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Kapanen on making Leafs, wearing his dad’s number, and Kessel

Washington Capitals v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Four

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19: Kasperi Kapanen #28 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Washington Capitals in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Air Canada Centre on April 19, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Capitals defeated the Maple Leafs 5-4 to even series 2-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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If there were any critiques of Kapseri Kapanen being the Toronto Maple Leafs’ looking to make the leap candidate, consider this: even Kapanen knows that he’s not a sure-thing to make the 2017-18 roster.

Kapanen spoke with reporters including the Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby and the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran after some vigorous summer scrimmages, touching on an array of issues.

First and foremost: realizing he still has plenty to prove.

“Last year was last year,” Kapanen said. “This is a new year and I just start from the same spot as everyone else. It’s going to be a tough camp, but I’ll be ready for it. Anything can happen, but I just want to stay healthy this year and be a better player.”

Jury is still out

It might be tempting to read too much into some admittedly big goals he scored for Toronto and just assume he already has it made.

And, really, that double-OT goal (and two-goal performance in general) against Washington was really something:

His first NHL goal was big, too, as he helped Toronto secure a playoff spot thanks to a mad rush against (you guessed it) the Penguins:

Still, those highlights obscure the fact that Kapanen accomplished little beyond those highlights.

That’s literal in the sense that he’s been limited to that goal and zero assists in 17 regular-season games (eight in 2016-17) and that two-goal game accounting for all his offense during that six-game playoff series against the Capitals.

Now, some of his quiet production is likely a matter of opportunity, as he averaged fewer than 11 minutes per night during both the regular season and playoffs when he was with Toronto last season.

The point is not that Kapanen is “bad” by any stretch. Instead, it’s not forced modesty; his ice time and limited NHL production make it clear that he does have a lot of room to grow.

2017-18 could be a crucial fork in the road in that regard, then.

Those stories brought some other revelations. For one thing, Kapanen found trade partner Phil Kessel’s hot dog photo “pretty funny,” making him a reasonable person. He also confirmed that, with jersey numbers rotating thanks to Patrick Marleau (12) arriving and Brian Boyle (24) exiting, Kapanen will end up wearing 24 after sporting 28.

Twenty-four is the same number his father Sami Kapanen wore as a memorable NHL player, so that’s pretty cool.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)