It’s now time for the third and final installation in this series! We’ll be taking a look at the Canes prospects that are currently playing overseas! The prospects playing in Europe are: Eetu Makiniemi, Ville Rasanen, Martin Necas, and Eetu Luostarinen. Makiniemi, Necas, and Luostarinen all have NHL potential, while Rasanen is a bit of a wild card. Many of these players are going to spend another year or two in Europe at the least, except for Necas. Without further ado, let’s move on to our first prospect!
Man, Rasanen has been on some tough teams this season. I can’t blame him for doing too poorly on a U20 team whose Liiga team was one of the worst in the league. The U20 team struggled as well, and Rasanen only had six assists in 28 games. During that stretch, Rasanen was a -21. Now since U20 leagues don’t televise their games, it’s hard to tell if Rasanen was bad, or if it was a team effort. One good thing about Rasanen’s game is his lack of penalties. In 28 games, he only took 7 penalties which is pretty impressive for a young player. Rasanen was drafted as a “sleeper pick,” someone who could take a little longer to develop, but would be good down the road. Now it’s obviously too early to tell if he’s going to be good or bad. He was loaned to RoKi in Mestis, the Finnish B league, last week. On the surface, it looks bad. Getting sent down is never great, but I think that it will benefit Rasanen right now. Since he’s getting loaned to a team towards the bottom of the league, he’ll be able to get more minutes. He’s going to use his experience in U20 to improve in Mestis, and he could really benefit RoKi. The Hurricanes made positive comments about his hockey sense, which is a common theme with Ron Francis draft picks. One thing that I have to say about Rasanen is there’s something weird about how he skates. His stride is very weird, but he still manages to be a pretty fast skater. Every other aspect of his game was average, aside from passing. He seemed to be a really good outlet passer, and his teammates could exit the zone easier due to that. There is so much uncertainty surrounding Rasanen, and we really won’t get a good read on him until the Canes hold their prospects camp this summer. Rasanen’s contract is up at the end of this season, but Elite Prospects has a +1 next to that on their website. I’m assuming that this means that he has one more year on his contract, but I can’t confirm. Rasanen will need more time than just this season to develop, so I wouldn’t put too much thought into it.
NOTE: Rasanen has a goal and an assist in three games with RoKi. He’s a +1. Good signs from him, and it looks like he’s using his U20 experience to his advantage.
Makiniemi had a solid camp, and he’s followed it up with a really good season for Jokerit’s U20 team. In 35 games, he’s posted a save percentage of .916. In a U20 league, that’s really impressive. Although Jokerit is in the KHL, Makiniemi plays against U20 teams with Liiga affiliates. He looks more than capable of taking on a role in the KHL, so why hasn’t he? Jokerit has been great this season, and a lot of it has to do with Ryan Zapolski, their starter, doing so well. (Aside: Zapolski actually played in one playoff game with the Everblades. They got crushed.) Makiniemi could earn a shot with the big club soon, with Zapolski going to the Olympics to play for the United States. Until then, he’ll continue to carry the majority of the workload for Jokerit U20. Makiniemi was fun to watch in prospects camp. He was calm in the crease, making very few mistakes. He moved from post to post well, and it was due to an explosive push from whichever post he was currently on. Since he’s 6’3, he doesn’t have to worry about not covering enough of the net. He doesn’t have much of an issue covering up the lower half of the net, which is something that bigger goalies can struggle with at his age. Makiniemi’s reflexes are quick, he just has to fine tune them. I noticed that he’d misjudge the location of the shot, creating a rebound. It’s not uncommon for a goalie of his age, and I’m sure that the coaching staff showed him new ways to work on that. My last note about his game was that he needed to work on one on one a little bit. It’s never easy, but he’d either make a phenomenal save due to his quickness, or he’d get undressed. Regardless, I really like Makiniemi. He’s got NHL potential for sure, but I’m not sure how long it’ll take for him to get there. His contract with Jokerit is up at the end of next season, so that’s likely when we’ll see him make the jump to North America.
Are you all ready to learn why Luostarinen deserves your love? Good! I was able to watch a lot of his games from October to December, and I’ve seen a whole lot of improvement. He’s gone from being KalPa’s third line center to being their first line center getting 17 minutes a game, which is huge. Luostarinen wasn’t a flashy player when we drafted him, and he still isn’t. He’s your typical Ron Francis “high hockey IQ” pick, with a lot of talent in every category. He’s solid defensively, quick, a good shooter, and an above average puck handler. When we say “not flashy,” we don’t mean that he’s Victor Rask levels of boring. Luostarinen doesn’t carry the puck in and let loose a weak wrister at the goalie’s pad from the outside of the circles. Instead, he’ll carry the puck in, and then immediately assess all of his options. He’s a really gifted passer, and has been given more time on the power play as of late. His passing abilities have been shown off as of late, since he has three secondary assists on the power play in his past five or six games. Luostarinen’s point totals aren’t great, but according to Canes and Coffee’s midterm article, KalPa is one of the worst teams in the league in terms of goals scored. He’s creeping up on the scoring lead for his team, which is huge for a 19 year old. About three or four weeks ago, Luostarinen made Liiga history. He had one of the fastest hat tricks in Liiga history, and managed to get a primary assist in the process for a four point game.
Let’s break down each of his points in this video. The first goal was thanks to good puck movement from his teammates, and a bad rebound by the goalie. Luostarinen was left all alone at the right circle, but kept moving around a little bit to try and find an open passing lane. Little things like that go a long way for a coach, and he was rewarded with a goal. He has his head up, allowing for him to locate the puck and fire a shot past the goalie before any of the defenders can react. Not a great look from the defense, but it was a nice showcase of how smart he is. His second point is a beautiful jaw-dropping assist. Luostarinen has the puck on a 2 on 1, and he’s able to cut to the middle of the ice. You rarely see players switch positions on a 2 on 1 in the NHL, but this was executed perfectly. Luostarinen cuts in with speed, allowing his teammate to go behind him unnoticed. Eetu then passes through his legs behind him, completely fooling the defenseman. While the defender is occupied, Eetu’s teammate is able to score on a nice shot. It was the nicest play that I had seen from Luostarinen all season, so I’m excited to see what he can do in the future. The second goal was really weird. Luostarinen collects a rebound, carries it behind the net, and beats the goalie on a wraparound. It’s nothing special, but the defense totally forgot to cover him. Still, his puck carrying was good, and his skating looked really fluid. Luostarinen is a good skater, and he makes it look effortless. He still needs to work on his acceleration, because he’s still not great at getting to his top speed quickly. He’s improved on it a lot this season, but he still has a ways to go. The third goal was another really smart play from Eetu. He is manning the point on this play as his teammate is taking the puck behind the net. The defense spreads out, and Eetu immediately notices a gap in their coverage. He attacks from the point, creeping in between the faceoff circles unnoticed. His teammate finds him in the slot, and Eetu makes no mistake burying his third goal of the game. Not a lot of young forwards can notice a defensive breakdown that quickly and manage to score, but Eetu did it in a men’s league against one of the hottest teams in the league at the time. He’s improved a whole lot this season, and it’ll be exciting to see what he can do in the future. His contract with KalPa ends in 2020, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he came to North America sooner than that. He’s almost ready to turn pro. Another thing to note about Eetu in the Canes and Coffee article is that it says he’s listed at 190 pounds now. Elite prospects has him at 179, while the Canes prospects camp roster lists him at 178. An eleven to twelve pound increase is huge for a young forward, and adding that much muscle has really helped him out. He’s winning puck battles due to increased strength, and he’s a lot harder to knock off the puck now.
Necas surprised all of us when he made the team out of camp, but he only got one NHL game before being sent down. Since then, he’s improved tremendously. He was ready for the NHL in terms of offensive skill, but needed to work on his strength and play in the defensive zone before he could contend for a spot on the Canes. After seeing him at the World Juniors, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Necas has improved both of those things. He’s become a lot stronger in the corners, and is more confident in the defensive end. There’s not a whole lot to say about Necas that most Canes fans don’t already know. We all know that Necas can terrify opponents thanks to his elite skating, passing, and shooting combo. He’s such a dangerous player in the offensive zone, and he’s incredibly intelligent. Necas knows exactly where to look to find his teammates, and he can make a scoring chance happen out of nowhere. Necas really does have a knack for turning a zone entry with little threat into a legitimate scoring chance. It’s unreal seeing how he’s progressed in such a short period of time, and you’d have to think that the extra time that he spent with the Canes has something to do with it. At the World Juniors, Necas showcased all of his offensive tools, and was a threat to every team he faced. He scored the first goal of the tournament after being left alone in the slot. Necas made no mistake, firing a shot into the net for his first of three goals. One thing that I’ve noticed about Necas is that his shot has improved. His velocity and release time have improved, making him even more dangerous in the offensive zone. He’s still a pass first player, but won’t shy away from taking a shot. He always finds the open man, and his feet are constantly moving. He’s constantly changing his angle, moving around the ice, and scanning for opportunities. He thinks the game really well, and will find a teammate almost immediately. His second assist of the tournament was something else. He faked the pass, which gave him some space between himself and the defender. He moved just a little bit to give himself a better angle, and Filip Zadina made no mistake when he received the pass. It wasn’t a big move, but it was enough to allow for a better opportunity. Necas is going to be a very special player, and he’ll be ready for a full-time NHL job as early as next season. If his season with Kometa Brno ends early, he might get some AHL time with the Checkers to help him get ready for the pros. Inserting Necas into the lineup will really change the offensive dynamic of this team for the better, and I’m really excited to see what he can do for this team.