Despite getting swept at home by the Colorado Avalanche, Rasmus Kupari tallied his first NHL goal on Saturday night for the LA Kings.
With Quinton Byfield reaching his maximum six NHL games before starting the clock on his entry-level contract, the LA Kings gave the nod to Rasmus Kupari as their final callup for the season. The 21-year-old centerman had a three-game sample size in March before being sent back down to the Ontario Reign, where he tallied an aggregate of seven goals and 22 points in 31 games in the AHL.
Kupari made an early first-period blunder that led to the Avalanche’s first goal on Saturday night. It was a play in which Trevor Moore wasn’t sure if Kupari would take the lead on a puck in the Kings zone, and Devon Toews picked it up for an easy shot past Cal Petersen.
A Kotka, Finland native, Kupari made up for his error in the third period, sniping a rocket past Colorado netminder Jonas Johansson. The goal pulled Los Angeles within one of tying the Avs, but it was too little, too late at that point in the contest.
“Just a great feeling to score my first NHL goal, and I gotta give credit to Lias [Andersson],” Kupari said following the LA Kings 3-2 loss. “It was a great pass, and I got the time to take that puck to kind of look where’s the hole and shoot it.”
The former 2018 first-round pick recorded just two shots on goal and a -2 in his first three games. Kupari averaged 9:41 time-on-ice and certainly had some learning moments. As noted, he was sent back to Ontario in early March, where he went onto score 14 points in 24 games before he was added to the LA Kings taxi squad earlier this week.
Quinton Byfield, Lias Andersson, Arthur Kaliyev, and Kale Clague have all had a taste of playing time at the NHL level – obviously some more than others – but, for Rasmus Kupari, his cup of coffee with the NHL roster and returning to the AHL to continue to develop was instrumental for the Kings.
On Saturday, he logged a career-high 12:53 TOI, with two shots on goal while also winning two faceoffs and logging a 54.3 xGF% (per Natural Stat Trick). He had an outstanding third period, and you could see his confidence growing on the ice, making decisive passes, and putting himself in the right spots.
“Obviously, his game has improved,” Todd McLellan explained after the game. “The more experience he gets at the American League level, the better. You know, fortunately for him, he’s playing on the powerplay there a lot. He has been able to penalty kill, [and] he’s one of the go-to guys.”
With Kupari not eligible for an entry-level side, the first year of his ELC will be burned at the end of this season, meaning he can play in the remaining three games, giving him seven NHL games of experience heading into next season’s training camp.