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A Season of 40 Points for Kotkaniemi

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With the 2021 season about to begin, media attention is focused on a number of fronts. Once the main topic of conversation, Jesperi Kotkaniemi is now giving way to Suzuki, Toffoli, Anderson, Drouin and Romanov. After a second season that fell short of expectations, the young Finn will most likely be amongst the team’s top players this year.  

A shortened season  

In his rookie year, 2018-19, Kotkaniemi had a good start to the season. In fact, he played well in the first 65 games, scoring 32 points. Then, he ran out of juice at the end of the season as evidenced by his meager 2 points in the last 14 games.  

This drop in power had caused much talk. When asked about it, Claude Julien had then said:

 »Over the past few weeks, we’ve noticed that he has slowed down a bit. We’re going to give him a chance to rest for a while. It’s something that’s completely normal for a young person who’s only 18 years old.  »

Claude Julien, March 5, 2019

This year, whether Kotkaniemi is in better shape or not, he will benefit greatly from a shorter schedule. 56 games is perfect so he won’t be affected by a late season slowdown.  

Obvious confidence 

Since his demotion with the Laval Rocket last season, Kotkaniemi seems to have regained his confidence. In Laval, he garnered 13 points in 13 games. He then tied for first place in the CH playoff scoring with 4 goals in 10 games. Earlier this year, when the Canadiens loaned him out to his former club in Finland, he scored 8 points in 10 games. By comparison, in 2017-18, he had 29 points in 57 games for the same team.  

There is also a greater confidence in his physical abilities. Not satisfied with having added some 20 pounds since joining the league, the 20-year-old is using this new strength. In the playoffs, he finished 2nd on the team in body checking despite minimal use.  

His battle against Robert Hagg is a clear sign of Kotkaniemi’s newfound confidence in his own strength. We are talking about a 20-year-old who spent a good part of his early career on the ground, who doesn’t hesitate for a second to throw down the gauntlet and who is doing relatively well.   

More ice time  

In his rookie season, Kotkaniemi played an average of 13:30 minutes per game. This placed him 11th among the CH forwards. In his second season in Montreal, his average dropped to 13:00 (13th). In the playoffs, he played 13:53 minutes per game (10th place). Considering what he has shown since his dismissal in Laval, his use will definitely increase this season. Although he is currently ranked third in the center field behind Suzuki and Danault, he is likely to see more and more ice time on the power play.  

However, he will absolutely have to improve his efficiency on the face-off circle. His level in this regard is nothing short of atrocious.  

A shortened season, greater confidence, increased utilization and a rare raw talent can only lead to a record season in terms of productivity. A campaign of 40 points in 56 games, the equivalent of 58 points in 82 games, appears quite possible for the 3rd choice in total at the 2018 draft. 

Translated by Michel-Alexandre Broekaert

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