Team: KalPa Kuopio (SM Liiga)
Hometown: Kuopio, Finland
Projected: Top 15
Kasperi Kapanen, son of former NHLer Sami Kapanen, is an offensively gifted sniper who is currently ranked the best European prospect by Central Scouting. Kapanen boasts a quick and accurate shot, is a versatile skater, and possesses not only the awareness to identify scoring chances, but the puck-handling skills to exploit them as well. He has also demonstrated a highly competitive attitude that has been praised by many of his peers (see "Quotes" below).
Kapanen will most likely rank alongside William Nylander for the top European prospect for the rest of the season, and could be picked anywhere from the 5-15 spots of the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft. The fact that he's been playing against men in Finland's top professional league is important to scouts but, at the same time, he has not been able to put up impressive numbers in the SM Liiga. His dedication and compete level, however, could make him more likely to reach his potential, making him a solid pick for any team.
KalPa Kuopio (SM Liiga): 35 GP, 5 G, 5 A, 10 Pts, 10 PIM, +0
"Kasperi Kapanen is one of the top European prospects for the draft in 2014," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com. "Good skater, excellent, smart moves around the net. Has a very good selection of shots -- a real sniper. He will be regular on Kalpa in the Finnish league this season."
Kasperi is at present the No. 1 European prospect," (NHL Director of European Scouting Goran) Stubb said. "He's a sniper who will play for Finland at the 2014 World Junior Championship. He possesses excellent vision and has great skills ... he's a star in the making."
"He's the youngest guy on our team, the only guy born in 1996," (coach Karri) Kivi told NHL.com. "I already last year saw him ... I like his attitude. He's a talented player, good scorer, but I like his head. He's competitive, he likes to compete. That's what I like. His father still plays and his grandfather played in the top league. It goes in the family."
"I like to play a physical game and play a lot with the puck," Kapanen told NHL.com. "I love to shoot, pass the puck and score goals. I guess you can call it an offensive type of game."
Where He Would Fit
Kapanen is the kind of player that any GM would like on their team because of his combination of skill and competitiveness. At this point, I feel like a broken record but on a Nashville Predators team that, throughout their history, has had trouble putting the puck in the back of the net, Kapanen would be a welcomed addition.
He plays on the right side, which could be problematic because Smith and Forsberg look like the future top two right-wingers for Nashville but, then again, they both have the potential to be future centers in the NHL. If the Predators determine he is the forward they want, however, they shouldn't worry about position.