MONTRÉAL – Jesperi Kotkaniemi has high expectations for his third NHL campaign.
The former third overall overall finished tied for the team lead with four goals in 10 games in the Toronto bubble, turning the tables on a disappointing regular-season production that also included a groin injury , a concussion and finally an injury to the spleen at the end of the season. with the AHL Laval Rocket.
“I hope this will be my best season yet,” said Kotkaniemi, after Saturday practice at the Bell Sports Complex. “I think the whole team looks pretty good this year, and I think the whole team is ready to compete. ”
Video: Kotkaniemi is Jake Allenthe reaction of his shot
The Pori native arrived at training camp in top condition after playing 10 games with Finnish Elite League club Assat before returning to Canada.
He thinks this experience has already been beneficial and is bearing fruit.
“I had a little idea of the game in Finland and it helps me here,” said Kotkaniemi, who scored two goals and eight points in 10 outings for his hometown team. “I feel like I’m ready now when the games start. I had a few pre-season games and now the real games are starting. ”
That will come next Wednesday when Kotkaniemi and his company open the year on the road against the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena.
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Until then, however, he will continue to build chemistry with his line mates. Tyler Toffoli and Joel armia, and pick up some advice from colleagues passionate about pivot and face-to-face Phillip Danault.
Danault has been a key influence for the likes of Kotkaniemi, Nick Suzuki and Jake Evans up to now on the South Shore, transmitting valuable information.
“It’s really big for the three of us. He’s kind of a mentor to us, ”Kotkaniemi confirmed. “He teaches us these little things every day. He’s been here for a while, so it’s really good to have a guy like that around. ”
There is no doubt that Danault has encouraged ‘KK’ to use his shot more frequently this season and Kotkaniemi is keen to oblige, especially on the power play where he is featured on the second unit along the half-wall in a privileged position. to leave the washer. fly.
“I try to be more active in shooting. I think it will help our team to score goals. We saw in the bubble that I was shooting a little more and it was good for us, ”noted Kotkaniemi. “I really feel comfortable being the playmaker and being the shooter on the power play. It’s really important to shoot towards the net and it will give good results. ”
Head coach Claude Julien insists Kotkaniemi can deliver offensively if he uses his shot effectively.
In fact, it was one aspect of Kotkaniemi’s game that immediately caught his attention from the start.
“We always thought he had a good shot, right from the start of his first year. We were surprised at 18 that he was shooting the puck so well, said Julien. “He got stronger, and with experience his shooting improved. There is no doubt that this is a big weapon in his arsenal that he can use more and more as he progresses. He’s a guy who can score a lot. goals if he uses that shot correctly. ”
Likewise, Danault sees good things to come for his teammate this season and beyond.
“We all know he can score goals. His shot is really, really good. He also added size. He will have more experience and he will continue to work on his game, ”said Danault. “You can tell he played a bit this summer. He was ready this year. It’s really good to see “KK” in good shape and more physically ready for the season. ”
Kotkaniemi will have another chance to show his shot Sunday night when the Canadiens play their second intra-team game starting at 7 p.m. ET at the Bell Sports Complex.
The competition will be broadcast via social networks.