5Keep an eye on #15 tonight as the Columbus Blue Jackets host one of the most exciting rookies in the NHL.
The NHL schedule is designed so that every team has to visit every market at least once throughout the season. Every team then comes through and plays in Ohio and Columbus Blue Jackets fans get the chance to see all of the great stars in the league live.
Tonight, when the Montreal Canadiens take the ice, Jackets fans will get the chance to see on of those stars that is worth going to a game. 18-year-old Finnish center Jesperi Kotkaniemi hasn’t received the attention fellow rookies Elias Pettersson or Rasmus Dahlin have, but he should. The Canadiens third overall pick from this summer’s draft has been a huge reason why the Canadiens are in a playoff position 48 games through the season.
Kotkaniemi is playing as the third line center and excelling. Even though he is only averaging 13:58 of ice time a game, he is producing during his limited opportunity. His 23 points in 48 games is fantastic production from a third line 18-year-old.
He also is tilting the ice. Jesperi has the third highest corsi on the team among starters with a fantastic 57.3%. Sure, he is protected with over 60% of his zones starts coming in the offensive end but that is still a great corsi for a rookie center.
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"Jesperi Kotkaniemi has been a player Habs fans are continuing to love ever since Marc Bergevin called his name at the podium in Dallas last June. A few things that stand out about him for someone who has never seen the young centre play is his maturity, awareness, and vision. Kotkaniemi is continuously nailing the area of the game which rookies tend to struggle with that being his play away from the puck. He back checks well, is usually in position to cover for Montreal’s activating d-man, and is sneaky good at intercepting passes and stealing pucks from the opposition. His playmaking is also unreal at times. Kotkaniemi has made ridiculous passes to his line mates who have either not been ready for it or weren’t able to hit the mark. And speaking of offense, he’s starting to come alive a bit more individually with two goals in three games."
That maturity, awareness, and vision are the reason why he has such amazing possession numbers and continues to eat up solid minutes.
The offense will come for this skilled player as he becomes more conformable in the league but his performance has me thinking that he will be a star in the leagues as soon as next year.
If you are free tonight and have the means, go see this kid play. You will be able to tell your kids, “Yeah, I saw him play as an 18-year-old and knew one day, he would be special”.