2018 NHL draft prospect profile #19: Rasmus Kupari

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 26: Rasmus Kupari #34 of Finland during the second period against Canada during the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship at KeyBank Center on December 26, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 26: Rasmus Kupari #34 of Finland during the second period against Canada during the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship at KeyBank Center on December 26, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images) /

The Canuck Way puts the spotlight on an undersized and talented Finnish centre. Rasmus Kupari got a nice boost from an early tournament, but had a bit of an up and down season. Here is what you need to know about him.

Depending on who you talk to, Rasmus Kupari‘s draft year is a tale of two seasons. Some are in the camp that believe he is a can’t miss top-10 talent. On the other hand, people feel that too much was made of his Ivan Hlinka performance and he is more of a project player.

As for myself, I fall in the latter camp. Kupari had seven points in four games at that tournament, which is impressive. However, everything needs context. Five of those points were in a game against Slovakia. With all due respect to the Slovaks, Kupari wasn’t toying with the best team there. Always a lesson from these tournaments: don’t trust small sample sizes!

His performance put Kupari in the top 10 of early rankings, ahead of more prominent players like Jesperi Kotkaniemi. You will see the absurdity in doing that when we get to his profile. With this in mind, Kupari is incredibly skilled and a terrific skater.

He does possess high-end skills, but I would not be so quick to compare him to Elias Pettersson. As we break down his numbers on the season, you will see that he has farther to climb to hit his potential.

The stats rundown

*Counting stats provided by EliteProspects

Height: 181 cm/5’11”

Weight: 74 kg/163 lbs

Birthdate: March 15, 2000

Position: Centre

Handedness: Right

Team (league): Kärpät (Liiga)







#13 by Craig Button

#18 by Cam Robinson (Dobber Prospects)


Alright, let’s start with his season in the Finnish Liiga. Those numbers don’t steal your attention right away. Keep in mind, as a 17-year-old on the best team in the league, Kupari only averaged 12 minutes a night.

With the limited ice time, Kupari finished 14th on the team in scoring. However, he did not earn his coaches trust during the playoffs, only dressing for six games during Kärpät’s championship run. Looking at his age group, Kupari’s regular season was the second best.

The beautiful thing about the Finnish Liiga website is their stat tracking. They list corsi, zone starts and PDO, which I will briefly outline for Kupari. Kärpät led the league with a CF% of 53. Unfortunately, Kupari finished the regular season with a 5v5 CF% of 46.3.

Furthermore, he was not buried with defensive starts as he spent 53% of his starts in the offensive zone. To make matters worse, his PDO was sky-high at 104.7. In his specific case, Kupari reaped the benefits of strong goaltending.

Scouting reports

Peter Harling, Dobber Prospects:

"Kupari is a highly skilled, playmaking center. He is undersized, but is a strong skater with a high hockey IQ and hockey sense (…)Kupari has a high ceiling, and drawing comparisons to countryman Sebastian Aho gives you an indication of his upside, but he is a long term investment."

Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst:

"He’s a very strong skater with excellent balance and agility, and he uses an array of fakes, (…) Kupari’s stickhandling is among the best of any 2018 draft eligible, and he uses it to either dance through or around traffic."

Ben Kerr, Last Word on Hockey:

"His ability to change speeds is a weapon. He quickly changes speeds in order to get free from a defender or to open up passing and shooting lanes. He also has very good edgework and agility, which allows him to make quick cuts and fakes that can fool defenders. (…)Kupari is most dangerous with the puck on his stick. He is a tremendous stick handler and can beat defensemen one-on-one. Pairing this with his skating skills, and he is difficult to defend. Kupari also has very good passing skills and excellent vision. (…)Kupari wrist shot has a good release, but he needs to work on both the accuracy and power. He needs to add mass to his frame though, as he can have issues being pushed off the puck right now."

What we think

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A common thing I keep hearing about Kupari is that he underperformed relative to his impressive skill set. He has the skating and offensive instincts, but his size and lack of strength are holding him back.

Another issue is that his defensive game will require development. The underlying data from the Liiga website doesn’t paint his season in the best light. We hoped for a little more production, but I think Kupari had a strong finish to his season. Perhaps opportunity is at the cause of this, but I’m a little skeptical when the best team in the league is outshot when he is on the ice.

I don’t see him immediately joining North America. Kupari will head back to Finland next season, so another year of development will give him the chance to make strides in his areas of weakness. His skill set is incredible, even if some people had him way too high on their early lists.

Some teams could dislike how easily the opposition can separate Kupari from the puck. He is willing to engage physically, but he just doesn’t have the leverage to win every puck battle. Like I said, I don’t want to make a direct comparison to Pettersson as they play differently.

Next: 2018 NHL draft profile #20: Dominik Bokk

But the Canucks prospect gained a lot of strength between last year’s draft and now. Perhaps Rasmus Kupari could do the same. Patience is the key with Kupari. Give him enough time and we might just say, “Where did Rasmus Kupari come from?”