Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The canadian Press
For the past two days, Kotkaniemi is found at the centre Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen in the 3rd trio.
The uncertainty surrounding the participation of Max Domi in the tournament of revival of the NHL has opened the door to the youth centres of the Montreal canadiens and head coach Claude Julien didn’t hesitate in heaping praise on Jesperi Kotkaniemi at the end of the second training camp of the team.
For the past two days, Kotkaniemi is found at the centre Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen in the third trio, in the position he had briefly held Domi in the weeks before the suspension of activities by the NHL on march 12, because of the pandemic of the COVID-19.
At the same time, Kotkaniemi was part of the Rocket of Laval and had suffered a worrying injury to the spleen that had to force him to miss the rest of the season.
The Finn, who celebrated his 20th birthday last week, however, seems on track to regain its achievements in the NHL.
“We know what Kotkaniemi is capable of doing when he is at his best, said Julien. He had been operated on for a knee last summer and it was a little late at the beginning of the season. He had suffered other injuries then. Here he is skating a lot better than in the beginning of the season. “
Julien was also noted three times during his videoconference that Kotkaniemi “skated better” at the beginning of the season.
Kotkaniemi, which should be made available to the media Wednesday, was yet arrived at the camp of the Habs in September confident of being able to raise his level of game after to have gained in strength during the summer. After having registered two goals in the first three games of the season, he was limited to a goal and two helpers in 19 meetings following. His efforts have also been derailed by a groin injury and a concussion.
It was finally ceded to the Rocket on the 1st of February and has amassed a goal and 12 helpers in 13 games before falling in battle on the 6th of march.
Despite the good first impression that has made Kotkaniemi this week with Julien, he pointed out that nothing was cast in concrete in anticipation of the series of qualification in the face of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“The lack of a Max does not mean that Kotkaniemi automatically has this role in the training, he insisted. We’ll see how the situation evolves.
“There are still a lot of time to make adjustments. “
Among the young centers in the Habs, Nick Suzuki seems nevertheless to have a length of advance. It has been placed within the second trio, surrounded by Jonathan Drouin and Joel Armia. Julien recalled that Suzuki seemed to have been overtaken by fatigue in the last games prior to the suspension of activities, but noted that he seemed to be invigorated by the break.
Jake Evans is the one who could scramble the cards. Evans has played 13 games with the Habs starting 6 February, and has registered two goals and an assist in a support role.
“It’s huge to have this experience in the bank,” said Evans, who ended up here in the center of the fourth trio, surrounded by Dale Weise and Jordan Weal.
“I was more comfortable and I understood better the game of NHL. I believe that it will help me during the camp and if I play in the series. “
The centre line of the Canadian, completed by Phillip Danault, détonnera a lot with the Penguins, even if Domi were to decide to participate in the series despite the risks associated with the COVID-19.
Among players classified as a center on the training of Canadian, Danault (6) and Weal (1) are the only ones who have already participated in the series of the NHL. On the side of the Penguins, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have alone played 326 encounters playoff career.
“Personally, I think that would be a nice challenge to play against these guys, who have a lot of experience in the series, Evans said. Me, I want to focus on the details, I want to play hockey simple and be a difficult player to face. “
And as was said by the director general of the Canadian, Marc Bergevin, on Monday, the experience can only be beneficial for the long term development of young players on the team.