The Montreal Canadiens announced Tuesday that rookie forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi has undergone successful arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday to repair a chronic, minor injury in his left knee, The surgery was performed by Dr. Thierry Pauyo in Montreal.
‘With regards to Jesperi, it was a chronic, minor injury that did not stop him from playing this past season. Jesperi will remain in Montreal for the coming weeks to complete his rehabilitation program with our team’s medical staff. We have been told by our medical group that there should be no delay in starting his offseason training.”
Canadiens general manager, Marc Bergevin
The injury doesn’t appear to be anything serious and this surgery should do nothing but help Kotkaniemi in the long-term. As general manager Marc Bergevin mentioned, the surgery shouldn’t have any impact on Kotkaniemi’s ability to show up for offseason training on time. This would also mean his status for the preseason and start of the regular season should both go unharmed as well.
Kotkaniemi Exceeded Rookie Expectations
When the Canadiens took Kotkaniemi third overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, some were concerned with the move. While Kotkaniemi was the best center prospect in the class at the time of the draft, the Canadiens were leaving players like Filip Zadina and Brady Tkachuk on the board, both of whom were projected to be top-four picks.
Despite this, the Canadiens felt confident in Kotkaniemi’s ability from the get-go and were rewarded immediately as the Finnish center would score 11 goals and 34 points in 79 games, exceeding all expectation in the process. While Kotkaniemi’s offensive abilities were highlighted throughout the season, his 200-foot game and ability to play in all three zones both with and without the puck really stood out.
It isn’t every day that an 18-year-old can immediately step into the NHL and look comfortable without the puck on his stick. This was the case for Kotkaniemi as he would provide consistency for the Canadiens for much of the season when played. As the season wound down, head coach Claude Julien used the 6-foot-2, 184-pound forward more sparingly but that was likely due to fatigue more than anything.
In SM Liiga in 2017-18, Kotkaniemi played in 57 games and scored 10 goals and 29 points. Making the jump to the NHL and having to learn an entirely different style of game against the best talent in the world while on a smaller ice surface was a hard enough ask in and of itself. Kotkaniemi was also asked to play in an impact role on the team for 79 games which undoubtedly took its toll as the season went on.
There should be no concerns for Kotkaniemi’s health or ability moving forward. While the sophomore slump is a legitimate concern for all players, Kotkaniemi should be fine in his second season as he continues to get more comfortable in the NHL. It helps that he’ll be learning from one of the league’s best coaches in Julien, as well.