Jesperi Kotkaniemi is staying with the Montreal Canadiens

The 2018 third overall pick’s entry-level contract will officially begin.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi was one of the biggest surprises when the 2018-19 season began. Most expected he would need another year or two in a lower-tier professional league before he would be ready for the NHL, but he made the Montreal Canadiens’ opening-night roster.

Even then, many believed it would just be a nine-game tryout as he got a bit of experience at the top level before continuing his development either back in Finland or in the AHL.

Instead, the 2000-born Finn will be staying with Montreal for a 10th game, and will be on the roster when the Canadiens travel to Boston for what will be his first taste of the Habs-Bruins rivalry.

Kotkaniemi has yet to score in the nine games he’s played, but has contributed four assists. He has been showing flashes of the talent that got him drafted among the elite prospects in June.

The decision means his three-year entry-level contract will begin, so the time for a new deal will come a bit sooner. Another deadline is still on the schedule: should be remain on the active roster for 40 games this season, it will count as one of the seven accrued seasons a player can have before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

With Kotkaniemi expected to be a significant piece of the Canadiens’ core going forward, the dollar figure on his next contract may not be the main concern for the club.

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