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Oliver Kapanen is the Montreal Canadiens Most Underrated Prospect

The Montreal Canadiens have one of the best prospect pools in the NHL. Names like Lane Hutson, David Reinbacher, Logan Mailloux, and Joshua Roy often dominate the prospect discussion. With that being said, it’s no surprise that amongst these names, one player has often fallen out of the spotlight. But after an explosive start at the 2024 IIHF Men’s World Hockey Championships, the Montreal Canadiens most underrated prospect is finally getting some recognition. This prospect is Finnish forward Oliver Kapanen.

Montreal Canadiens Oliver Kapanen

Oliver Kapanen’s Career

20-year-old Oliver Kapanen was drafted in the second round, 64th overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens. The Finnish Centreman has been playing with Kalpa in the Liiga ever since. This season, Kapanen has burst onto the scene with 34 points in 51 games. These offensive totals are impressive for a 20-year-old who is playing against men in Finland’s top league.

What has really put Kapanen on the map for Canadiens fans however is his explosive start at the IIHF World Championships. Kapanen has amassed five goals including a hat-trick performance in only three games. Once again, very impressive for a 20-year-old at a tournament which is typically dominated by NHLers.

Kapanen’s NHL Projection

Despite his recent offensive outburst, Kapanen isn’t a prospect who is known for his offensive prowess. While he does have good finishing instincts, Kapanen doesn’t project as an offensive powerhouse at the NHL level. Oliver Kapanen is a player who can be expected to play in all situations as he is reliable defensively. If we combine this with his big frame at 6″1 you have all the makings for a solid bottom-six centre who can provide some depth scoring at the NHL level.

A good comparison for Kapanen within the Canadiens organization is fellow centreman Owen Beck. Both are reliable two-way forwards with bottom-six projections. The ceiling for both is a second-line centre role but even if they don’t reach these ceilings, they will both be players at the NHL level in at a minimum bottom-six role.

Future Outlook for Kapanen with the Canadiens

The Canadiens are a team that is currently deep down the middle. They have Nick Suzuki, Kirby Dach, Alex Newhook, Christian Dvorak, Jake Evans, and the aforementioned Beck down the middle. This doesn’t initially project well for Kapanen at first glance. However, Newhook has excelled at points on the wing and may be a better-fit long-term as a flank. Jake Evans is a solid faceoff guy and fourth line centreman who isn’t necessarily a key piece moving forward, while Dvorak likely doesn’t fit into the team’s long-term plans.

With all this being said, this in theory leaves a future third-line centre slot open for Oliver Kapanen or Owen Beck. With some moves made this summer, the two could be competing for this position as early as the upcoming 2024-25 season. Although, there is no need to rush with the 20-year-old Kapanen. Moreover, he likely needs some time in the AHL with the Laval Rocket before jumping to the big leagues. Either way, Kapanen should be on the Canadiens roster in a bottom-six role within the next two years.

If this year’s explosive start to the World Championships is any indication, Oliver Kapanen will be competing for an NHL job sooner rather than later. Kapanen projects as a solid depth scorer for any team’s future bottom-six. He has long been one of the Canadiens most underrated prospects but that won’t be the case any longer. It won’t be long before we see the Finnish prospect donning the Bleu Blanc Rouge.

Main photo credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports


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