Hockey fans have been keeping a close eye on a number of young players who are currently playing overseas and preparing for the upcoming NHL season by getting some games in against elevated competition. While most every team has a player or two getting their reps in, more eyes might be on Jesperi Kotkaniemi out of Montreal than anyone.
Kotkaniemi is expected to be a big part of the Canadiens season and his play for Pori Assat in the Finnish Liiga has gotten people’s attention, both for good and bad reasons.
At first, there was a little concern as Kotkaniemi went scoreless in four games. But, over his last six, he’s started to pick things up and scored eight points including two goals. Needless to say, it took him a second to readjust to the league and the bigger ice, but once he did, he started taking over.
That said, his fun run with Pori Assat is now over as the Canadiens have pulled him after 10 games. He’ll eventually head back to North America and his overseas stint is now officially over. Some are asking, why pull him just as he’s starting to get hot?
Why the Canadiens Pulled Kotkaniemi
While it’s great to see that his slower start was just a blip and it didn’t last long, are the Canadiens making the right call now that he’s starting to light it up and build his confidence? Maybe not, but the reason they’ve pulled him is out of caution.
Arpon Basu of The Athletic writes that he was told the reason Kotkaniemi’s loan ended was in the unlikely event the NHL hits its stated goal of starting Jan. 1. Sure, there are few people who think January 1 is a realistic target date, but should the NHL figure things out, the Canadiens wanted next week to quarantine players for training camp.
In the end, the organization preferred “ramping up preparations for that hypothetical camp just in case” and making sure they had Kotkaniemi and didn’t need him, versus needing him and not having him.
Basu adds that, “No one will be coming until there is a firm date and agreement between owners and players. But time is getting tight, so players need to make preparations just in case. It’s only normal.”
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