Canadians can learn from their mistakes with Jesperi Kotkaniemi – .

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Canadians can learn from their mistakes with Jesperi Kotkaniemi – .


Looking back, the post draft and rushing center into the NHL at age 18 were two mistakes Habs general manager Marc Bergevin can learn from.

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The Canadiens really needed a center ahead of the 2018 NHL Draft.

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That’s why they took Jesperi Kotkaniemi to third overall, even though he was only ranked sixth among European skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau.

The fact that the Canadiens really needed a center also played into the decision to blow Kotkaniemi straight into the NHL at 18.

Three years later, those two decisions look bad as Kotkaniemi officially joined the Carolina Hurricanes this weekend after Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin decided not to match a 6-year offer. US $ 1 million.

“To say it’s a glaring mistake, there’s a team that thinks he’s worth $ 6.1 million, so there’s potential that we’ve seen, obviously Carolina sees it,” Bergevin said during of a Zoom lecture on Monday when asked about his decision to write by post with Kotkaniemi. “So it’s not like KK is a flop. It remains to be seen where it will land.

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Bergevin said he hoped to sign Kotkaniemi for a two-year transition contract as a restricted free agent, but Carolina’s offer sheet was just too hard to match. The general manager added that he did not want to shake up the structure of his squad’s salary cap when it came to re-signing young players like Nick Suzuki, Alexander Romanov and Cole Caufield in the near future.

Bergevin confirmed that Carolina initially tried to trade for Kotkaniemi, but added the first and third round picks in next year’s NHL Draft that the Canadiens received in compensation for the scorecard. offer was more than what was offered by the Hurricanes in an exchange.

Bergevin decided to make the most of a bad situation on Saturday when he traded one of his first-round picks in next year’s draft, as well as a 2024 second-round pick, to the Coyotes from Arizona in exchange for proven NHL center Christian Dvorak.

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It was a smart move by the CEO, especially since Dvorak, 25, is on contract for four more years with a salary cap of $ 4.45 million. The six-foot, 195-pounder is a two-way center who totaled 17-14-31 in 56 games last season, won 52.1 percent of his faceoffs and can be used on the power play and as a penalty. . Tyler Toffoli (28-16-44), Jeff Petry (12-30-42) and Suzuki (15-26-41) were the only three Canadians to have more points than Dvorak last season, while Kotkaniemi had 5- 15-20 total.

Looking back, getting Kotkaniemi to play in the NHL at the age of 18 wasn’t that smart, especially when you look at the progress of Suzuki and Caufield, who didn’t rush so quickly. Bergevin said he has now learned a lesson for the future.

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“To be honest, I’m not perfect,” said the general manager. “Sometimes we don’t make the right decision, but we always try to do it for the right reason. I remember (Kotkaniemi) had a great camp (training), a good first half (of his rookie season). I remember he was playing really well and I said to myself: OK, he’s ready. But now I’m looking back three years later at how it’s going… but there are also things that I’ve seen over the past two years that I don’t even think would have changed. It could have, to an extent, but there are other things I know. It’s more than just (Kotkaniemi) to go back to Finland. But yes, this is something we will be watching closely as we move forward.

The Canadians should also have learned a lesson from the positional draft in the first round after taking on Kotkaniemi over left winger Brady Tkachuk, who went to the Ottawa Senators with the No. 4 pick, or defenseman Quinn Hughes, who finished seventh overall. by the Vancouver Canucks.

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Kotkaniemi is only 21, so he could prove the Canadiens – and the Hurricanes – right in the future, but for now, the third-place draft and rushing him into the NHL look like mistakes.

Asked on Sunday how the Canadiens worked to develop him, Kotkaniemi said: “I think it could have been better. But we played in the Stanley Cup final last year, so I really can’t fault a thing.

On Monday, Bergevin was asked about Kotkaniemi’s comment.

“For us, we give the same tools to every player in our organization to reach their full potential,” said the CEO. “Some do, some don’t, some take longer than others. And the best way to get to that point, I think, is to rate your own game and sometimes the players are a little more – not all – but some don’t quite rate their game in the right way or in the right way. the way they’re really playing you, and that causes a different perspective on how players play.

“But overall I think we’ve done the same and like I said some players reach their full potential and when you draft a kid at 17, 18 there’s always a projection. . And that is why the system in place gives you the time to assess this. In the case of KK, getting this offer sheet kind of put us in a position where we needed to make a decision sooner than we would like.

Live and learn.

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