Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan has high expectations for Kasperi Kapanen as the winger enters his second season with the team.
Sullivan said after the Penguins' 3-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Monday that he believes Kapanen has elite potential, and he plans to push him to reach it. The 25-year-old saw 19:20 of ice time in Monday loss, finishing as a minus-2.
"I told him he has the potential to be an elite player in this league... I'm going to do everything within my power to help him get there," Sullivan said. "Sometimes that means tough love, but it's not because we don't think highly of him. It's just the opposite."
Kapanen had 11 goals and 30 points in 40 games with the Penguins last season after being traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a package that included a first-round pick. He added one goal and three points in six playoff games.
The Penguins could be forced to lean more heavily on players like Kapanen this season with veterans Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both expected to miss time to start the year.
Selected 22nd overall by the Penguins in the 2014 NHL Draft, Kapanen scored a career-high 20 goals and 44 points in 78 games with the Maple Leafs during the 2018-19 season.
He has 52 goals and 120 points in 242 career games with the Penguins and Maple Leafs.