With the 11th overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft, the Predators select Kasperi Kapanen from KalPa Kuopia of SM-liiga. (You can see all previous and future picks in SB Nation's NHL Mock Draft here.)
Since Peter Laviolette was hired as Nashville's new head coach, all attention has been payed to how the team is going to improve offensively. Free agency and any possible trades this summer are going to be imperative for improving the team in the short term, but what about the long term? Drafting a high-octane forward this summer should be high priority.
At 6'0'', 180 lbs, Kapanen is the top-ranked European skater in the draft, and comes from a family of professional hockey players. His father, Sami Kapanen, played 12 NHL seasons, and his grandfather, uncle, and great-uncle all played in the Finnish Elite League as well. The 17-year-old from Kuopia, Finland, has a decent set of wheels, which allows him to dangle and fly around defenders, and an incredibly wicked wrist shot that can paralyze goaltenders. Scouts also boast of the Hockey IQ he displays on the ice. He only scored 14 points with KalPa this season, but they were theworst team in the league and the leading point scorer only had six more points.
A possible (but minor) concern is being a natural right-winger, a position the Preds are stacked with at the moment. Bryant44 touched on this exact scenario back in February:
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.
Smith should stay on the wing, but having a dynamic and possibly game-changing forward may be worth having to do some tinkering down the road. It wouldn't be for a few seasons, either. Kapanen turns 18 in July, and would need to spend plenty of time in the minors, not only to get him used to the smaller ice, but to see how his game holds up against different competition. Patience is key. While the Preds could be getting an incredible talent, don't expect him in the NHL lineup anytime soon.
Adding the Finn would increase a prospective offense that seems to be getting younger, faster and more talented every few months. To be sure, there is still some risk associated with the pick. Craig Smith seems to be developing well, but Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg still have a lot to prove. Should one or both of the Swedes pan out as expected, it could make a great environment for Kapenen to thrive. They traded for two talented prospects, now they need to draft one.
From Hockey Prospectus' 2014 final top 30 draft rankings, who has him at number 16:
An offensive wizard, who is not afraid to forecheck, Kapanen has explosive speed and displays very good creativity with the puck. He has excellent vision and makes quick, good decisions with the puck. No one doubts that Kapanen has game-breaker abilities, however, his dynamism offensively is intermittent and his defensive play needs work. Scouts have him going all over the first round, but we think that he is a boom or bust player that a team should be taking a chance on in the middle of the round.
"Boom or bust" would be enough to give a club pause. However, given how level this draft seems to be, taking risk at number 11 isn't the worst thing Nashville could do.
It should also be noted that David Poile has hinted at trading the two second-round picks he has this year if it means getting another one in the first. Perhaps that would be a little insurance policy: a safe pick and a risky pick. The trade won't happen until the day of the draft, if it does at all. However, he's also said three of the players they are targeting are forwards. Is Kapanen on that list?
Here you can see Kapanen's incredible shot and moves in full force: