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Kaapo Kahkonen has been a mainstay of the Finnish National team program for quite some time. At the age of 16 he helped the Finns win the Youth (U16) Olympic Gold Medal. He also participated in the 2013 Ivan Hlinka and the 2014 Under 18 World Hockey Championships. Don’t be fooled by the statistics, Kahkonen was fantastic at the Hlinka and through most of the Under-18 for what was a weaker than normal team for Finland in his age group. One bad game against Sweden, where Finland was greatly outplayed, and Kahkonen hung out to dry, has a major effect on the U18 numbers.
Domestically Kahkonen is part of the Espoo Blues system in the SM-Liiga. He has been playing at the Jr. A level (ie the top Finnish Junior League). While some Finns do graduate to the SM-Liiga while still teenagers, it is not unusual that goaltenders take a little longer and he is still in the junior ranks. It is important to note that with an August Birthday he is still just 17 and amongst the youngest of the top goalies in this draft.
Goaltender — Shoots Left — Catches Left
Born August 16th 1996 — Helsinki, Finland
Height 6.02 — Weight 201 lbs [91 Kg / 187 cm]
At 6’2″ and with some room to grow, Kaapo Kahkonen has the height that NHL teams are looking for in their goalies today. Kahkonen comes out of his crease, challenging shooters and making great use of his size to take away the available space in the net. He plays a hybrid style, with quite a bit of butterfly thrown in. Kahkonen transitions quickly especially when he goes down to make a save and pops right back up to be in position for the next one, showing tremendous athleticism. His glove and blocker are excellent. He holds them tight to the body reducing the under the arm goals, but is able to flash them out quickly to protect the top portion of the net. His legs are extremely quick and he is tough to beat down low. The great athleticism and side-to-side movement are apparent facing cross-crease passes, wraparounds, and dekes.
Kahkonen is extremely good in his rebound control for a 17-year-old. This is often an area that young goalies struggle in, and while he will still need to keep improving before being ready for the NHL game, he is well ahead of where most of his peers are at the same age. He shows a quick stick for poke checks and for protecting the front of his net from back door passes. He also shows the ability to come out of his net and handle the puck, working as a third defenceman for his team. This can be improved as well, but he’s already at a better level than most of the other European goaltenders in the class.
Kahkonen seems to be at his best when he receives a heavy workload, and can seem to lose focus when Finland plays a weaker opponent and he does not see as many shots. He will need to work on his focus going forward, but this is difficult for a young goaltender, and usually comes with maturity and experience. One thing he does do well is to recover quickly from bad goals and not allow them to pile up.
Kaapo Kahkonen’s style is hard to define. Its like we took a little bit of Martin Brodeur, a little bit of Mikka Kiprusoff, a little bit of Annti Niemi, and some Brian Elliott all rolled up into one. Its not really something that has been seen a lot. This is just a stylistic comparison though and not a talent one. In terms of potential, he could be a number one goaltender in the NHL if he hits his ceiling.
Below are some highlights of Kahkonen in action.
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