By the Numbers will highlight the on-ice accomplishments in the 2017-18 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.
Perhaps it is preordained that Red Wings prospect Kasper Kotkansalo will someday wear Detroit's iconic winged wheel.
While he was growing up in Finland, one of Kotkansalo's father's work pals was the father of former Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula.
One day when he arrived home from work, the elder Kotkansalo had an autographed Filppula Red Wings hat. Young Kasper was hooked, Detroit was his team.
Affable, passionate and determined, the 6-foot-2, 196-pound defenseman was taken by the Wings in the third round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Detroit liked many things about his game, but was impressed that Kotkansalo left Finland at 17 years old to play for the Sioux Falls Stampede in the USHL because he wanted to adapt to playing on the smaller North American ice surface.
After one year in Sioux Falls where he registered one goal among his 12 points and was plus-12 in 47 games, Kotkansalo moved on to Boston University where he was part of a team stacked with NHL-level talent.
Kotkansalo may have had a few highs and lows on the ice, but his upbeat nature made him an instant hit with his teammates.
He did not look out of place in the Terriers' lineup as a freshman.
In late May, Kotkansalo's coach at BU, David Quinn, was named head coach of the New York Rangers. Former BU player Albie O'Connell was promoted to head coach after serving four years as Quinn's assistant.
Len Quesnelle, a former amateur scout for the Red Wings (2013 through September 2017), will begin his second season as an assistant coach at BU where he oversees the Terriers' defensive corps.
So despite the coaching change at Boston University, the Wings are very comfortable that Kotkansalo's development will continue to flourish under the new regime.
40 - Kotkansalo was one of three freshmen to play in all 40 games for BU. Brady Tkachuk and Shane Bowers were the other two first-year Terriers to suit up for every game.
2 - Number of goals he scored. His first collegiate goal came on November 17 at home against Maine in a 5-2 victory.
4 - Total number of assists Kotkansalo dished out. His first college point was an assist on October 21 in a 6-3 win at Connecticut.
+12 - His plus-12 ranked third on the Terriers, trailing only Bowers' plus-16 and Tkachuk's plus-15.
51 - Blocked shots he registered, which was fourth best among BU players.
5 - Kotkansalo played in all five games for Team Finland at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, where he didn't score a point but recorded five shots on goal.
71 - Detroit picked him in the third round, 71st overall, in the 2017 Draft. The Wings had four picks during the third round of last year's draft, selecting Kotkansalo, center Lane Zablocki, 79th overall, center Zach Gallant, 83rd overall, and goalie Keith Petruzzelli, 88th overall.
Quotable: "He had a great freshman year. Like a lot of freshmen, it took him a few games to get comfortable early on and actually his game really took off and excelled. At the end of the season, he probably got a little bit tired and his game fell off a little bit, but that's just a normal routine, the normal learning curve a player has going to college. It's no easy step, it's the first time you're playing against men. Everyone is older, anywhere from 18 to 24, and sometimes it may take some time to learn that, but Kasper is a guy we're really excited about. We were really happy with his freshman year.
"I'd say he's more of a defender. He's going to be a guy that's going to be hard to play against. He is intense, he has really good hockey sense, he has a really good first pass. The offense that he's going to create is from his passing ability and his hockey sense in general. He's a guy that we're going to rely upon hopefully down the road to play against other teams' better players and defend them hard and physical. His overall strength needs to improve, much like every guy, his foot speed needs to improve. At the World Juniors this year, I think he realized that. We talk to Kasper lots and it's not that he's a bad skater, just that if you want to get to the next level, you have to defend against guys like (Sidney) Crosby, (Auston) Matthews and (Connor) McDavid. You've got to be able to move and you have to be agile. So he's in the same boat as a lot of young guys in that regard, but BU has an outstanding physical fitness program, one of the better college programs for that, so we know he's in very good hands out there." - Shawn Horcoff, Red Wings director of player development