Today we look back at former Carolina Hurricanes’ winger Sami Kapanen
Finland has always been a special place for the Carolina Hurricanes. Not only did the Hurricanes play a preseason game there, but the list of Finnish Hurricanes players is a long one. Even today the presence of Finland remains strong on the team. Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen represent the country on the Hurricanes. Jane Kuokkanen is a prospect for the team and represented Finland at the World Juniors. The Finnish tradition started with the drafting of Sami Kapanen in the 1995 NHL draft. Kapanen was the Carolina Hurricanes’ first great Finnish player and paved the way for others after him.
Kapanen was a very small winger at 5′ 9″. This led to him being passed over in several NHL drafts despite his accomplishments in Finland. It wasn’t until 1995 that the Hartford Whalers took a chance on Kapanen and drafted him in the fourth round. With his skills, Kapanen expected to make the team out of camp but suffered an injury. The injury kept Kapanen out to start the season and Kapanen spent 28 games on the Springfield Falcons the Whalers AHL affiliate.
Kapanen was all right with the Whalers, but nothing special. It wasn’t until the team moved to Raleigh, that Kapanen blossomed into the speedy winger that Hurricanes’ fans remember. From 1998 to 2002, Kapanen averaged 24.2 goals a season and picked twice for the NHL All-Star. At both of these All-Star games, Kapanen won the fastest skater award which led to his nickname: Finnish Flash.
At minute mark 3:20 watch Kapanen blow the doors off the competition, but if you watch the whole thing you may wonder about the whole World vs. North America thing. Well see kids, back in the day the NHL decided they should split the All-Star teams based on nationality. This went on from 1998 to 2002 the year this All-Star game happened. Also is it just me or does putting Ed Jovanovski in the fastest skater competition seem like some sort of cruel joke?
Kapanen’s Hurricanes career culminated with the 2002 season. That year Kapanen scored a career-high 27 goals and helped lead the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Finals. The very next season Kapanen’s production would drop. Due to his lack of goals, Carolina traded Kapanen and Ryan Bast to the Philadelphia Flyers for Pavel Brendl and Bruno St. Jacques. And while Kapanen may not have been great for the Flyers, he still was a lot better than Pavel Brendl. So once again mark this down as another horrible trade for the franchise.
Kapanen would play five more years with the Philadelphia Flyers, but would never match his production from his time with the Hurricanes. In those five seasons, Kapanen never came close to breaking twenty goals and his highest goal total was only 12 which he accomplished twice. In 2008 Kapanen retired from the NHL but would go on to play five more seasons for KalPa in the Finnish Elite league until his retirement from all professional hockey in 2014. Kapanen owned a controlling interest in KalPa since 2003 and Kimmo Timonen also owns a stake in the club as well.