For the second year in a row, the Kings have a first-round draft pick. Last year saw Gabe Vilardi slip down through the draft, possibly owing to concerns about his skating, allowing him to land with the Kings with the eleventh pick. With an uncertain draft board this year after Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov at numbers one and two, teams had some hard, and interesting choices to make. This year saw some higher-ranked players slipping as several teams picked for position rather than best player available; Filip Zadina fell out of the top three, and Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson just slipping down from the top ten.
Who was still available for the Kings with the 20th pick?
Why, Rasmus Kupari, that’s who.
The Finnish center is known as a slick skater with good hands; some mock drafts had him placed higher up in the draft, but some of that earlier draft order chaos shook him loose to Rob Blake and company.
You want speed up the center? You want creative playmaking? Rasmus Kupari has got it.
He won’t make an impact on the Kings right away — Kupari’s certainly a few seasons away at the least — but will gain valuable experience playing against men in Finland while we wait for him.
ISS Hockey: 15
Future Considerations: 16
TSN/Bob McKenzie: 20
A team will take Kupari because they see his offensive game as a strength rather than an obstacle to a more disciplined defensive game. He will doubtless gain confidence in his own zone the more he plays and gains experience.
His skating and balance are excellent, and once he gains a bit of muscle, he could very well come to be regarded as a steal of the draft.
As good as Kupari’s offense is, his defense is well, being worked on. He needs to get stronger especially if he wants to play center in the NHL. He also must develop consistency from game to game. Too often watching games you could see he’d let the foot off the gas. He’s too talented to go invisible as often as he did. He is at least 2-3 seasons away from the NHL. But goodness, teams who invest in this young man might get a huge payoff later with proper development.
Kupari is a highly skilled, playmaking center. He is undersized, but is a strong skater with a high hockey IQ and hockey sense that makes him a dangerous offensive player and a reliable defensive player. [ ... ] Kupari has a high ceiling, and drawing comparisons to countryman Sebastian Aho gives you an indication of his upside, but he is a long term investment.
What truly stood out most about Kupari was his skating ability. His acceleration, agility, edge work and transition skating all are at an elite level for a player of his age. His top speed is also remarkably good. Kupari has the potential to develop into an excellent skater at the NHL level, one who can make a great impact with his speed in all three zones.
He’s able to push back defenders with his great skating and escapability, which opens up his excellent passing and shooting abilities. In watching film, Kupari consistently was able to find open areas on the ice and either get off a quick shot, or find a teammate for a prime scoring chance.
He’s a very strong skater with excellent balance and agility, and he uses an array of fakes, stutter steps and rapid directional changes to expand the open ice around him and finish close to the cage. Kupari’s stickhandling is among the best of any 2018 draft eligible, and he uses it to either dance through or around traffic.
He has creativity and skill that cannot be taught and is an exciting prospect for this reason. Kupari’s game is reminiscent of Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes, but this is a style comparison and not one based on talent level.
We’ll be back tomorrow with coverage of the second round!