Kapanen relishes bloodlines in draft journey
There’s no denying Oliver Kapanen‘s hockey lineage.
His father is Kimmo Kapanen, a professional goaltender who represented many elite clubs in Finland, Sweden and Germany in his career.
Oliver’s uncle is Sami Kapanen, the well-known former NHL forward who made himself known playing for Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers.
His grandfather is Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Hannu Kapanen.
His cousin, Sami’s son Kasperi Kapanen, currently plays for Pittsburgh Penguins.
It heaps hefty expectations on Oliver, a top Finnish prospect for the 2021 NHL Draft.
But it doesn’t weigh on him.
”Ice hockey is not the whole life,” said Oliver, currently representing Finland at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. “The game is there for a period of time, but there is also much more.”
Family, however, is important as Oliver gets a lot of advice from the people who have already done it what he just pursues — a professional ice hockey career.
And Kasperi, closest in age at 24, is key.
”We don’t talk that much during the season, but in the offseason we skate and train together in the same groups,” Oliver said.
Kasperi was the No. 22 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. Oliver, at No. 43 in FCHockey’s Winter ranking for the 2021 draft, is projected to be a second rounder.
A first-round projection isn’t the end-all, be all, though. As Oliver agreed, it is possible to make a significant NHL career even with a lower number, but getting picked early is something to work for.
His family members before him have got their draft numbers — Kasperi begin the highest draft pick in the family.
It shall be seen, if Oliver will get selected as early as his cousin.
”Of course it would be great to get picked early, because it would prove that the club has true intentions for the player and his career,” Oliver said. “It tells a lot, how the staff and coaches communicate with the player before the draft.”
Teams will draft Oliver based on much more than his lineage.
After playing his junior hockey years in KalPa in the city of Kuopio, Oliver is taking his first steps towards his goal of pro hockey as he made his debut in Mestis, the second highest league in Finnish ice hockey. His Mestis journey, with Kiekko-Pojat in the town of Joensuu, started with a bang. He had five points (three goals, two assists) in his first three games.
His years of junior hockey show that he has been able to score through his early career.
That stat line — 41 points (25 goals, 16 assists) in 37 games — can attest.
”I am a comprehensive player,” Oliver said. “I consider myself as a smart player with good puckhandling skills. I can both shoot and pass the puck. There is nothing particular to focus on, but I am trying to improve my game on every way possible.”
Oliver, ranked second among Finnish-born players behind Aatu Raty, is as much a student as he is player.
The 17-year-old follows NHL regularly and watches a lot of games when they air in Finnish prime time. He also reveals that Steven Stamkos, the captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning is his idol.
It’s still in the family, though, that Oliver takes the most solace.
In fact, he names “enjoying the game” as the most important piece of advice he’s received from his family.
In that advice, and the experiences he’s been able to absorb from all facets of family life, that Oliver believes it’s a blessing to be able to share in the experience, and not a curse carrying the expectations that come with the surname.