The Kapanen family needs no introduction in Finland. First there was Hannu, who had a brilliant career as a player and coach, then his two sons, Kimmo and Sami, and now Kasperi. The next member of the family to make a name for himself in hockey could very well do so in the Montreal Canadiens uniform.
Oliver Kapanen, the Habs’ second-round pick in 2021, is hoping to continue the family tradition.
A rich and glorious tradition
Hannu, Oliver’s grandfather, played 14 seasons in the Finnish Premier League, including representing Finland at the Innsbruck Olympics in 1976. He later swapped his skates for a whistle and led 12 seasons in Finland, including 10 in the Liiga, the highest league of the country.
His two sons Kimmo and Sami were also talked about. Kimmo, Oliver’s father, was a goaltender and had a 19-year career playing professional ice hockey between Finland, Germany and Sweden. Today he is general manager of Timra IK in the Swedish professional league (SHL). Sami has played 831 games in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers and his son Kasperi still plays at Bettman Circuit with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
A tough guy
So Oliver didn’t have to look far to find mentors in his youth, starting with his grandfather Hannu.
“I talk to him every day. I don’t know much about him as a player but what I’ve heard is that he was tough and loved to smear referees. At least that’s what he tells me. And I believe it!” interjects the shy young man with a laugh.
Hannu tries to watch his grandson’s games as often as possible.
“He watches my games and I listen to his advice a lot. He knows everything about hockey, whether it’s attacking, defending, or advantage or disadvantage concepts.
Is he as hard on himself as he is as a player?
“No, he’s quite relaxed now. He plays golf and that’s all,” he laughs.
It can be a challenge for a young player to make a name for themselves when you come from a family as respected as the Kapanen.
However, Oliver seems to have skills that already allow him to make his mark. Without much excitement, the 19-year-old forward rose through the ranks with the Finnish team at the World Juniors. After starting the contest on the fourth line, he made his way until he was used shorthanded as well as on the second wave with a man’s advantage.
“He’s a very smart player, one of the smartest in the team,” coach Antti Pennanen said of him.
This intelligence, the coach believes, may well stem from growing up in a world where ice hockey was dominant.
“I think it helps him a lot. He is a very quiet young man. Sami and Kasperi stood out more for their intensity and aggressiveness and I think Oliver could learn a bit from them in that regard. Sometimes he’s a little too nice at the rink. On the other hand, he is the smartest player in the family.
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