The rookie shined in the pre-season and is off to a solid start to his professional career, which means he could be sticking around in the NHL for the foreseeable future.
“With each passing day it becomes more and more likely he’s going to remain in Montreal for more than just a nine-game tryout at the start of the season,” Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston said Saturday during the Headlines segment of Hockey Night in Canada. “The Habs’ management has been very impressed with what they’ve seen from this guy. He’s really blown away their expectations.”
The 18-year-old can play nine games with Montreal before general manager Marc Bergevin and company must decide whether or not to send him back home where he can play a second season with Assat Pori in the Finnish Elite League.
Kotkaniemi was selected third overall by the Canadiens in the 2018 NHL Draft. The centre has one assist and has averaged 13:46 of ice-time through the first four games of the regular season playing mostly on a line with Joel Armia and either Paul Byron or Jonathan Drouin.
If Kotkaniemi plays 10 games with the Canadiens he will burn the first year of his entry-level contract. If Montreal management decides Kotkaniemi needs more grooming and they send him back before he plays his 10th game then the first year of his deal wouldn’t start until the beginning of the 2019-20 campaign.