Heading in to training camp, one of the main questions was how Jesperi Kotkaniemi could perform among the NHL players as an 18-year-old. One month, and several outstanding showings, later, he will be one of those NHL players when the season begins on Wednesday.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi débutera la saison à Montréal mentionne l'entraîneur-chef Claude Julien.— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) September 29, 2018
Jesperi Kotkaniemi will start the season in Montreal, says head coach Claude Julien. #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/b5uKPtVX8z
It’s been quite a story for the young Finn, who was drafted third overall by a team looking for a centreman despite Kotkaniemi playing his draft year on the wing. It was his play in the Under-18 World Hockey Championship in the centre position that really boosted his stock heading into the draft, and the promise has seemingly come to fruition much earlier than anyone could have anticipated.
Kotkaniemi can play nine games in the NHL before his entry-level contract kicks in. Should he be on the active roster for 40 games, he will use up the first of seven years of restricted free agency, meaning he would be free to test the open market as a 25-year-old.
But that is well in the future. At the moment, he will just be focused on making his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, and if this month is any indication, it’s going to be fun to watch his journey.