Like Dad, Kasperi Kapanen has fire to win

Like Dad, Kasperi Kapanen has fire to win
June 26, 2014, 7:00 pm
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Sami Kapanen played four-plus seasons with the Flyers. His son, Kasperi (not pictured), is projected to be a first round pick in this weekend's NHL draft. (AP)

Kasperi Kapanen wasn't blunt about it. His father, Sami, was "selfish" when he moved Kasperi and his family from their South Jersey home to Finland in 2008.

“We moved because of my dad’s hockey future,” the 18-year-old right wing, who is the top-rated European skater in this weekend’s NHL draft at Wells Fargo Center, said.

Sami Kapanen was a Flyer then.

“He thought it [would] be better for him to play there,” Kasperi said. “I felt like [it was] a selfish decision, having all my friends here. Did it hurt me? It was actually good to go to Europe. They play a skill game there and I already knew the North American style.”

Kasperi Kapanen is hoping to go high in the first round Friday. His father said Columbus, Winnipeg and Nashville had expressed the most interest but …

“You never know with the draft, because all the clubs say the same thing,” Sami Kapanen said, who owns the Finnish elite team KalPa.

The father-son duo have actually played on the ice together. Kasperi scored just 14 points this season for KalPa, which was shortened because of a shoulder injury.

Even though he missed a month, Kapanen still impressed NHL Central Scouting enough to keep his No. 1 ranking the entire season, which says something about his character.

“I’ve had a rough season, it was unfair for me,” Kapanen said. “The team didn’t play well this year and I didn’t make [the] under-20 [team] because of my injury. In practice before the [Under-18] Canada game, I fell down shoulder-first in the boards and my AC joint got torn up a bit. I missed a month. A big bummer.”

Kapanen lived here for five years when his dad played for the Flyers and played on Team Comcast for three years.

He spent a lot of time watching his father play as a youngster. A side note: He has only once been able to watch the tape of Keith Primeau fish-hooking his father with his stick, pulling Sami to the bench after being concussed by Darcy Tucker in Game 6 in Toronto in the 2003-04 playoffs.

“I can’t watch it without getting angry and emotional,” Kasperi said. “It’s not fun to see your dad like that. He was courageous and Jeremy Roenick scored that big goal.”

That was the 3-2 overtime game-winner that sent the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals against Tampa Bay.

“When he was home, he was a great father, make food, do anything, play,” Kasperi recalled. “But at the same time, he was a professional hockey player and he was on the road a lot and that was tough. What I learned most was the way he kept himself up as an athlete, his training dedication.”

Sami Kapapen left the Flyers after the 2007-08 season for a number of reasons. Foremost, he was unhappy with his role under then coach John Stevens and wanted to play for KalPa.

The secondary factor, however, was Kapanen wanted his son to be schooled in Europe and to play there before the seventh grade.

“He was on break point, he was turning 12 and I had one year left on my contract and wasn’t happy about the last season here, I felt so useless sitting on the bench playing [13 minutes] a night,” Sami said.

“He was turning 12 and it was the last point I could get him into the sixth grade Finnish system. If I stayed one more, he would go to seventh grade not knowing Finnish language very well and it would be more difficult for him ... He felt it was selfish on my part. But the more years he got under his belt, the more he understood why I did it.”

Everything turned out well for both. Sami owns the majority stake now in KalPa with Kimmo Timonen holding a minority share. Kasperi is about to have an NHL career and has played on two continents.

“I am really looking forward to what happens," Kasperi said, "I’m anxious to be there and excited."

The Flyers have also interviewed him.

“I would be so proud to play for the Flyers, just like my dad,” Kasperi said.

Central Scouting says he has very deceptive puck skills and a quick release on his shot.

Dad doesn’t disagree.

“He’s creative with the puck,” Sami said. “His speed is very good up the ice. He is one of the quickest young players I have seen. The offensive side of his game is what I see from him. He is about offense.”

Kasperi thinks it’s more than that. He says he inherited his father’s competitiveness. Who can ever forget Sami, battered and playing concussed, volunteernig to play defense for Ken Hitchcock in the Conference Finals against the Lightning?

Kasperi said he has inherited that attribute from his father.

“My competitiveness and willingness to win and that is kinda corny, I know, but it is one thing I show day in and day out,” he said.

Like father, like son.

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