Third-round pick discusses importance of taking part in team's summer development camp. Ted Kulfan
Detroit — For many young prospects, often times, summer development camps NHL teams stage are something they feel they must go through.
Let’s face it, a week off in early July anywhere might feel better.
But don’t tell that to defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo, the Red Wings’ third-round draft pick this past June.
Kotkansalo took away lasting hockey tips and friends.
“I didn’t know what to expect but I learned a lot, a lot of new stuff I will use,” said Kotkansalo, who will play at Boston University this season. “A lot of new exercises (training regimens) that I haven’t done before, but will now.
“What to eat, healthy stuff, and how important that is. A lot of other things that I didn’t know about.”
But Kotkansalo also hopes these were the first chapters in long an NHL relationship with future teammates in the Red Wings organization.
“I like that this camp is about knowing (learning about) the organization,” Kotkansalo said. “Guys talk about how we might be playing together, hopefully with the Red Wings, and that’s what it is all about.
“They (coaches, front office) said this was nothing about evaluation. It was more about learning, learning what it takes to be a professional.”
When the Red Wings selected Kotkansalo, the choice wasn’t universally praised by draft “experts.”
Kotkansalo didn’t have an exceptional season while playing Sioux Falls in the United States Hockey Leagues.
In 47 games, he had a goal and 11 assists (12 points) with a plus-12 rating along with 43 penalty minutes.
But Red Wings scouts were intrigued with his size (6-foot-2, 198-pounds), strength, his willingness to hit, and ability to carry the puck.
He’s definitely a project at this point, but the Red Wings feel Kotkansalo has the ingredients to become a pro defenseman.
While he may not excel in any areas, Kotkansalo appears to be a player who can do a lot of things well.
Kotkansalo prides himself on the fact he can be used in a variety of ways.
“My strength is basically I can play in any situation,” Kotkansalo said. “I’m a two-way defenseman, but I can be a shutdown defenseman. That might be a strength.
“But there are a lot of things I have to work on, and I know that.”
Most analysts felt skating is something that Kotkansalo needs to improve, as well as some offensive parts, such as passing and shooting the puck.
Kotkansalo, who wasn’t sure where he’d be drafted in June, was pleased it was early, and especially by the Red Wings.
Growing up, Kotkansalo followed the Red Wings because of the success of fellow Finland native Valtteri Filppula, now with the Philadelphia Flyers.
But being part of the Red Wings organization, regardless, is a thrill.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” Kotkansalo said of being drafted by the Wings. “This organization has been so successful, and so many great players have played here.
“To be part of it, I still can’t believe it. I’m very excited.”
Choosing Boston University over junior hockey was a difficult choice, but one Kotkansalo was comfortable with.
“There’s the education, obviously, and that’s so important,” Kotkansalo said. “But for me, it’s the best place to develop as a hockey player. It just suits me well, better than playing at home (in Finland) or in the Canadian Hockey League (junior hockey).”