LA Kings: Rasmus Kupari reflects on NHL debut

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) /
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2018 first-round pick Rasmus Kupari made his NHL debut with the LA Kings on Friday night. After the game, he spoke with the media.

While it may not have been the end result they were hoping for, the LA Kings got a shot in the arm on Friday night when one of their most prized prospects, Rasmus Kupari, made his long-anticipated NHL debut.

Since being taken 20th overall in the 2018 Draft, Rasmus Kupari has been high on the LA Kings’ future aspirations. Unfortunately, a torn ACL at 2019 World Juniors set the Finnish center back. Kupari, however, fought his way back to full strength. So, after a determined path to full health, which included nine points in eight games for the Ontario Reign this season, it was time to see what the 20-year-old could do at the NHL level.

Following Friday’s game, a 3-2 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues, Kupari spoke with the media about his debut, beginning with some congratulations.

“Yeah, thank you,” an excited Kupari responded before proceeding with his recap of his debut. “Lots of good things with our line and the whole team, we got some chances. Yeah, I mean, I just try to keep it simple, use my speed and get the forecheck going. We had some pretty good chances a couple times; pretty sure next game, we’ll score on those.”

Having spent parts of the last two seasons in the AHL, Kupari touched on some of the biggest differences he found between the A and the NHL.

“The game is a little faster,” the youngster noted. “But, I think it’s more organized over here, and, of course, guys are smarter, more skilled. So, I think that could be a good thing for me, as well, that helps my game.”

Of course, as per NHL tradition, players about to make their debuts are set out onto the ice do a lap before the rest of their teammates join them. Kupari was no exception to this.

“Yeah, I had a lot of fun, and it’s a moment I will never forget,” Kupari reflected. “I was on the line there, and Kopi just told me, ‘Go ahead, kid,’ and I got a couple of laps by myself, and it was totally how I will remember [this] the rest of my life.”

It is also worth noting that Kupari’s efforts in his debut did not go unnoticed by his head coach.

Despite not registering any points, Kupari recorded a shot on goal, two hits while logging 10:07 of ice time, and going an impressive 5-for-7 in the faceoff department. For Todd McLellan, he succinctly gave a final grade on the youngster’s debut and whether he passed or failed.

“Passing,” the Kings head coach stated. “I’m a pretty simple teacher. Either you pass, or you fail. Passing.”

McLellan, however, did take the opportunity to elaborate a bit more on Kupari’s overall performance on Friday.

“Pretty solid night,” he added. “A little nervous to begin with, but who wouldn’t be? And then, he settled in. He was good in the [faceoff] circle. He was responsible in his own end. I thought he forechecked, had a couple of good scoring opportunities. That’s a pretty good night for a 20-year-old to have in his first one.”

So, will Kupari be in the lineup on Saturday?

“There’s a good chance, yep,” McLellan concluded.

With his outing on Friday, Rasmus Kupari becomes the third LA King to make his NHL debut this season, joining Austin Strand and Arthur Kaliyev. It may not be easy to determine his career trajectory after just a single game, but the excitement is nonetheless palpable as the LA Kings, and their fans prepare for what Rasmus Kupari has in store moving forward.