Pens pick Finnish winger Kapanen in 1st round of NHL Entry Draft
PHILADELPHIA — Jim Rutherford kept the pick, and he hopes he landed a falling star at the NHL Entry Draft.
With his first pick as Penguins general manager, Rutherford authorized the selection of Finnish winger Kasperi Kapanen on Friday night.
A frenzied crowd of booing Philadelphians temporarily halted their deafening jeering of Penguins brass on the stage for the introduction of Kapanen, who spent time in the city when his father Sami Kapanen played for the Flyers from 2002-08.
“I thought they were going to boo me, but it wasn't that bad,” Kasperi Kapanen said.
Projected as the No. 1 European skater by NHL Central Scouting, Kapanen was rated the 10th-best prospect by The Hockey News.
However, a couple of independent scouting services were split on his standing entering the Entry Draft.
Kapanen was the 13th-best prospect as rated by International Scouting Service, but Red Line Report had him at No. 29 overall.
A right-handed shot, Kapanen said his strength is “skating,” but added he was comfortable “playing with the puck.” His defense needs work.
Red Line Report cited the need for Kapanen to improve his “compete level,” though International Scouting Service said he was “not far away from being an effective and well-balanced NHL player.”
Kapanen, 17, surprised the Penguins by being available late in the first round.
Earlier this past week, Rutherford said he would possibly trade the pick. However, by late Friday afternoon, Rutherford said he had not “heard anything that (made) sense.”
“We had him No. 7 on our list,” Rutherford said. “It's not very often you get to draft the son of a player who you also drafted. He reminds me of his dad, but bigger and stronger.”
Rutherford, then the general manager with Hartford, chose Sami Kapanen with the 87th overall pick in the fifth round of the 1995 Entry Draft.
The Kapanens played together last season for KalPa in SM-Liiga, Finland's top league. Kasperi Kapanen produced seven goals and 14 points in 47 games with KalPa.
Though Kapanen said he will try to win a roster spot with the Penguins, he is more likely to spend next season again playing in Finland. If that happens, he should receive suitable help preparing for the NHL from his father.