2018 NHL Entry Draft Prospect Profile: Rasmus Kupari
He’s been the source of some draft debate, but Rasmus Kupari is not a wild card. He’s good. It’s just a question of how good.
Name: Rasmus Kupari
Team: Karpat (Liiga)
Stats: 6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points
NHL Central Scouting Ranking: 11th (European Skaters)
NHL Comparable Player: Lars Eller
Every draft, there are players that leave scouts and observers confused. Sometimes there are bad reasons for this, like Eeli Tolvanen — most likely because of his grades — and other times there are good reasons.
In Rasmus Kupari’s case, he played for one of the best teams in Finland in a man’s league, and thus didn’t get as much ice time (averaging 12 minutes a game) as he would have had in a lower league. Despite this, he’s a first-round talent. In the junior Liiga, he had seven points in 11 games. He had three points in four games for Finland’s U18 team in the World Juniors. And he went into beastmode at the international Juniors with 10 points in eight games, and most famously — a staggering seven points in four games at the Klinka Memorial. He’s also ninth in points per game for a draft-eligible player in the Liiga, which is just above Kasperi Kapanen and below Sebastian Aho.
At 5’11” and 163 pounds, Kupari is a dynamic center who excels as a perimeter threat with proximity dangles. He relies more on his shooting and passing skills to make plays rather than cycle aggressively or bludgeon in goals.
#Hlinka: Still 2-1 Russia thanks to this big save by Amir Miftakhov on Rasmus Kupari, who made another dandy move pic.twitter.com/CJ6xiTIfNL— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) August 9, 2017
With his agility and stick handling, he’s very good at switching a north-south rush into an east-west opportunity. Here’s an even crazier display of said tactic:
Rasmus Kupari has quite the set of hands, from Feb 9: #2018NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/SFtdMpdoef— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) March 17, 2018
Is there a catch?
He’s fallen in some mock drafts thanks to the lack of ice time. Scott Wheeler at The Athletic has him ranked at No. 23. Although he has a very favorable caveat:
He has all of the tools to be a dynamic offensive threat, but it’s going to take him some time. He needs to get stronger and learn to attack the middle of the ice more because he’s lethal in and around the net when he gets there. He’s also a deceptive, slick player who’s tough to knock off the puck despite his thin frame, though.
Kupari is a dynamic player whose dynamic play isn’t always visible. Is that because he’s on such a good team though? After the year Vegas had, it’d be silly to overlook what a difference giving players an opportunity to succeed is. What he accomplished in his limited role in the Liiga is still impressive. That’s why he’s been the source of some debate among draft observers; he hasn’t underperformed (on the contrary), but there’s been less of his performance to evaluate, which is critical for a player who Corey Pronman has said looks like a top 10 pick at times.
I stand by my player comparable. When you look at Eller’s offensive totals, they’re not very impressive. But then you look at how Montreal used him — purely defensively, and with little understanding of his talents (contrast this with his time in Washington) — and it’s impossible to strip his output from the mismanagement.
Of course, Kupari hasn’t been mismanaged, but he’s that type of player; like Eller, he’s incredibly shifty through all three zones. Unlike Eller, I think Kupari has a higher offensive ceiling (though Eller is really good defensively, so the comparable stops there). In that way, I think Kupari would actually be a solid selection for Dallas, all things considered. Obviously, you have to consider who’s still on board, but on talent alone, Kupari is a dynamic player with a skill set the Dallas Stars could use.