Over the next few weeks heading into the 2018 NHL Draft, we will be taking a look at some of the players that the Philadelphia Flyers could potentially draft. The Flyers have two first-round picks in this year’s draft, with the 14th and 19th picks overall.
Almost every first-round talent throws his own coming out party during his draft year.
Rasmus Kupari decided to throw his early in the season at the Ivan Hlinka under-18 tournament. Kupari notched seven points in four games, announcing his presence as a talent to watch for the months to come.
Since that start, Kupari did not disappoint. As a teenager, he played his way into Liiga, the top hockey league in Finland, and against grown men, Kupari put up 14 points in 39 games. In the Finnish Jr. A (U20) league, he had 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists) in 11 games. Kupari also earned a spot as an underage player on Finland’s Under-18 World Championship team. Let’s get a closer look at who could be the next Flyers’ pivot.
Born: March 15, 2000
Weight: 189 lbs
Kupari is an electrifying player. Stylistically, he’s drawn comparisons to Sebastian Aho and Jesse Puljujarvi. One scouting report described him as a “super slick offensive-minded center.” Indeed, Kupari is a gamer when it comes to the offensive side of the puck. He uses every inch of his frame to create space for himself and his teammates.
When it comes to the tangible offensive assets, Kupari checks off almost every box. He’s a strong skater, a great passer and has a good release on his shot. Kupari is one of those guys who could stickhandle in a phone booth. One report lauded his stickhandling as “among the best of [the 2018 class].”
But what truly makes Kupari stick out is his passing. He can weave his way through a maze of defenders and hit one of his teammates with a tape-to-tape pass. This leads into his strong hockey IQ and vision. Kupari, as evidenced by his stickhandling, has a great set of hands. He sees and anticipates the play well, and he often knows exactly where his teammates will be.
One element that is missing from Kupari’s game is a good wrist shot. While, yes, his release is good, he needs to be more accurate with it and could add more velocity. This kind of goes hand in hand with his need to add more muscle. As he gains weight in the gym, his shot should improve as well as his finishing ability around the net.
On the defensive side of the puck, Kupari is good but not great. His positioning is solid, but it could use some fine-tuning. This is another aspect of his game that should improve with added muscle. He gets pushed around a bit when it comes to board battles.
I’m sure scouts aren’t too concerned about Kupari’s defensive game though; not with his noted work ethic. Despite his lack of strength, Kupari is always willing to engage in the battles. Another tangible example is his improvement in the faceoff circle. If there’s a rough edge in his game, you can be sure Kupari will round it out.
Speaking of edges, Kupari is a fantastic skater. He has great balance and agility, which help him create space via an arsenal of fakes and quick stops and starts. This shiftiness allows him to open up shooting and passing lanes to generate offense. Kupari also has great acceleration, which makes him a nightmare to play off the rush.
And yet there is still room for Kupari to get better. It all goes back to adding more strength. Once he does, he’ll be able to further engage in the board battles and the cycle as well as push through the kind of checking he’ll face at the higher levels.
All in all, Kupari has all the tools to become a top-six pivot in the NHL. He just needs to add some strength and fine tune the loose ends of his game.
Goran Stubb, the NHL Director of International Scouting, had this to say about Kupari:
“For being only 17 he plays a mature game. He plays both center and wing…very good understanding of the game. He has the ability to make plays even at high-speed. Good nose for the net, has fine offensive instincts, but does also understand his defensive duties. “
With the lack of center talent in this draft, Kupari may not be available when the Flyers pick at no. 14, but if he’s still on the board, the Flyers would be adding a stellar player if Ron Hextall calls his name.
Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images
Disclaimer: All of these scouting reports come from aggregated content from throughout the Internet. Any opinion I give is merely a combination of all the information I have gleaned while researching these players.