Pittsburgh Penguins: Can Kasperi Kapanen Stick In Top-Six After Down 2019-2020?

Photo Credit: Getty Images

We continue our 2019-2020 player recap for the Pittsburgh Penguins with (sort of) newcomer to the team, Kasperi Kapanen.

There is no hiding the fact that General Manager Jim Rutherford is a big fan of Finish-forward Kasperi Kapanen. Not only did he draft him in the first round back in 2014, but he also eventually traded back for him after originally dealing him to Toronto in the Phil Kessel trade.

In fact, Kasperi isn’t the only Kapanen that Rutherford has thought highly of. He drafted Kasperi’s father, Sami, back when he was the general manager of the Hartford Whalers.

When Rutherford traded Kapanen the first time, it was to acquire immediate top-six help in Kessel. Now, in what will be Kapanen’s second tour with the team, Rutherford looks again for top-six help, but this time in Kasperi himself.

Kapanen brings speed and a two-way presence to the Penguins that they hope will allow Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel to run free in the offensive zone.

That doesn’t mean that he’s a slouch offensively, as Kapanen has posted 80 points over the last two seasons combined. 

What else do the numbers say about Kapanen’s 2019-2020 season? Let’s take a further look at last year’s numbers for the former first round pick.

Kapanen: By The Numbers

After scoring a career high 20-goals two years ago, Kapanen managed just 13 this past season, also seeing his overall point output drop by eight.

Metric

Statistic

Percentile Rank

Goals per 60

0.70

55.9%

Primary Assists per 60

0.49

45.3%

Points per 60

1.90

71.6%

Shots per 60

7.19

60.7%

Shooting %

9.8%

51.8%

Expected Goals per 60

0.51

22.4%

Giveaways per 60

1.83

41.0%

Takeaways per 60

1.76

48.2%

*Statistics courtesy Natural Stat Trick, based off of play at 5v5

Kapanen has never been known as a goal scorer, and last year wasn’t really any different. He posted barely average shot metrics, while his expected goal rate was far below average.

That’s where the hope of playing with Crosby and Guentzel come into play. Both in their own rights great playmakers, Rutherford is hoping that playing with them Kapanen might find his way back to the 20-goal plateau he hit two-years ago.

Metric

Statistic

Percentile Rank

Corsi For %

51.87%

69.2%

Goals For per 60

2.38

48.9%

Goals Against per 60

2.80

28.4%

Goals For %

45.93%

33.0%

Expected Goals For per 60

2.26

51.6%

Expected Goals Against per 60

2.42

29.4%

Expected Goals For %

48.27%

34.2%

On-Ice SH%

8.19%

55.2%

On-Ice SV%

91.14%

30.4%

Kapanen posted solid possession numbers, but outside of that, analytically it wasn’t a great site for the 24-year old forward.

He finished with a sub-50% expected goal rate, and actual goal rate. Overall between his GA/60, xGA/60, and On-Ice SV% he turned out to be a defensive liability when on the ice, something that hadn’t usually been the case earlier in his career.

Season Outlook

Rutherford brought back Kapanen to plug in on the team’s top line. While he hasn’t exactly lit up the stat sheets, the Penguins’ GM believes his speed will help him fit in with Pittsburgh.

“Kasperi is a good, young player that brings speed to our lineup and plays the way we want to play. Having previously drafted him, we know him as a player and feels he can improve our top-six.” Rutherford said after reacquiring Kapanen.

Kapanen should also see time on the penalty kill. Just last season alone, Kapanen posted over 100 minutes on the penalty kill last season and has five shorthanded goals in his career.

Rutherford has never been shy, when there is a player that he wants he goes out there and does what he needs to do to get him. So that should speak on just how big he is on Kapanen, having drafted and then trading for him once again.

What are your expectations for Kapanen this season? Will he mesh well on the top line with Guentzel and Crosby? Or will they have to find someone else to play with them by the end of the season? Let us know in the comment section below and make sure you subscribe at the top and then follow me on Twitter @AJ_Murfy and @SportBlogMurphy.











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