• Following in familiar footsteps

    From IIHF News@1:266/404 to All on Wed May 9 21:05:15 2018
    Kasperi Kapanen is no stranger to playing for Finland. As a junior age player, he represented Finland at the U20 World Championships in 2016, scoring the game
    winning goal in overtime against Russia leading his country to a gold medal.

    Two years later and here we are with Kapanen as a member of the men's senior national team for the first time. The Finnish squad is a decidedly young team loaded with offensive weapons among the forward units. So far in their first two games of the tournament, Finland has scored 23 goals. Although Sebastian Aho has been an offensive powerhouse, Kapanen has contributed two goals thus far, scoring again in last night's win over Norway.

    The 21-year-old Kapanen is blessed with the next level skills and speed to perform well on the larger ice surface here in Herning. He understands that his
    role is to use his famous speed and frames his value to the team as but a piece
    of the overall puzzle.

    "In these games at the World Championship there is a little more room on the ice and you always think you can make better plays," he said. "But I think you have to play your game and stay within yourself and part of the team structure."

    With continued performances as they've had over the first three games, Finland will be a formidable team heading into the playoffs. And if they do, Kapanen will have the chance to compete for a medal as he did in 2016 and for the country he is very proud to represent.

    "I have to say it is nice putting the jersey on again," Kapanen said of donning
    the Suomi blue. "It's been a couple of years and I have fond memories of that time. Losing in the playoffs is a tough way to end the NHL season, yet I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of Finland at this event."

    It also runs deeper. Playing for the Finnish national team is something of a family affair. Both his father and grandfather played on the national team. His
    grandfather, Hannu, participated in the World Championships, Olympics, and Canada Cup in the same year, 1976. His dad, Sami, was a member of seven World Championship teams and three Olympics. He was on the Finland team that won gold
    in 1995 at the World Championships in Sweden.

    "Having seen my grandpa play and then when I was growing up watching my dad play for the national team was inspiring. So to be able to do the same as they have is even more special for me," Kapanen said.

    Kapanen earned a place in the Toronto Maple Leafs line-up during the season and
    into the playoffs. In the postseason, he showed plenty of promise in their seven-game series against the Boston Bruins. Kapanen was able to develop scoring chances using his speed. He would have four breakaways in the series.

    "I felt like I had a lot of chances in every game," he said. "I hit a couple of
    posts and had a couple of breakaways. I thought I could have put the puck in a little more."

    Kapanen did score one goal and it was a beauty. In Game Seven with the score tied 3-3 and Toronto killing off a penalty, Kapanen and Brad Marchand raced to centre ice after a puck. Kapanen beat Marchand to it, streaking further on a breakaway and scored a shorthanded goal.

    "I was happy to have scored that one goal but it still doesn't make me feel better the way that game and the series ended."

    Toronto lost the game 7-4 and eliminated from the playoffs.

    After the World Championship, Kapanen is committing to what he hopes will be a big season as he takes the next step in securing a permanent spot on the Leafs roster.

    "I'm hoping for a lot more from next season. I think I have a lot more to offer. The summer is going to be really big for me. I don't think this was a bad year, because it was good in many ways. I thought I got better and better as the season went on. But there is a lot more I think I can do. It will be interesting to see."


    --- SBBSecho 3.04-Win32
    * Origin: TequilaMockingbird Online - Toms River, NJ (1:266/404)