The ups and downs of the Finnish Habs forward, Jesperi Kotkaniemi's career so far.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi celebrates after scoring against the Vancouver Canucks for his third goal of the season. Photo from @canadiensmtl / Instagram
Montreal Canadiens fans were shocked when the team’s assistant GM Trevor Timmins announced that they were drafting Finnish forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the third overall pick in 2018's NHL draft. Kotkaniemi, nicknamed “KK”, was only projected to go at around five or six, with many scouts ranking guys like Filip Zadina (who was later drafted by Detroit sixth overall) above him.
Kotkaniemi proved everyone wrong in his rookie season, scoring 37 points in 79 games as an 18-year-old. He also made history as the first 2000s born athlete to play in a Canadian / American professional sports league. This production had many Habs fans eager to see what Kotkaniemi would do next. Unfortunately, his numbers haven’t been what the fans expected.
In his second season, Kotkaniemi put up eight points in 36 games, which caused him to get sent down to the minors. From being called the next Habs superstar one minute, to being sent to the AHL all in one season left everyone shocked. Luckily, this appeared to be the right call, as Kotkaniemi dominated in the AHL, putting up 13 points in 13 games. This allowed him to get his groove back in time for the playoffs, where he scored 4 goals in 10 games.
Seeing this improvement, Habs fans were on their feet, claiming that the 2021 season was the breakout year for KK. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been thus far, with only 3 goals and 14 points for KK in 27 games.
While he is on pace to have his best season yet, his totals aren’t exactly where they should be, especially looking at guys who were drafted after him, such as Brady Tkachuk (drafted fourth overall, one spot behind Kotkaniemei), who has two 20 goal, 40 point seasons under his belt, and is on track to exceed those numbers this season.
With that being said, there is an upside, as KK has been playing on the third line for most of the season, thus reducing his ice time. In the past few games, however, he has been promoted to the top six, gaining more minutes. He currently sits at two points in three games since being put on the top six.
There is no denying that Kotkaniemi has a tremendous amount of potential, fans just need to see more of it. He is a fan favorite and will hopefully be a part of this team for a long time to come. However, with his contract expiring at the end of the season, KK needs to produce at a more consistent rate, if he wants to sign long-term with the Montreal Canadiens.
For more sports news don't hesitate to check out The Sick Podcast on Youtube.