BOSTON – The Boston Bruins got a look at 24-year-old Finnish center Joona Koppanen with his NHL debut on Thursday night, and they subsequently sent him back to the AHL after the shutout loss to the Kraken.
Koppanen was solid skating on the fourth line centering Nick Foligno and Tomas Nosek, with the fourth line center playing through an upper body injury, and finished with a couple of shot attempts, a couple of hits and won 5-of-7 draws in just 8:50 of ice time. Only Craig Smith finished with less ice time clocking in at 8:47 for the Black and Gold while continuing to struggle to be any kind of factor for the B’s forward group this season.
While the 6-foot-5 Finnish forward was disappointed his NHL debut was Boston’s first home regulation loss of the season, there was no denying it was also a high point for a player that’s paid his dues in the AHL for the last five seasons.
“It was an awesome experience, of course,” said Koppanen following the game. “I’ve been working hard for many years now, and kind of like a dream coming true.
“It would be nice to win of course, but game is still game, so it’s nice to get that in…I think I was prepared well. Maybe I was a little nervous in the early, so that took a little time to get a couple of shifts in, and I was better after that.”
Certainly he showed flashes of what he can do with his size, long reach and stick and ability to get the puck up the ice quickly in limited ice time.
— Boston Strong 🇧🇷 (@BostonStrongBR) January 13, 2023
Koppanen said the uptick in speed was the biggest thing he had to adjust to at the NHL level, but he certainly didn’t look out of place while jumping in to a spot where the Boston Bruins were looking for a spark to get a tired hockey team going against Seattle. Given his ideal size, the season he’s having in Providence and his abilities at the faceoff dot, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if we see Koppanen up in Boston again at some point in the second half of the season as the Bruins look for ways to give veteran centers like Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci some extra rest at some point.