Between now and training camp, we’ll share the stories of several young prospects, who attended development camp in the summer and are approaching training camp in the fall with a variety of goals. Next up is Kasper Simontaival, a third-round selection by the Kings in 2020, has impressed playing professionally in Finland. He’s slated to skate in Finland another season, but made an impression during a quick glimpse here at his development camp in July.
Three years after hearing his name called by the LA Kings in the 2020 NHL Draft, Kasper Simontaival attended his first development camp.
Out of Orivesi, Finland, the Kings’ third-round pick and 66th overall selection three seasons ago finally got his chance to meet the Kings’ development staff face-to-face, see the practice facility and meet his fellow peers on and off the ice. Standing at 5–8 and 174 pounds, Simontaival is an offensive weapon that has high-end skill. At just 21, Simontaival has already played parts of five seasons in the SM-Liiga, the top professional league in Finland. Having played three straight seasons in SM-Liiga as an everyday player, Simontaival has made statistical gains in consecutive years with a seven and 10-point improvement the past two campaigns.
Having seen the offense continue to grow, as his ice time and role has expanded since being drafted by the Kings, Simontaival has seemingly been on the right track. It wasn’t until last month, though, that Kings fans and staff had a chance to see the Finn with their own eyes amongst his peers at Toyota Sports Performance Center in this year’s development camp that provided everyone with firsthand chance to see Simontaival’s impressive skillset. In his first chance to see Los Angeles, the South Bay and the Kings outstanding facility, Simontaival was nothing short of impressed with what is going on here.
“It’s very beautiful here and I think the locker room is great. The facilities are great, good food and everything in our hotel is great,” Simontaival explained.
Back on the ice, Simontaival admittedly needed some time to get comfortable, and for multiple reasons. First, beginning with the time difference and the distance from LA to Finland, the changes took some adjusting for the right-handed winger to get settled in.
“It was pretty hard to get acclimated right away,” he detailed. “The jet lag is pretty rough here. It’s like 10 hours or so, so it took a couple days to get used to it, but it’s got better. I felt physically so much better [at the end of camp] than I did at the beginning and everything I think got better as the week went on.”
Secondly, while an impressive English speaker, Simontaival had never been to camp before and everything he’d been experiencing over the five-day showcase was brand new. From meeting new teammates and staff, to being in a brand-new building, to being comfortable enough to communicate in his second language, Simontaival, like many of the development camp goers, needed some time to get familiar with the situation. Thankfully for the him, a former World Juniors teammate was there to help him – Samuel Helenius.
The Kings’ 2021 second-round pick played a very valuable role for Simontaival and the other Finns as the 6–6 center who grew up mainly in Finland had plenty of prior experience in Toyota Sports Performance Center. Having played all of last season with the Ontario Reign last season, Simontaival leaned on the younger Helenius to help show him the ropes.
“It was very helpful to have Helenius here with prior experience,” Simontaival said. “He has played here in Ontario last year, so he’s helped out a lot and he know where to go. I’ve got everything clearly with his help, so, if there’s anything I needed to ask he could help answer it.”
Great start this morning for @LAKings prospect Kasper Simontaival in the WJC quarterfinals!
Scored this opening goal and collected the primary assist on Finland's second. An early two points and an early 2-0 lead! pic.twitter.com/l8EXo9C3Vn
— Zach Dooley (@DooleyLAK) August 17, 2022
The time difference and new atmosphere weren’t the only things that Simontaival had to acclimate to.
As a European, Simontaival is used to playing on a larger ice surface. The smaller ice isn’t brand new to Simontaival as he’s been a part of multiple national team tournaments including multiple World Junior tournaments, but it is an adjustment.
“Yeah, it’s pretty tough because even though I play in pro in Finland, it’s so different in here,” he said. “Everything is coming so much quicker and everything’s happening faster and lots of battles on the boards and things like that. So, it takes time. If I would have come here a week or two earlier to get used to that and the intensity, it’d be easier. The intensity is so much higher here. Everybody is such a good skater here, so it’s tough but I’ll get used to that.”
Simontaival has outstanding offensive tools.
While the way to describe Simontaival the day he was drafted was “a goalscorer,” the Finn has continued to evolve his game on both ends of the ice. He considers himself to be more of a playmaker first, with the goalscoring ability to support.
“I describe that I’m a playmaking player, I think that I am in a pretty good place offensively and of course defensively too,” he said. “I try to be versatile – I can defend, I can be great at power play and I have a good shot also. I’m a playmaker and goalscorer. That’s how I would describe myself.
On the same wavelength, Jarret Stoll touched on Simontaival during one of the media sessions at development camp.
Like us, it was Stoll’s first chance to work with Simontaival in a Kings development setting, alongside his fellow prospects.
“He’s a shooter and that’s something I’ve noticed with him and over in Finland and watching him live a couple of times in world juniors,” Stoll said. “Playing against guys his own age group, he plays that off-side wing on the power play and he can really rip it. That’s what we want to see more of. He’s not the biggest guy, he’s stocky and he’s strong and if we get him to move his feet more, then that’s the type of player he’ll be. He’ll be a guy that can be dangerous in the offensive zone and like all these young kids, you got to work on his defense. It’s plays on the wall and getting pucks out. A lot of the fundamentals that we believe as an organization are important and that we focused on in camp.”
Set to go back to Finland for the 2023-24 season, Simontaival will return to KalPa, where he recorded 24 points (10-14-24) in 49 games last year. With the potential of joining the Kings organization the following season, Simontaival credits SM-Liiga with helping him learn, grow and develop. Still at the young age of 21, Simontaival has been playing against grown men for almost five seasons.
“I’ve grown a lot,” he said. “The battling for pucks feels like a war because every guy [in North America] is so strong. You have to put everything into every battle if you want to win. Of course, you say that you have to put everything into one single battle to win, but it’s nonstop against older and bigger guys. It’s constantly about what the next play is and like just outperforming everyone you’re up against no matter the age and size.”
Focused on becoming a more elite and dangerous player in the offensive zone, Simontaival will look to up his stats from the previous year while continuing to round out his game and responsibilities in the defensive zone.
“I’d like to be a better goalscorer, from maybe more shots from different angles in small, tight places and get the shot off pretty quickly. Everything that goalscorer needs to have because you know I can make good plays, but can I finish it? So that’s this was what I need to improve on. I also want to round out my game defensively. I want to be a trustworthy player on both ends.”