Jesperi Kotkaniemi 2021-22 By the Numbers
- Age: 22
- NHL Seasons: 4
- Scoring: 12 goals, 17 assists, 29 points in 66 games
- Playoff Scoring: 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points in 14 games
- Advanced Statistics: 58.62 CF%, 53.75% SCF%, 55.06 xGF%, 54.10 GF%
- Average TOI: 9:30 ES, 2:13 PP, 0:02 SH
- Contact Status: On an 8-year, $4.82 AAV contract through 2029-30
If there has been one similarity between Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens fans it’s that they both like to talk about Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Like a lot. Whether good or bad, Kotkaniemi has been a player that has dominated forum and internet posts among the fanbase and been a divisive topic in his first year with the team.
So let’s just lay out some facts before we go any further.
Was Jesperi Kotkaniemi worth $6.1 million last season?
Was $6.1 million the cost to acquire him from Montreal without losing any assests through a trade?
Did the $6.1 million cap hit prevent the Hurricanes from making a more major trade deadline move?
More than likely.
Is Jesperi Kotkaniemi a promising player who is just 22 years old?
Then there is the fact that the team made a significant commitment to him in terms of an eight-year deal. This deal could turn out to be great for the team if everything goes according to plan, but it’s still a risk.
Kotkaniemi is a risk, but one that still seems promising.
The context surrounding Jesperi Kotkaniemi is complicated and you can pull the strings any way to fit whatever narrative you want. The truth of the matter is that the Canes took on a very promising player, but one who seems to have been a bit of a project who tied their hands this last year.
All of those things can be and are true.
So with that out of the way, let’s take a look back on just the on-ice performance from last season.
For the first 13 games or so of the season, Kotkaniemi bounced around the top three lines as a winger. The Canes were already set down the middle, so they wanted to try and use the Finnish forward as a top-six or even top-nine asset.
However, he never seemed comfortable on the wing, playing on the perimeter of plays and just generally not being effective. In those 13 games, Kotkaniemi managed just two goals and three points while playing the majority of his minutes with the Canes’ top guys.
But after he was slid back to center in mid-November, albeit on the fourth line, Kotkaniemi started to have a much more solid impact on the team.
Was it issues adapting to a new system, issues with a new role, or is it just as simple as he needs to play center? We don’t have those answers but the clear indication was that he needed to be playing down the middle to be impactful last season.
But again, maybe he can slide back up in the lineup on the wing this coming season and be more effective now that he is more comfortable with the team.
Outside of just position though, there is also another case for Kotkaniemi performing better when he is entrusted with more minutes.
Kotkaniemi played over 14 minutes 12 times last season at the center position and registered seven goals and 14 points in those games.
So there is strong circumstantial evidence that given more responsibility and better linemates, Kotkaniemi can produce more.
But again, this is a prediction. Kotkaniemi hasn’t proven that he can break out to be that type of player yet, but the Canes are hoping he will.
Now on the other side of the coin, Kotkaniemi’ did have his struggles last season. One of those areas was the power play.
Kotkaniemi was given plenty of power play time and opportunity, but like most of the Hurricanes, he didn’t do much with it.
He is 6-foot-2 and 200+ lbs and needs to be able to use his size to drive offense and win puck battles. He worked well as a netfront option and should work more on developing that skillset this offseason.
Kotkaniemi was also a lot better in the faceoff circle this year than his previous years in Montreal, but he was still the worst among the Canes’ primary centers. If he slides up the lineup, he needs to be able to win more draws.
Then there was the case of his poor playoff performance. He wasn’t alone in being a let down for Carolina last postseason, being that most all of the big gun’s offense dried up, but the Hurricanes were definitely hoping for more from him given his past playoff runs.
Kotkaniemi understandably has a spotlight following him because of the nature of his acquisition and now because of his long-term deal and as such he is going to need to standout to seem worthy in a lot of eyes.
But at just 22 years old, Kotkaniemi has shown a lot of the promise that made him such a high draft pick and tantalizing offer sheet option.
He was never going to be able to live up to expectations last season stuck on the fourth line, but if the Canes are serious about getting the most out of him, he needs to be put in the best position to succeed.
How would you grade Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s 2021-22 season?
This poll is closed
A - Outstanding Performance
B - Above Average Performance
C - Average Performance
D - Below Average Performance
F - Significantly Below Average Performance