Finland just won their game against Sweden in the 4-Nations U20 tournament, the last tournament before the World Junior Championships in Edmonton. Oliver Kapanen took a minor penalty but played well overall, especially on the penalty kill. Kapanen stopped to talk to Eyes on the Prize in the mixed zone and gave his opinion of the game; “I played well, I like the fact that the coach trusts me to play in the difficult situations, like a man down and at the end of the game. It is one of my strengths, the way I think hockey.”
This is something that is more visible from the stands, compared to the Liiga coverage on television. Something else that stands out is Kapanen’s footwork. However, that stands out as something he needs to work on, and the young Finn agrees, “The footwork is something I do need to work on. That, and getting stronger along the boards. Working on my core, to stand up. Those are, as I see it, the two main weaknesses that I have.”
Kapanen has moved between the U20’s and KalPa’s Liiga teams this season. “It is difficult. When you go down to the U20’s you get more responsibility that you haven’t really practiced for [such as penalty kill, power play and leading an offensive-minded line]. When you move up to Liiga it becomes difficult as you play against men that are bigger and stronger, and the game goes faster.”
The World Juniors are Kapanen’s main goal of the season. He clearly states that twice during the interview, once as the discussion focuses on this tournament, and the second time when asked about the expectations fans should have on the centre’s season. “My goal is the World Juniors, I want to play as much as possible in Liiga for KalPa, but the main focus is the tournament in Edmonton”. Mentioning the tournament by the way of which city it is in shows how much it means for Kapanen to be part of the final squad, and the way his coach has trusted him here in Sweden, it is difficult to see Kapanen being left out.
When asked about the chances he had against the Swedes, Kapanen smiled, “I should probably have scored.” And when his slapshot is mentioned he grins even wider, “I only work on my wrist shot. It is so good that I don’t need a slapshot.”