Carolina’s newest addition is rapidly improving
When you think about Carolina’s great strengths, something that comes to mind quickly is their incredible center depth. You probably don’t think much about the fourth line, but it’s on that fourth line we find one of the positives to take away from this game, and it comes in the form of the newest Hurricane after his arrival late in the summer through an offer sheet from Montreal.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi is very quietly becoming a very dominant player on the fourth line, and it allows them to roll four very good lines. Carolina’s other Finnish centerman has quietly started to put it all together since his move across to the middle. He’s putting up a consistent number of points, and the majority of his tallies seem to be goals. Only three players on the Hurricanes roster have more even-strength goals than Kotkaniemi.
Kotkaniemi’s intelligence and his knowledge of where to be in order to create a scoring chance have led to many chances for his line, and it’s a big reason why KK has five goals on the year, and that number is improving all the time. Before the team went on the Western Road Trip, KK had 2 goals and 1 assist. Since? 3 goals and an assist. That’s in the space of just two weeks. He’s improving all the time.
What’s most impressive about Kotkaniemi is that whenever he is on the ice, he never looks like a defensive liability. He always looks like he is ready to handle the offensive outpouring from an opponent and looks like he can turn that opponent back towards their own zone, and start an aggressive forecheck against them, which often leads to strong momentum favoring the Canes.