It certainly hasn’t been the sophomore campaign that Jesperi Kotkaniemi or the Montreal Canadiens were hoping for. Now, after struggling to maintain any sort of production in the NHL and spending time in the minor leagues, Kotkaniemi will miss the remainder of the season thanks to a splenic injury. Eric Engels of Sportsnet reports that the young forward will not require surgery, but no recovery timeline has been determined.
There’s no way to describe Kotkaniemi’s 2019-20 season other than disappointing, especially given the flashes of brilliance he showed as a rookie. In 36 games with the Canadiens, he scored just eight points, never seeing more than 16 minutes of ice time in a single game. While he has been a point-per-game player at the AHL level, that includes just one goal in 13 games.
It’s obviously not the end of the world for the 19-year-old forward, but when players selected after him in the 2018 draft are already in starring roles — namely Brady Tkachuk and Quinn Hughes, selected at fourth and seventh, respectively — it’s a bit frustrating to see the Montreal youngster struggling.
Now that his season is over, Kotkaniemi will have several months to work on his game and come back ready to take a full-time spot in the Montreal lineup. He still has one year remaining on his entry-level contract and a lot to accomplish if he wants a big extension like some of his draft contemporaries will be getting.