Montreal Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi is among many NHLers playing in Europe at the moment and, at last, he seems to be turning on the jets.
Kotkaniemi has been on loan to his hometown club Pori Assat and he did not get off to a great start. He went pointless in his first four games, but lately he’s been cooking. He scored two goals Wednesday and won 61 percent of his faceoffs. According to the latest stats, he has eight points in 10 games in Liiga.
Kotkaniemi skates on the second line with Pori Assat and observers have noted that his scoring touch seems to be crystallizing in Finland. His shot has taken centre stage, especially as he finds more time and space on the power play.
For Montreal’s fans, this has to be great news.
Kotkaniemi has every chance right now to cement himself in at the centre position and really find his game. His confidence is growing in Finland.
According to Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette, Kotkaniemi is averaging over 20 minutes of ice time a game – including a 21:28 run in his second game of the season, a shootout victory for Pori Assat.
In Montreal, Kotkaniemi won’t hit the same markers but these numbers show just what he can do when given the opportunity. He averaged 14 minutes of ice time a game in the playoffs for the Habs, so this demonstration in Liiga could go a long way to re-establishing his presence in the NHL.
The book on Kotkaniemi is obviously still being written in Montreal, but there’s a reason people are watching his Finland performances so carefully. Not only does it provide for a hockey fix while we wait for the NHL to begin again, it provides a clear indication of possibility for the forward.
Another point: Kotkaniemi has started to make appearances on the penalty kill for Pori Assat. Head coach Ari-Pekka Selin has been flipping him into various situations, which is likely giving Marc Bergevin a lot to think about back in Montreal.
It should be giving fans a lot to talk about, too.