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Jesperi Kotkaniemi has matured considerably since his arrival in Carolina.

Let’s go back to June 22, 2018, the day the 2018 NHL Amateur Draft began.

The Montreal Canadiens were coming off an atrocious season, with a 29-40-13 record.

The CH ended up with the third overall pick of the auction, and at that point, finding a true #1 center was urgent.

The Buffalo Sabres selected Rasmus Dahlin first overall, while the Carolina Hurricanes set their sights on Andrei Svechnikov.

Now it’s the Tricolore’s turn to take the stage and announce their choice.

The pressing need for a top-notch center was too great to pass up young Finn Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

Many fans were outraged by the decision, believing that even if KK looked like the best center available, he shouldn’t have been taken in the 3rd spot.

What hurt fans the most (or angered them the most) was the fact that elite power forward Brady Tkachuk was still available, and the fit seemed perfect.

Top-scoring defenseman (and tied for top overall with two of his teammates) Quinn Hughes was selected 7th overall in this draft.

Two excellent picks who are currently better options than KK.

At least, that’s what their early careers show. It’s hard not to dream of Hughes on the power play, or Tkachuk in front of the net disrupting opponents and scoring goals.

However, current Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour had some very kind words for his 22-year-old center.

Brind’Amour said he was impressed with the young player’s progress and that he had gained a great deal of maturity since arriving in Carolina.

In fact, he won the Quote of the Day in Mathias Brunet’s daily column, Rondelle Libre.

“He’s acquired a lot of maturity. He was still a child when he arrived. The growth is mind-boggling between the ages of 19 and 22.” – Rod Brind’Amour

His time in Montreal lasted only three short years, but KK had a lot of ” haters” in Quebec, because his performances didn’t live up to them for a third overall pick.

Hearing these words from his coach must certainly do him good.

He’s gained a lot of confidence since his arrival with the Canes, and there’s been a great deal of progress in his case.

This season, he has collected 13 points in 16 games (still a long way from Quinn Hughes’ 27 points this season, but a fine progression is noticeable). He is the club’s leading scorer, tied with a certain Sebastian Aho.

Brind’Amour believes it’s normal for young players to take longer to get used to the NHL rhythm, especially when you arrive in the big league at 18. Over time, youngsters evolve.

“Youngsters get stronger naturally, no longer feeling the effects of rigorous training. Plus, their understanding of the game improves.” – Rod Brind’Amour

Kotkaniemi’s 34 points in 79 games were far from disastrous in his rookie season.

It can take several years for a big-name center to establish himself as a true #1.

Slowly but surely, KK is playing like a first-team player, but he remains the team’s second center, as Aho has proven much more in his career.

Should the CH have matched the Hurricanes’ offer the summer he became a restricted free agent?

With Dach’s injury, it’s hard to argue that he’d be too much right now.

In gusto

– The worst seems to be avoided.

– Read more.

– Can William Nylander continue his streak of games with at least one point and break Dany Heatley’s record?

– The idea of placing Nylander on the first unit with Auston Matthews could be beneficial for the Leafs.

– Who misses Anthony Calvillo? A first Grey Cup since 2010 for the Sparrows?

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