Over the weeks leading up to the 2018 NHL draft, we're providing prospect profiles and how they would fit with the Flyers, who have two first-round picks — Nos. 14 and 19.
The NHL draft takes place June 22-23 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Flyers have nine picks with two in the first, fifth and seventh rounds and one in the second, fourth and sixth. They do not own a third-rounder as it went to the Detroit Red Wings for Petr Mrazek. The 14th pick conveyed from the Brayden Schenn trade. The final details were Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick (Morgan Frost) and the 14th pick.
Our prospect profiles will touch mostly on prospects projected to go in the 10-20 range but some may require the Flyers having to trade up to select. We’ll identify those prospects.
Team: Kärpät (Liiga)
Kupari has a ton of raw talent and is far from a finished product. He’s an exceptional skater with speed and is most dangerous when the puck is on his stick. This season, as a 17-year-old, Kupari didn’t play a ton for Kärpät, averaging 12 minutes and scoring 14 points in 39 games. He spent some time in Jr. A SM-liiga (seven points, 11 games) and Mestis (four points, five games) too.
He also made Finland’s roster as a 17-year-old for the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships, going pointless in five games. Had his coming out party on the international stage during the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Tournament when he scored seven points in four games. Finished as the 11th-rated European skater by NHL Central Scouting, a five-spot drop from the midterm rankings.
While he was scratched a bit in his first pro season, Kupari posted solid numbers in a secondary role with Kärpät as a 17-year-old. Some places have him listed at 163 but weighed in at 188 pounds at the 2018 NHL Scouting Combine. He’ll have to continue to develop his frame.
Fit with Flyers
Patience will be required with Kupari but the payoff could be big. Some have compared him to Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho, who’s had a pretty strong start to his NHL career. Kupari said at the combine that he’s staying in Finland for at least another year, as expected.
Kupari has been projected to fall in the Flyers’ range at No. 14 and his raw skill level would be hard to pass up. He might not last until 14 or he could slip to 19, though that doesn’t look likely. If he’s available at 14, the Flyers would have to take a hard look at him. The Flyers’ farm system would allow patience with Kupari and if his progression continues, he could develop into a player that should have gone top 10. He’s a prospect to watch as the picks roll in.