By the Numbers will highlight the on-ice accomplishments in the 2018-19 season for the Detroit Red Wings' prospects. Twice a week during the offseason, By the Numbers will profile a different player in the system, focusing on his statistical highs. This week we focus on defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo.
Kasper Kotkansalo may never light up the scoreboard from the back end, but what the 6-foot-3, 205-pound, left-handed defenseman brings is a solid reputation as a defensive stalwart with the potential of developing an offensive side to his game.
Selected by the Red Wings in the third round, 71st overall, of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Kotkansalo left his native Finland at 17 to play for the USHL's Sioux Falls Stampede because he wanted to adapt to playing on the smaller North American ice surface.
His decision as a teen to travel halfway around the world to pursue his NHL dream impressed Detroit's brass, along with his dogged determination, booming personality and zest for life.
After a year in Sioux Falls, Kotkansalo departed the Stampede to play for the tradition-rich Boston University Terriers, which had a talent-laden roster with many high-end players including Brady Tkachuk, Jordan Greenway and Jake Oettinger.
Kotkansalo had some ups and downs as a freshman at BU, but he held his own in one of college hockey's toughest conferences - Hockey East.
After his freshman year, his coach, David Quinn, accepted the head coaching job for the New York Rangers and several players left the Terriers to turn pro.
Quinn was replaced by Albie O'Connell, a four-year assistant to Quinn and a former BU player.
Detroit wasn't too concerned the coaching change would negatively impact Kotkansalo's development since assistant coach Len Quesnelle, a former amateur scout for the Red Wings (2013-2017) would still be coaching the BU defensive corps.
But with a coaching change and a roster in flux, the Terriers had an uncharacteristic down year, going 16-18-4, after putting together four consecutive 20-plus-win seasons.
As he enters his junior year, Kotkansalo will be an integral part of a BU team trying to rebound from last year's disappointing campaign.
Not only is it a big year for the Terriers, it will also be a significant year for Kotkansalo, who has two seasons left to impress the Red Wings enough to be offered a contract after the 2020-21 season.
38 - Kotkansalo was one of six players to play all 38 games for the Terriers.
0 - After notching two goals during his freshman year, Kotkansalo failed to score a goal as a sophomore. Not counting tournaments, it was the first time in his hockey career he didn't score at least one goal in a season.
11 - Total number of assists and points Kotkansalo registered last season for BU. His 11 assists ranked seventh on the team and his 11 points were five more points than he accumulated as a freshman (2-4-6).
16 - As a freshman, Kotkansalo was assessed 22 penalty minutes. As a sophomore, he had 16 penalty minutes.
-8 - On a team which had its struggles, Kotkansalo was minus-8, which was third highest on the BU team. As a freshman, he was plus-12.
70 - His 70 blocked shots were second most on the Terriers. Fellow defenseman Dante Fabbro led BU in blocked shots with 82.
Quotable: "Kasper solidified himself as a top-two pairing 'D.' He played in all situations, not so much on the power play as on the penalty kill, he was a little more heavier on the penalty kill. We matched him up versus the other teams' top lines quite a bit because he's a good defender, his gaps got a lot better. He knew where he was on the ice a little bit more. His ice balance was a lot better. It was good. It had some ebbs and flows to it, but on balance he had a really good year, he made strides, he was very reliable, very good at getting the puck out of our zone making good outlets and exits. He really came a long way. His physical play was very good, his ability to defend down low, he was able to close on people a lot quicker and at the offensive blueline he did a better job, it's something he's continuously working on. He has a good shot, it's just getting himself in position, getting his feet set so he can get a puck off fast against somebody shot blocking. But overall, we're pretty pleased with his development, he's come a long way from the first year to the second year from a confidence standpoint. A great kid, high character, we think the world of him. I don't know if we need him to have a breakout year offensively, hopefully he can chip in, but (we need) him to be a solid two-way guy that can be dependable in all situations." - Albie O'Connell, Boston University head coach
Quotable II: "BU didn't have a great year in general and a guy like Kasper, who's a defensive player who prides himself on defense and defensive numbers, when a team doesn't have great success your numbers are going to reflect that. Kasper realized that and talking to him at the end of the year, I know he wasn't happy with his year last year. He's committed to spending a bit more time over here in North America training and getting ready for next season. I'm looking forward to him having a bounce back year this year." - Shawn Horcoff, Detroit's director of player development