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Jesperi Kotkaniemi: despite his young age, he’s already a playoff veteran
Jesperi Kotkaniemi is a well-known player in Montreal. Selected third overall by the CH in the 2018 draft, the Finnish center has shown some nice things, but his inconsistency and inability to take it to the next level has frustrated fans around town.

That said, if there’s one situation in which KK has had good moments with the Tricolore, it’s in the playoffs. Whether it was his 10 games on the bubble or his 19 games during the club’s run to the summer of 2021, the young man had a knack for getting noticed for the right reasons.

And now that he’s in Carolina, he’s still racking up plenty of playoff experience. In fact, after yesterday’s game, Kotkaniemi has now played 51 career playoff games, which is far more than many veterans on the circuit.

Need I remind you that he’s only 22 years old?

Playing a ton of games in a context like the playoffs is undoubtedly a positive thing in the development of a young player. Every game is of crucial importance, and you’re constantly up against the best elements of the best teams in the circuit. When it comes to immersion, you can’t beat it.

And for Kotkaniemi, having so much playoff experience at such a young age means he has a certain leadership role with the Hurricanes. In important moments, he’s one of the guys who has to step up. Especially in the absence of guys like Andrei Svechnikov, Max Pacioretty and Teuvo Teravainen.

And while he didn’t really do it in the first round, it’s a different story in the second, when he had a strong game yesterday with two big, quick goals.

Recall that he also scored a goal in Game 1 of the series.

But beyond yesterday’s two goals, he also had an impact on the physical game. We know he’s capable of giving good shoulder shots (he did it a few times in Montreal), and last night he served up another major-league one to Nico Hischier.

Niklas Kronwall would indeed be proud.

Kotkaniemi still needs to become a more consistent player to develop into a truly top-6-calibre center, but to see him accumulate so much playoff experience (and, on the whole, look good in the playoffs) is encouraging for the team that signed him to an eight-year contract (which began this season) just over a year ago.

And unless the Devils get back on track after a difficult start to the series (which they did, however, against the Rangers in the first round, it should be remembered), KK looks set to play many more playoff games this spring, which won’t be a bad thing to help him become a better player.

In gusto

– Luke Hughes will be in uniform tonight for the Devils.

– Canucks sign their first-round pick in 2022.

– Ouch.

– Joshua Roy will face elimination tomorrow.

– The Yankees could call up the Martian by season’s end. My text on the subject.

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