After finishing a strong playoff run with KalPa of the Finnish Elite League, where he had five assists in six games, Kasperi Kapanen
is having another solid postseason – this time with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here. I’ve liked Wilkes-Barre a lot,” he said. “This team, it’s got everything, really. Skill and grit and everything like that, so we’re a good team.”
In his season-ending press conference, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said the biggest thing he wanted to see from the talented young winger was making the adjustment to North America and the style of play here. It’s been a process, but Kapanen is making progress.
“It’s different, obviously. Playing back home, the ice surface is a little bigger and I think it’s more finesse hockey and a little more of a skill game,” said Kapanen, who had a goal and an assist in four regular-season games with WBS. “Here, you’ve got to be ready every shift and it’s always 100 percent out there. But still, I’ve enjoyed the hockey here.”
Kapanen scored twice in Game 1 of WBS’ first-round series against Syracuse, a 5-1 Penguins win and his Calder Cup debut.
It was the start of a four-game point streak for the teenager, as Kapanen went on to add another goal and an assist as WBS took their best-of-five series against the Crunch in three games and tallied a helper in Game 1 of their second-round series with Manchester.
But despite his productivity, the coaching staff felt the rookie would benefit from taking Game 2 off and watching from the press box to gain a different perspective.
“I think it helped me a lot just to see kind of how the game goes,” Kapanen said. “I made a couple errors in the first game, but that stuff happens and there’s stuff I’ve got to learn from that, and I think sitting in the stands was a good thing for me just to see how the game works.”
Kapanen was re-inserted into the lineup for Game 3, which WBS won 2-1 after dropping the first two contests on the road.
“I played a good third game and the whole team played a really good third game, so obviously it was a big confidence boost,” he said. “But you know, you’re going to have bad games. There’s a lot of guys here that aren’t playing that could be playing, and I’m just lucky that I’m back in the lineup and I’m getting a chance to play.”
Kapanen has had a few different linemates since joining WBS, including winger Jayson Megna – someone he said has helped him a lot both on and off the ice.
“He’s been a really good guy for me just showing me places and taking me around and just learning all the stuff here in Wilkes-Barre,” Kapanen said. “Can’t thank him enough and the whole team. Everybody’s been really helping me out.”