As we grow nearer and nearer to the top 10, we’re starting to see some wild cards in the 2019 Top 25 Under 25 for the Red Wings. At 17, defenseman Oliwer Kaski is possibly the biggest wild card of them all. Signed as an unrestricted free agent after an eye-opening season in Finland, but underwhelming numbers in years before.
Birth: Sept 4, 1995 (23 years old), Pori, FIN
Height and Weight: 6’3”/187 lbs.
2018-19 Team: Pelicans (Liiga)
2019-20 Team: Grand Rapids, probably. (100% Grand Rapids)
Okay, so, the dude was the best defenseman in Finland’s top league. He’s 23, he wasn’t drafted.. What gives? I have a crazy theory; Kaski’s numbers dropped off when he left Europe. At Western Michigan University, he didn’t get the chance to do what he does best. I’m not a Bronco hockey fan, so maybe that is an ill-advised opinion, but I do believe that coming to North America stalled his development.
Okay, so I haven’t seen much outside of YouTube highlights, but what I see is a pure offensive-minded defenseman. He’s not huge, mostly lanky, he isn’t very physical, but he doesn’t need size. Kaski appears to be a gifted skater with a lot of ability to see the play quickly.
So, the highlights look good, but what does this mean for his transition to the AHL?
I really can’t put much here, aside from what has been mentioned already. He’s got the size, but will his production transition? I think Kaski’s biggest weakness is that we don’t really know what he is, or what he could be. But really, it’s hard to pick out weaknesses when you acquired him nearly free-at-cost.
The guy put up 51 points in 59 games as a defenseman in Finland’s top league, in his early 20’s. That’s impressive, I don’t care who you are. I think he has serious potential to hit the NHL very soon, but that only adds to the logjam.
He’s a gifted player, with a lot of potential. I’m not sure what his ceiling is, but I know that at the very worst, he’s another Jakub Kindl-type player, minus the cost of a draft pick.