Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Kasperi Kapanen prepares to put on a team sweater after being selected as the number twenty-two overall pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Kasperi Kapanen A Candidate For Sidney Crosby's Winger?

Sidney Crosby doesn’t have a right winger, and the Pittsburgh Penguins just got done nabbing one in this past June’s NHL Draft.

Kasperi Kapanen, 17, was projected to possibly be a top-10 selection; however, he fell into Pittsburgh’s laps at No. 22, which was a pleasant surprise for the organization to say the least.

The Finnish right-hander possesses high-end skill that could aid the Penguins almost instantaneously, and after watching him at prospect development camp, assistant general manager Bill Guerin believes the kid has a chance to make the team come September, and that Kapanen is extremely mature for his young age – per Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

This scenario is all too similar to Olli Maatta‘s road to the NHL.

Selected 22nd overall in 2012 – like Kapanen – a high-projected pick, Maatta, shockingly dropped to the Penguins, and earned a roster spot after spending one more season with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Both of them are of Finnish descent, and they each got rave reviews to how polished they were.

So, given the strong comparisons between the two, does that ultimately mean Kapanen should be rostered with Pittsburgh for the upcoming 2014-15 campaign? Yes. And he should skate alongside the captain.

Due to how strong Maatta performed this past season, Kapanen’s NHL inauguration should commence as soon as possible. The odds of him showcasing a pure scoring prowess right from the get-go is highly anticipated, and if he’s paired up with Crosby, who knows what Kapanen could produce.

Yes, Kapanen will be 18, Saturday, but the fact is the league is going younger and younger each year. Aleksander Barkov, Dougie Hamilton, Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Hertl, Seth Jones, Hampus Lindholm, Nathan MacKinnon, Sean Monahan, Morgan Rielly, Jacob Trouba – the list goes on-and-on for teenagers who made the NHL. So, why should Pittsburgh deny Kapanen a spot because he’s (will be) 18? Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review feels the same way about his maturity.

More to the point, why should they hesitate in placing him on the top-line with Crosby?

Beau Bennett cannot be counted on to stay healthy, and will probably be best served as Evgeni Malkin‘s winger anyways, considering he lost both of his during this past free agency frenzy. And you can also count Pascal Dupuis out, because he’s coming off ACL/MCL surgery. Steve Downie has a shot to skate with Crosby, but if you want pucks tickling the twine, experimenting Kapanen with Crosby is a wise hypothesis.

While Bennett brings the same, Kapanen will integrate his right-handed shot to a line that has just left-handed cannons. And, if Kapanen’s slotted on the top-line, it will allow him to get acclimated with Crosby sooner rather than later, given Chris Kunitz won’t be around forever.

As it stands, Pittsburgh has 12 forwards ready to compete – assuming Nick Spaling and Brandon Sutter get signed off their current restricted free agent statuses – leaving Kapanen with a strong task of making the team.

However, if it takes Pittsburgh scratching any current player in favor of Kapanen, so be it. The kid’s got heavy potential. The Penguins need to start infusing their youth, why not start with a Crosby-Kapanen connection?

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