Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The canadian Press
Claude Julien reiterated on Friday that Jesperi Kotkaniemi seemed to have regained his skating is fine since the opening of the camp.
Claude Julien has only good words for Jesperi Kotkaniemi since the beginning of the camp stimulus of the Montreal canadiens and the principal admits that the four month break forced by the confinement allowed him to turn the page on the last campaign.
Kotkaniemi was the victim of the bad luck of the second year. It has been limited to six goals and two aids in 36 meetings with the Habs, before being sold to the Rocket of Laval on the 1st of February.
Julien reiterated on Friday that Kotkaniemi seemed to have regained his skating is fine since the opening of the camp, after having been slowed down by an operation on a knee last summer, and then a concussion and a groin injury early in the campaign. When asked about whether he shared the opinion of his coach on this, which explained his difficulties in the fall of 2019, Kotkaniemi hesitated.
“I’m not sure, he replied. I didn’t feel very well. I am lighter now. I move better and it helps me a lot. “
Kotkaniemi had arrived in the camp of the Habs after they won a dozen books during the summer, he told. It was hoped that this help to win the battles along the ramps, it has, nevertheless, continued to have balance problems, like Julien did not hesitate to recall it during the season.
“It is more difficult to follow the game. The opponent will also go to catch up or close the game more easily. You’re going to lose the puck and it becomes frustrating “, has listed Julian Friday about the impact of the physical problems of Kotkaniemi on his game in the beginning of the season.
“There, I see a young player in much better health. He skates well and has a launch, which is one of its strengths. There are a lot of signs in his game that indicate he is back on the right track. “
When the professional sport was found on the break in North America because of the pandemic of the COVID-19, Kotkaniemi had suffered a disturbing injury to the spleen during a game with the Rocket in the face of the Monsters of Cleveland, on the 6th of march.
Kotkaniemi has never feared the worst scenario. And once revived, he’s back at work.
“Everyone knows that my skating is not the best. I worked on it this summer and I hope that it will help me to reach another level next season or in the series “, he said.
Kotkaniemi, who celebrated his 20th birthday last week, has worked on his skating with coach to Helsinki. This is especially trained in the gym, but was also able to do a few sessions on the ice before returning to Montreal.
“We worked on my legs and the muscles of the trunk. These are important elements to improve his performance on the ice, ” he said.
Known for his contagious smile and his good mood, Kotkaniemi was very uncommunicative during his first meeting with the media in montreal since the resumption of the activities of the NHL — even according to its standards and those of the Finns in general. Maybe it was because it was a videoconference, or may-be he had not the taste of answering questions about his troubles during the last winter. For his part, Julien has noted a level of maturity that is different in the young center.
“It is always such a good person, but we could see that on the ice ; it is much more serious in his game,” said the coach.
“I have seen the same progression with other players in my career, it is normal. The young is excited to be in the NHL and is all smiles — everything is beautiful. But at some point, he realizes that this is not an easy job, as it is a demanding job. With this maturity, the player understands that there are times for fun and serious moments. This is what I see in the development of Kotkaniemi. “
And while the participation of Max Domi in the tournament of revival of the NHL remains uncertain, Kotkaniemi could play a decisive role for the Canadian during the phase of qualification in the face of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Stanley Cup series.