In the next few years, the Red Wings really need some of their defensive prospects to pay off, especially the ones taken in the top half of the draft. One of these prospects is the Finnish left-hander Kasper Kotkansalo.
Kotkansalo was selected in the 3rd round (71st overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. At the time, he was playing for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL where he was adapting to the smaller North American ice.
BY THE NUMBERS
When looking at his stats lines, it becomes immediately clear that Kotkansalo is not an offensive defenseman. That’s okay. He won’t need to be with Filip Hronek in Detroit’s top-4. Instead, Kotkansalo is going to be relied upon defensively. He’s smart, he’s intense, and he’s always got his head up looking for the right play.
In his freshman year at Boston University, Kotkansalo grew into a confident player as he adjusted to a tougher game against older and bigger players. He only recorded six points, but he was plus-12 on a team that was scored on 105 times over the course of the season (4th-worst in their 11 team division).
At the International level, Kotkansalo is a staple on the Finnish blueline and was a part of the country’s 2018 gold medal team at the World Junior Championships. He didn’t record any points, but the tournament was an eye-opener for him. It’s there that he learned that his foot speed needs to increase. “It’s not that he’s a bad skater, just that if you want to get to the next level, you have to defend against guys like Sidney Crosby, Auston Matthews, and Connor McDavid,” said Red Wings director of player development Shawn Horcoff.
If Horcoff’s talking about Kotkansalo playing against the likes of Matthews and McDavid, then it’s obvious the Wings have high hopes for this young player. He needs to be more agile and build a lot more strength before he’s ready for the next level of professional hockey, but the team has confidence that Boston University’s physical fitness program will have Kotkansalo ready in no time.
There’s still lots of time for the 19-year-old. If he can log another year or two of big minutes at BU, he’ll be ready for a short stint in Grand Rapids before moving on to Detroit. As long as Kotkansalo isn’t passed on the depth chart by a high draft pick in next year’s draft or a top-2 prospect via trade, it’s hard to see him not being a Red Wing in the future. For now, he’ll continue in the NCAA with BU.