2002 born Tappara forward Kasper Simontaival has been considered a top prospect in the age-group for quite some time. In this feature article, I will break down his game based on three recent viewings.
The 5’9 right wing led Tappara U16 in scoring last season, putting up 42 goals and 62 points in 22 qualification games. The next player on his team scored 33 points. He added a 11-4-15 stat line in four games during the reminder of the season.
With 28 points in 20 games, Simontaival has shown no signs of slowing down in the U18 league this season, and even scored the shootout winner in his first U20 game. He will be representing the Finnish U17 national team for the second time as Finland hosts the Five Nations tournament next week.
A top point procuder every level he has played at, Simontaival is a proficient goal-scorer who can also set up his teammates for scoring chances. He has a heavy wrist shot and one-timer. The wrist shot features a quick, tricky release. He can beat defensemen in puck races thanks to his strong straight-line speed and get into good scoring positions. He’s a fairly agile skater with quick first few steps.
What also stood out to me was his ability to use his teammates. He showed good instincts and vision, moving the puck with accurate passes in the neutral zone. In the offensive zone, he made a couple of great passes to the slot from below the dots. In addition, Simontaival was strong on his skates, tough to knock off the puck and played a gritty game. He didn’t shy away from battles and finished his checks on a regular basis.
As a young player, there also areas in his game that require development. He often tried to use defensemen as screens after entering the zone and those plays weren’t always successful. In his own end, he will need to be more precise with his passes, to not turn the puck over and give up the puck possession. His play reading away from the puck also has room for improvement.
A high volume shooter and very smart player with the puck, Kasper Simontaival is one of the best prospects I have seen at the U18’s over the course of the season. It will be interesting to follow his development as the 2020 NHL Draft approaches. He could develop into a big time player down the road.