Ex-Canadiens' forward Kotkaniemi: Montreal media "can get in your head"

Apr 5 2023, 6:49 pm

Jesperi Kotkaniemi isn’t holding back about the challenges he faced as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

In a recent interview with The Hockey News’ Jacob Stoller, Kotkaniemi revealed that his friends used to send him articles from the Montreal media in his first few years in the league calling out his lack of production.

While he broke into the league with 34 points in 79 games as an 18-year-old rookie, his production stalled over the next two seasons, putting up just 28 points over his next two seasons across 92 games.

“The media is really big in Montreal, and it can get in your head really fast if you read all that stuff,” Kotkaniemi said in the interview. “Here in Carolina, the life is so much easier. You don’t really stress about anything. Great teammates. Great staff. The media is not bad. It’s really a stress-free life here.”

After playing three years in Montreal, Kotkaniemi signed an offer sheet in the summer of 2021 with Carolina in a move that rocked the hockey world.

Now in his fifth year in the NHL, the 22-year-old Kotkaniemi has 16 goals and 23 assists in 77 games this season, both of which are career highs, as are his 39 points.

“I’m kind of starting to find my way in this league,” Kotkaniemi said.

Kotkaniemi was initially signed on a one-year, $6.1 million deal with Carolina that was much higher than the contract he was expected to sign with Montreal, and then he re-upped last summer on an eight-year, $38.5 million contract that extends through 2029-30.

Former Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said in the months following Kotkaniemi’s departure that the only reason he left Montreal was money-related.

“They put that pile of money there on the table for him,” Ducharme said in October 2021. “He said yes. Who would have said no?”

Despite the way it ended with Kotkaniemi, Ducharme still had high praise for the former Canadiens forward.

“I like his potential for sure. I think, at times, he really showed that,” Ducharme added. “Being consistent is hard for a young player. He’s a good kid, [and] he’s liked by his teammates. I wish [I] could have kept working with him.”

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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