This offseason, the Detroit Red Wings new general manager Steve Yzerman made some small additions to his squad. In one of those moves, Yzerman inked Finnish right handed defenseman Oliwer Kaski to a one-year entry-level contract. Kaski will carry an average annual contract value of $925,000 USD.
Recently, our very own Alex Drain wrote a thorough prospect profile on Kaski. Drain explained that Kaski’s path to the NHL is an unusual one. He was never drafted, played a season in the NCAA with Western Michigan University and went back to Finland. Once returning to Finland, most of his time spent was in the Liiga and he suited up for HIFK. After two seasons with HIFK, he signed on to play for the Pelicans (another Liiga club). His decision to play for Pelicans was a great one for Kaski as he truly blossomed and had a breakout campaign. In his breakout campaign, he had registered 19 goals and 32 assists.
Once the 2018-19 season concluded, Kaski was heavily coveted by many clubs in the NHL. Aaron Portzline of The Athletic Columbus had mentioned on Twitter that the Columbus Blue Jackets were one of the clubs interesting in signing Kaski. In addition, fans across Twitter were advocating for their teams to pursue Kaski and mentioned that he would be a solid fit with the Vancouver Canucks and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ultimately, the Red Wings won the sweepstakes and lured Kaski back to Michigan.
What The Experts Say
Let’s take a look at what the experts have to say on Oliwer Kaski and his skill-set.
“He’s an offensive defenseman who loves to join the rush. He has a great shot, he likes to use it a lot, and he shoots from the right side which is always valuable. He’s especially dangerous on the power play where his shot, vision and passing skills get to truly shine. At 6-foot-3, Kaski has great size as well but he’s not very physical. One great part about his game is that he doesn’t take a lot of penalties. He needs to improve his decision-making to avoid unnecessary risks, and there’s room for improvement in his defensive game as well. Even though he has been used on the penalty kill, he’s not the type of player coaches want to use on their top unit.” – Jokke Nevalainen, Dobber Prospects
“He’s a larger dude (6’3”), a right-hand shot, and has added weight since playing in college, now up to just under 200 lbs. In that sense, the combination of good skating, size, and being a right-shot, he somewhat resembles what the Wings liked in first round draft pick Moritz Seider, though obviously Seider was marketed as much stronger defensively.” – Alex Drain, WingsNation
Both Drain and Nevalainen agreed that the Pori, Finland native has a great shot from the right side. They also brought up his size, but unfortunately his size does not equate to strong physical play. He could develop a physical game in North America. If he does round out a solid physical game, he could make a compelling case for a good chunk of ice time on the penalty kill unit. Nevalainen did mention that he has been used on the penalty kill throughout his time in Finland. Plus, given his powerful shot, he could also have a place on the power play.
Since the Red Wings signed Kaski, a lot of fans across Detroit Rock City have talked very highly of Kaski and they should, but expectations needs to be more realistic. It’s not as if Kaski is a given to start the season in Detroit and have a monstrous year. He had an impressive campaign in Finland, but who knows how that will translate to a smaller ice surface.
Training camp will be very telling for Kaski and where he might play. At the moment, DailyFaceoff has Madison Bowey penciled in on the third pairing alongside Trevor Daley. Both, Daley and Bowey have not proven to be reliable defensemen. Daley is almost at the end of his career and Bowey has been rather inconsistent throughout his time with the Red Wings and the Washington Capitals. If Kaski can out-muscle Bowey in training camp, then he will likely take over as the sixth defenseman in the Red Wings lineup.
On the flip side, if Kaski does not appear to be NHL ready, some time in the AHL would be a good thing for the 23 year old. As I mentioned above, it has been noted that Kaski needs to get more physical. With the NHL style of play being more gritty then the European style of the play, developing and honing on his physical play with the Grand Rapids Griffins would not be the worst thing.
If Kaski does spend time with the Griffins, he might not need that much time to get NHL ready. Red Wings fans could see Kaski become a fixture in the Red Wings lineup very quickly. All-in-all, there is absolutely no rush to throw Kaski onto the NHL ice surface.
stats from eliteprospects.com