The Habs haven’t sent a lot of their prospects to play overseas while awaiting the start of next season but Jesperi Kotkaniemi has joined that small group. The team announced on Thursday that he has been loaned to Assat Pori in Finland until training camps get underway.
While it’s risky to loan a player that’s expected to be on Montreal’s roster to start next season, it also makes some sense. While Kotkaniemi did play in the playoffs, those ten games were his only action since March when he suffered a splenic injury so this would be an opportunity to make up for some lost development time.
Of course, there’s also the possibility of fatigue down the stretch in the NHL with that league trying to play as full of a schedule as possible which may not be the best situation to head into his contract talks for 2021-22 and there’s always a chance of injury.
But last season wasn’t a great one for the 20-year-old. He had just eight points in 36 games and lost his confidence and the trust of the coaching staff as the year went on. His assignment to Laval was a welcome change for probably everyone and although he only managed one goal there in 13 games, he did have a dozen assists and seemed to be making good strides under Joel Bouchard which were made evident in the playoffs with Montreal.
This isn’t Kotkaniemi’s first stint with the Assat program as that is the program he developed in while he suited up the Liiga in 2017-18 before the Habs drafted him third overall in 2018 and brought him over to North America.
For anyone keeping track of which other players are on loan, they are Otto Leskinen, Lukas Vejdemo, Hayden Verbeek, and Jesse Ylonen.