Rasmus Kupari broke through in last year’s Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, where he grabbed the bull by the horns and showed the world that Finland will never dry up when it comes to top-end talent. His seven points (2G, 5A) in four games were secondary to the overall offensive game that put his skating, vision, and stickhandling on full display.
Birthplace: Kotka, Finland
Date of birth: March 15, 2000
Weight: 163 lbs.
Youth team: Titaanit
Team: Oulun Kärpät
Returning to Liiga, he was on the top team, Kärpät, and won the championship in the end. It was clear when the playoffs came around that coach Mikko Manner felt that Kupari was a bit out of his depth, as he only played his young prospect in six games out of the 18 games. The fact that Kärpät signed Winnipeg Jets prospect Kristian Vesalainen for the playoffs probably helped relegate Kupari to the bench.
Playing as a professional, Kupari scored 14 points (6G, 8A) in 39 games, averaging 12:05 of ice time. For comparison Montreal Canadiens prospect Joni Ikonen posted 14 points (4G, 10A) in a 52-game draft-plus-one season and had an average ice time of 12:20.
While Kupari didn’t produce to the same degree as Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who scored 17 points (6G, 11A) in 29 games, when comparing the two draft-eligibles it is important to know that Kupari played centre this season in a professional league, while Kotkaniemi lined up as a winger in Ässät. With this in mind, it seems that Kupari has progressed further in his development for the centre position overall compared to his compatriot.
Kupari’s strength is on offence, and it is a game he really excels at. Sometimes it is like watching a video game with the cheat codes activated. He possesses some wicked hands and a sharp shot that he can use from all over the offensive zone. Adding to that is his elite skating, highlighted by his great acceleration, which makes him excellent in the transition game.
When you combine all the offensive skills Kupari has, he becomes a terror for opposing goalkeepers. His hockey IQ is good and sometimes he is sly like a weasel, which bodes well for his development.
Kupari comes with some weaknesses. As with nearly all prospects, he needs to become bigger, and while the off-season usually is the time to add weight, the continuing travel across the Atlantic during the draft summer will hamper the physical regimen that he needs in order to beef up. This is something that Kupari will have to work on during next season’s schedule.
While he has a good hockey IQ, he needs to improve his reads in the defensive end. He forechecks well, but was caught out of position a few times during the past season.
When a turnover is created, Kupari’s speed and skill have him up the ice in seconds looking for offence, and it is not because he cheats in his defensive game, it is once more his skating that helps him take advantage of a change in possession immediately.
ISS Hockey: #14
Future Considerations: #19
McKeen’s Hockey: #22
NHL Central Scouting: #11 (EU Skaters)
Hockey Prospect: #12
A team will take Kupari because they see his offensive game as a strength rather than an obstacle to a more disciplined defensive game. He will doubtless gain confidence in his own zone the more he plays and gains experience.
His skating and balance are excellent, and once he gains a bit of muscle, he could very well come to be regarded as a steal of the draft.
At the end of it all, when it comes to pure offensive skill, Rasmus Kupari is one of the best prospects available. I see a bit of Jesse Puljujärvi as a comparison: same offensive skill, same dangles, but might need a bit of seasoning before he can bring out the best in his game. A player with the upside that Kupari brings to the draft should be tempting to many a team in the NHL.