his great uncle Jari Kapanen played for HIFK in the SM-Liiga. Last but not least, Oliver’s cousin (brother of Kasperi), Konsta Kapanen is a 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who has been playing with Oliver at the U18 and U20 levels for KalPa.
This past season, Kapanen spent the majority of last season playing at the U20 level and averaged roughly 1.11 points per game. In total, he had 25 goals and 16 assists in 37 games played. In addition, he played in five games for JoKP (Mestis), in which he was a point per game player.
Kapanen also represented Finland at the international level and suited up at the 2021 IIHF U18 World Championships in the Greater Dallas Fort-Worth Area. He played on a strong Finnish club that included Ville Koivunen (2021 eligible), Samu Tuomaala (2021), Samu Salminen (2021), Aleksi Heimosalmi (2021), Viljami Juusola (2021), Niko Huuhtanen (2021), Aku Koskenvuo (2021), Jimi Suomi (2021), Topias Vilén (2021) and Brad Lambert (2022).
D.O.B – July 29, 2003
Nationality – Finland
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –179 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Right
Kapanen’s Style Of Play
Kapanen shows a tremendous amount of promise when in the slot. If he sees a teammate at the half-wall gain possession of the puck, he will look to out-skate the attack from the perimeter inwards to open up passing lanes and get the puck on net at the crease. He does an excellent job at at finding open ice down low. Kapanen keeps an attentive eye on his teammates and the puck. Based on his teammate’s positioning in the offensive zone, Kapanen will shift around to face the teammate and present his stick-blade as a notion for his teammates to attempt a centered pass to him.
When his teammates are driving the rush, he generally drives towards the net to set up shop. Kapanen is constantly in pursuit of finding an open passing lane. When he finds the ideal passing lane for his teammate, you can trust in Kapanen to make a quickly timed shot. This season with KalPa, he’s found quite a bit of success with his one-timers including a game winning goal against JYP on January 15, 2021.
He often tries to fire one-timers, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t grab the puck and take his time before he shoots. For instance, when KalPa was playing against Kärpät on February 26, 2021, he pounced on open ice in the slot to open up a passing lane. Once he collected the pass, he waited with the puck for a few seconds, before going top shelf with a wrist shot. Sometimes he struggles with his one-timers to get them on net, so he will lean a bit more on wrist shot at times.
At times, Kapanen will struggle to get by the last defender with his stick-handling. He will attempt to swing the puck around the boards when trying to skate past the last defender. Ultimately, he has difficulty fending off the back-check. When getting the puck around traffic, he will play the puck off the boards and get the puck to the point. His intention is to play the puck further out and assumes that the attack will back off of their pressure a bit. Unfortunately, given his struggle under pressure, you will see him give up possession once capturing a loose puck. He faces challenges when attempting to stick-handle or pivot out of pressure.
But, if the defender is giving Kapanen some more time and space, he will look to stick-handle one-handed and play the puck along the boards instead of at open ice. If he played the puck at open ice, it’s inviting the defender in.
When it comes to the forecheck, you will see Kapanen struggle at his forechecking consistency. He will be late on the forecheck at times. Kapanen doesn’t have the necessary acceleration with his skating to compete hard for pucks. If he does catch up to the puck carrier on the forecheck, he will deliver bodychecks at the boards. Yet, his speed doesn’t allow his checks to result in a possession change.
On the other hand, if he is slightly late on the forecheck, he will extend his stick out. But, when he generally is sticking his stick out, he is still at a distance from the attacker and that doesn’t result in a poke-check.
Kapanen doesn’t drive play too often, instead he looks to generate scoring opportunities by finding the right spot/passing lane. So, you won’t often see Kapanen control the puck at open ice and attempt dangerous passes. When he does attempt them, he will sometimes struggle to identify opportune situations to pass in and that will lead to interceptions.
If there are puck battles in the corners, he’s hovering over the red line to give his teammates a passing lane for a breakout pass. Yet, there are situations where heeds to be cautious about overcommitting to being drawn in on an insurance role too close to puck battles in which at least three teammates are engaged. He has to keep his eye on his opponents and shut down potential passing lanes too.
Will constantly look for loose pucks along the boards to grab possession of and then fire a breakout pass. Kapanen hunts for loose pucks in the corners, when the corner is unoccupied. It’s the same situation when there is an attacker down low and he doesn’t see a teammate in the corner looks to circumvent the attack. Kapanen looks to put pressure on the attackers with his body down low.
Similar to dealing with pressure in the offensive zone, Kapanen needs to work on stick-handling out of the forecheck when behind the red line. He also needs to work on spacial awareness when extending his stick out for poke-checks and manipulation.
When trying to kick off the rush, he tends to look for breakout passes instead of moving the puck up the ice himself. You will see Kapanen complete diagonal stretch pass feed for a zone exit pass to his teammate, who is approaching the offensive zone blue-line.
If the enters into the neutral zone with possession of the puck, he’ll look to complete a zone entry pass to a forward closer to the offensive blue-line rather that driving the rush himself. That has led to quite a bit of successful transitions and scoring chances. For instance, he has completed a cross diagonal pass to his teammate near the offensive blue line that led to a primary assist.
On the power play, he’ll look to skate the puck into the neutral zone, but throw a pass behind his back to his defenseman and let the defenseman carry the puck up the ice into the offensive zone.
Occasionally, Kapanen will look to carry the puck into the offensive zone, but needs to be cautious on choosing the best path to the offensive zone as he will draw the attack and will face challenges trying to outwork the attack with his stick-handling.
When Kapanen is defending against the rush, he is often skating behind the rush. Kapanen won’t exert a lot of pressure in the neutral zone due to his speed, so like in the offensive and defensive zone, he will look to utilize an active stick. But, he does have issues with his reach and stopping the attack by extending out his stick.
As I brought over earlier, Kapanen doesn’t have explosive acceleration. But, that doesn’t mean that he can’t acquire the necessary acceleration through proper development. His skating mechanics can be improved.
Kapanen needs to be consistent with his stride extension length. Every now and then throughout a game, you will notice Kapanen completing small stride extensions and it doesn’t help him acquire the necessary speed. I’d like to see Kapanen widening his stride extension, but also working on his ankle flexion. His knees aren’t always in line with the toes of his skates. Kapanen also has to work in his crossovers to help key up his power stride. He will use crossovers for changing lanes, but doesn’t seem to get the explosiveness that he needs off of crossovers. If he can further develop his stride extensions and crossovers, he will pick up the speed to be an effective NHLer.
With his edges, Kapanen will occasionally lose balance when deploying an inside edge after completing a pivot. He puts a lot of pressure on his knees and hips to swing his body prior to deploying the edge. With how much pressure he exerts, it hurts his mobility slightly.
While there are areas to work on with his skating, his ability to pivot on a dime to generate open ice by confusing the attacker is quite strong. I’d like to see him fend off the attack like that more and more, but at the same time, you want to be illusive and sometimes overplaying your hand can lead to your attackers picking up on your strategies.
Top 9 Forward, NHL.
While there are areas that need further development, if Kapanen can become a well-rounded skater and acquire explosive acceleration, he will be a dominant threat. With his ability to find open ice with ease, the last thing that defenders are going to want is Kapanen flying into the zone at lightning speed. If he gets that acceleration, he’ll beat defenders at a consistent rate and key up scoring chances.
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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