BROSSARD | Claude Julien, Shea Weber, Phillip Danault, Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher have all described the round of the qualifications against the Pittsburgh Penguins as a second life. For the Canadian, it is an unexpected chance to redeem a season atrocious.
For Jesperi Kotkaniemi, this is a chance to erase a second season of the toughest in the NHL. It’s not just a collective challenge to Kotkaniemi, there is a personal stake.
Out of training on Friday, the Finnish 20-year-old did not, however, intend to play this card. Alone in the conference room, Kotkaniemi had not had her usual smile. He had an air of the most serious in answering the questions of the journalists for the first time since his injury to the spleen suffered on march 6, during a match of the Rocket against the Monsters of Cleveland.
“I tried to forget the season, I want to start over, whispered Kotkaniemi during a videoconference. I placed my head and my body for the series. I hope to be in training when the games will begin.”
In this, the fifth day of the camp, Kotkaniemi has its place in the formation of Claude Julien as the third center. Julien has also taken the time to incense practically on a daily basis, noting a marked improvement with his skating.
There is, however, a doubt in his case. A doubt caused by the absence of Max Domi at the camp because of his concerns regarding his type 1 diabetes.
Asked whether his fate could depend on the Domi, the number 15 has remained fairly ice.
“I do my best to be here every day, he replicated. We will see where it will lead me. If I’m not in training, this is correct, I will encourage the guys anyway. Regardless of what happens, I will be happy to be part of the team.”
Work on his skating
The third pick in total in the auction of 2018, Kotkaniemi had thwarted the plans of the CH by making the jump from the age of 18 years in Montreal. In his first season, the center 6 feet 2 inches, had known of the statistics very respectable with 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 79 games.
There were even more expectations for his second year. But the man they call KK has hit a wall. In 36 games with the CH, he scored only 8 points (6 goals, 2 assists) and posted a record of -11. He finished the season under the guidance of Joël Bouchard with the Rocket de Laval where he has amassed 13 points (1 goal, 12 assists) in 13 meetings.
A detour in the american League was certainly not in his plans. This second season in North America, the young centre has removed several lessons, but more important than the other.
“I learned a little bit of everything. Everyone knows that my skating is not my strong point. I worked there this summer. This was the biggest thing to improve. I hope that it will help me for the playoffs and next year.”
On the right path
Julien has already noted the very positive points in the game Kotkaniemi.
“It must be acknowledged, without going too much into detail, is that there has not been a big start to the season, recalled the head coach. It should not be forgotten that he has had an operation to his knee (April 2019). He has not had the opportunity to recover 100% for camp. His skating was not at the same level as at this time. When you do it not as well, you do the guards not the pace of the game and the opponent you remove the washer more easily. He could become frustrated. These things do snowball. This is what happened with him.”
“Currently, I see a young player in much better health, he skates well and he has a shot, this will be one of its strengths in the future. There are a lot of qualities in his game that seem to indicate that he is going in the right direction. He arrived here in good shape and I love the path that it takes. That is encouraging.”
Recovered from his wound to the spleen, which had to force him to be absent for the rest of the season with the Rocket, Kotkaniemi did not want to specify the severity of this recent malaise. He simply said that he was in perfect health now.