April 4, 2020

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Canadiens assign 19-year-old centre Kotkaniemi to AHL Rocket

The Montreal Canadiens assigned 2018 first-round draft pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi to the American Hockey League's Laval Rocket on Saturday. Carolina Hurricanes goalie Curtis McElhinney (35) blocks Montreal Canadiens' Jesperi Kotkaniemi (15), of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, March 24, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Gerry Broome

The Montreal Canadiens assigned 2018 first-round draft pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi to the American Hockey League's Laval Rocket on Saturday. Carolina Hurricanes goalie Curtis McElhinney (35) blocks Montreal Canadiens' Jesperi Kotkaniemi (15), of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, March 24, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Gerry Broome

MONTREAL - The Montreal Canadiens assigned 2018 first-round draft pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi to the American Hockey League's Laval Rocket on Saturday.

Kotkaniemi has six goals and two assists through 36 games this season for Montreal. He has 17 goals and 42 points in 115 career NHL games.

The 19-year-old centre from Finland was the Canadiens' third overall selection two years ago.

"Right now it's about a kid who's had a couple of injuries, hasn't quite found his game, is probably losing confidence too," said Canadiens coach Claude Julien. "So we want him to gain some confidence, we want him to find his game. So there's nothing negative about that. I think it's more positive and that's what we need to see."

Kotkaniemi has gone six games without reaching the scoresheet. His last goal came on Jan. 9 in a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.

He missed eight games in December with a concussion.

"He's got great potential and that hasn't changed from Day 1," Julien added. "I think he's had a rough start ... and I think as a young player you don't want him losing his confidence, you want him to get his game back and I think the best way to do that is to go down there, play a lot and regain your confidence."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version mislabelled Kotkaniemi as a rookie.

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