Over the last three seasons, Rasmus Kupari has been moved between LA and Ontario, never finding a consistent home in the Kings line-up. However, this season has been different and he has finally found his role as the Kings fourth line center.
While Kupari’s stats may not jump off the page to anyone (3 goals and 12 assists in 62 games), he has nonetheless done all of the little things correctly which has translated into more time in the NHL. He’s been a constant on the Kings’ fourth line for the last several months. A line that has seen a variety of different looks lately, but he has maintained the center position.
Kupari has become one of the Kings’ effective forwards when it comes to physicality and defensive play. His faceoff numbers have improved significantly from last season, jumping from 42.6% last year to 54.6% this season.
This drastic change could be from the fact that Kupari has been a center for almost this entire season. While last year he was being moved from center to wing depending on the game, which didn’t allow him the necessary time to grow into a consistent role. Kupari is also the only right-shot centerman currently on the Kings’ roster, so his ability to win draws is extremely important for the LA Kings, especially in the playoffs.
The former 20th overall pick in the 2018 draft has also found a home on the Kings’ penalty kill. His size and speed have helped him become one of the team’s best players when down a man.
While Kupari’s ice time is down by almost two minutes from last year, he has fully embraced his role on this team. As a mainstay on the fourth line, Kupari seems to have found his most effective role in helping the Kings maintain a level of consistency in their bottom six.
Kupari has also developed a physical aspect to his game that began last season and which carried forward in the playoffs in 2021-22. The young centerman does a great job of using his 6’2 200 pound frame on the forecheck and along the boards.
This effort is not lost on his teammates. Drew Doughty, in a recent interview, commented on his growing confidence in the Finnish youngster and what he brings to the team, “We’ve got young guys like Kup (Kupari). I think he has been playing awesome.”
When the Kings drafted Kupari his calling card was his offensive game created by his skating and physicality. While we have seen flashes of his ability to drive play and create offense, these attributes have conversely allowed him to become a solid defensive forward for the Kings.
One of the Kings’ weaknesses last year in the playoffs was a fourth line that was absolutely dominated whenever they would match up against the Oilers’ top two lines. This year however, with Kupari’s defensive development, the Kings’ fourth line is in much better shape to hold their own in any matchup in this year’s playoffs.