Much More Needed From Kotkaniemi

St Louis Blues v Carolina Hurricanes
St Louis Blues v Carolina Hurricanes / Jacob Kupferman/GettyImages

After completing 45 games in the NHL season, the Carolina Hurricanes are currently placed third in the Metro Division with 55 points. They are only five points behind the division leaders, the New York Rangers. Each player on the team has made a contribution, whether big or small. However, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, one of the players, has not been performing up to the expectations.

Coming over to Raliegh in a controversial move, the eyes were on Kotkaniemi after signing an offer sheet from the Canes. Montreal refused to match the offer for their 2018 third overall selection.

The young Finnish forward signed a big one-year deal for just over $6 million, followed by a long-term extension for 8 years that averaged $4.82 million per season. A big risk from Don Waddell for a player that, at the time, had not surpassed 30 points in a season.

Kotkaniemi followed up with a stronger season, posting 43 points. Playing minutes on the second line helped him develop with better wingers at his side. Still, for the amount of salary he has for the long-term, 43 points do not match with the league's second line centers.

At just 23 years old, the 6'2 center has plenty of growth in his game. The problem is that he clogs up the salary cap and a top six forward spot on a team that desperately needs more production to reach the Stanley Cup aspirations.

This season has not gone well for the young Finn, plain and simple. There is no sugarcoating things anymore for Kotkaniemi. This team has went all in to win and with that comes expectations for everyone in the organization, especially a well-paid, former third-overall pick.

Scoring 9 goals and 18 points in 45 games, Kotkaniemi can hardly call himself a top six forward. Frankly, his -10 rating can squash the "defensive center" excuses as well. This team does not have room or time for him to play third or fourth-line minutes right now.

The 23-year-old has decent size but he's thin for the defensive role and demand night in and night out. He has shown flashes of skill, especially puck handling in close. His best attributes have been his playmaking and passing ability. Still, this has not resulted in much with just 9 helpers this season.

For a team that is making it known that they are making a run for the cup, Kotkaniemi simply has to be better. Yes, he is young but this general manager signed him to the contract and made the bold offer sheet for him. This same general manager went all in this summer bringing back Frederik Andersen, Antti Raanta, Jordan Staal, and Jesper Fast. Adding Dmitry Orlov and Michael Bunting was not a cheap acquisition either.

This could be a blip in a great career, but it does not appear that this will be a superstar playing by the end of this contract. He has time to turn it around but after next year, the no-movement clause kicks in on his contract. That could make things a little more difficult to move the player.

This is the NHL and production is what makes money and ice time. Kotkaniemi will need more production in the second half for this team to not just make the playoffs, but win a Stanley Cup,