Our seventh annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown has begun! The rankings were determined by a combination of reader voting and our staff’s own voting. We then combined the reader rankings and the staff rankings to determine the top 25. To be eligible for the countdown, a player must be 24 or younger on October 2, 2019, when the 2019-20 NHL season begins.
For being a first round draft pick, Rasmus Kupari has been relatively unheralded as a prospect. Selected with the 20th pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, Kupari’s name doesn’t come up nearly as often as Jaret Anderson-Dolan (2017, second round), and now that the Kings have Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev in their ranks, Kupari seems to have filtered even more out of the public consciousness, even though he is set to make his North American debut this year.
Why so little love for the speedy Finn? It probably has a lot to do with where he’s spent his career to date. Kupari came up through solely Finnish system and has yet to appear in North America, aside from a few appearances at development camp for the Kings. Unless you’re very up on your Liiga, Kupari may have dropped off your radar shortly after being drafted.
Well, Kupari’s here now, and it’s time to see what the speedy forward can do. While he’s a long shot to make the Kings out of camp, he should get the chance to play big minutes for the Ontario Reign as he learns to adjust his game to the smaller ice surface.
He’s a player whose ceiling has him firmly in a top-six role, as he has the speed, hands, and scoring ability to be a difference-maker for a team. The question is how long it will take him to put together his game at the professional level. While he’s played against men in the Finnish Liiga and has looked quite comfortable in his role there, making the jump to the AHL and succeeding there could take time.
With the Kings still in a rebuild/retool mode, there’s no hurry to get Kupari to the NHL. He could take a track similar to Adrian Kempe, who came to the United States for his 19-year old season and played one-and-a-half seasons in the minors (plus a lengthy playoff run with the Manchester Monarchs in 2015, culminating in taking home the Calder Cup).
Kupari’s said to be a bit ahead, developmentally, from where Kempe was at this point in his career, and Kupari also has scored at a higher rate than our resident Swede. Their games aren’t identical, with Kupari having a bit more aggression in the way he attacks the puck and makes plays.
Kupari has the chance to open up some eyes and make onlookers re-evaluate him once he starts taking the ice in actual competition. He’s coming in to camp with the mindset of making the NHL, so we should be seeing a lot of him in the pre-season as the organization looks to get a read on him and his development.
No two writers assessed Kupari in the same ranking spot, which is somewhat of a rarity for this year’s voting. The majority of readers put Kupari in a top-five spot, really driving home the idea that no one really can agree on where exactly Kupari should fall here.