Caps To Sign Lepistö?

He may not be Brian Rafalski. Hell, he might not be Brian Pothier. But the intertubes are buzzing (it's more of a faint hum, really) with news of the Caps extending a contract offer to Finnish blueliner Sami Lepistö. Here's the original source - don't ask me why it references the Habs, but do note a couple of other familiar names in the article (h/t to Hckyplyr12 for the pointer).

We'll await confirmation from the team, of course, but here's a little bit on Sami, in case you're unfamiliar with him:
  • He was the first pick of the third round (66th overall) of the 2004 draft (a draft that has already been pretty good to the Caps). He'll be 23 years old on October 17.
  • "Lepisto's main strengths lie in his offensive game. He has good overall puck skills, including an excellent left-handed onetimer. He also has a good vision of the ice. Perhaps his greatest asset is - however - his confidence with the puck, which is rarely seen from a player as young as he is. He is mentally very strong and doesn't seem to mind playing under extreme pressure. While his confidence is mainly an asset, he also has a habit of being over-confident, which sometimes leads to turnovers. His physical development isn't quite on par with his skills, and he needs to further develop his skating and defensive game." - Hockey's Future
  • "[D]iminutive Sami Lepisto could be a power play quarterback for the Capitals when he comes to North America to begin his pro career." - Sporting News [note: he's 5'11" or 6'0" and between 175 and 180 pounds, depending on who you believe.]
  • "There is a lot to like about Sami Lepisto -­ if you can get past the fact he is small and won't get bigger.

    "The Finnish blueliner is a late bloomer and it has only been the last couple of years that he has made a name for himself in Finland.

    "'He has loads of talent and had a great World Junior Championship,' said a European scout. 'He had a great effort in the bronze medal game against the Czechs and had an outstanding tournament. The Finns were not supposed to win a medal but he played a big part.'

    "Lepisto's critics note he had a so-so year numbers-wise in Finland's top league.

    "'He played, but he didn't do much offensively,' said another European scout. But the fact Lepisto played a regular shift should count for something when his name comes around on the draft floor.

    "'He won't be a No. 1, 2, or 3 defenseman, but he could be a steal as a No. 4,' said one scout. 'If he got a little bigger and stronger he could be one of the top defenseman in the draft. I like the way Finns play and he is tough.'" - Hockey News (from the 2004 draft)
  • "Lepisto is a late bloomer who played his best hockey of the season in helping Finland win a bronze medal at the 2004 World Junior championship. His has loads of skill, but size is an issue." - NHL.com (from the 2004 draft)
  • Profiles from: HockeyDB (full Finnish stats), Hockey's Future, EuroHockey.net.
We'll no doubt be hearing more about Lepisto in the days ahead, but I wanted to get this primer out there for you so you can sound smart when you hear the official announcement - "Oh yeah, Lepisto - nice skills, but it would be nice if he was just a little bigger."

No, he's not "the answer," so don't start in with the "if this is all they do..." drivel. But he's a kid with upside, so it's good to get him over to this side of the pond so he can start to learn the North American game. And while we're on the topic of signing Finnish defensemen...

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