Welcome back to 11 thoughts, a weekly prospects series that focuses on Canes prospects news, highlights, and observations from the past week. This week, we’ll focus on Patrik Puistola, the Checkers, some World Juniors notes, and more.
- Someone DMed me this weekend asking about Puistola’s future. Will he sign his ELC and turn pro at the end of this season? My answer is no. Puistola hasn’t shown that he can be a dominant player in the Liiga yet, although this is more of a usage thing as opposed to a lack of talent. Puistola is in the final year of his contract with Tappara, which couldn’t be happening at a better time. He’s on loan to Jukurit, a not so great Liiga team, after averaging just a tad over eight minutes in fifteen games with Tappara. His four points in four Mestis games showed people that he was more than capable of playing against men and just needed an opportunity to shine. So what happens after this season? I still don’t believe that Puistola will turn pro. He still has a ways to go in order to transition from the Liiga to the AHL, so I don’t see that as an option. I could see Puistola signing in the Liiga with a different team that’s more willing to give him an opportunity.
- Puistola has looked great through two games with Jukurit. He’s still a little unsure of himself, but he’s starting to shine a bit. There are plenty of teams that could use his goal scoring talent and decent two way play. A team like Ilves comes to mind. They have a young roster but struggle defensively. Matias Maccelli will likely turn pro next season since he’s doing so well with Ilves right now, and so Ilves will need another top six winger. Puistola would be a great fit.
- I’m looking at Finland at the World Juniors and their roster seems set aside from a few last minute additions. Lenni Killinen could very well be the odd man out this year due to some injuries and lackluster play. Killinen started the season in Assat’s middle six and has since been demoted to the fourth line after an awful start. We saw last season that Killinen didn’t start well but finished the season on a hot streak, but that type of streaky play isn’t going to cut it. Killinen has just three assists in thirteen games this season.
- It’s no secret that Luke Henman plays on a weaker team in the QMJHL. Despite that, Henman has five points in his last four games, including three goals. Henman is on pace for another career year despite playing for a team that can’t score to save its life, which is a good sign for the Hurricanes prospect. I’ve said it before, but I believe that Henman will be traded at the QMJHL trade deadline and see a boost in production with a better team.
- With Haula being out for an indefinite amount of time, I could see Eetu Luostarinen getting a chance to shine. He looked solid in his three games up with the Hurricanes a week or so ago and will get another chance to impress this week against Chicago and possibly Philadelphia. Luostarinen has been one of the only Checkers that has consistently produced all season long and looked great this weekend against Hershey. I don’t see Luostarinen getting any special teams time until he adjusts to the pace of the NHL a little more, but he’ll find ways to contribute.
- Other players I could see earning call-ups if Haula is out long-term: Geekie, Lorentz, Gibbons. At 31, we pretty much know what Gibbons is. He’s a replacement level forward that can play on your fourth line if there’s an injury. Geekie and Lorentz have more upside so I could see that happening if the Canes are looking to see what their prospects are capable of. What likely happens is that they go with the known commodities in Gibbons and Luostarinen for the immediate future.
- Kirill Slepets averaging 13:50 of ice time with Dinamo is a good thing for the Canes’ fifth round pick in 2019. Slepets is seeing third line minutes against better competition in the KHL. He hasn’t made too much of an impact so far, but the fact that he’s playing in the KHL is encouraging to say the least. Keep an eye on Slepets as the season progresses. He has legitimate offensive upside.
- Chase Priskie has been held pointless in seven straight games. He hasn’t been as confident offensively as of late, mostly because he’s been stuck on a shutdown pairing in a role that he doesn’t really fit. I believe he’s still on the power play for the Checkers, which has looked good as of late, so it’s possible that he’ll rebound soon. I’m confident that he’ll turn a corner soon.
- Will we see Jamieson Rees at the World Juniors? That’s been a question that has been floating around in my head as of late. Rees was a late addition to Canada’s summer showcase roster and also represented the OHL for one game in the Canada-Russia series. He’s played in a fourth line role in each tournament so far, and so he has a big hill to climb as far as the World Juniors are considered. With how well he’s played this season, it’s entirely possible that we see Rees playing at the World Juniors this year. I don’t think we see him in more than a fourth line role, however.
- Blake Murray had a three point afternoon on Sunday in an 11-10 overtime loss against Hamilton. This was a disappointing game for goalies and defensemen but great for everyone else involved. Murray has looked great this season and has 28 points in 23 games. He’s four assists away from tying last season’s totals of 20 and just eight away from setting a new career high. His offensive production hasn’t slipped since being taken off of Quinton Byfield’s line, which shows me that Murray can carry the play on his own.
- Janne Kuokkanen is having a bit of a slow start to the year. He’s recovering from a really tough injury, so it’s possible that he just needs some time to adjust. I’m not pushing the panic button yet, but I’d like to see Kuokkanen contribute more. Charlotte is struggling to score right now and needs one of their best offensive forwards to produce.
What I’m Watching This Week
Ilves vs. JYP, Wednesday @11:30 AM
Flint vs. Sarnia, Wednesday @ 7PM
Charlotte vs. Lehigh Valley, Friday @7PM
Rimouski vs. Blainville-Boisbriand, Saturday @4PM
Sudbury vs. Oshawa, Sunday @2PM
That’s all for this week! It’s another big week for Hurricanes prospects and one of the last weeks before the Christmas break that takes place for NCAA and CHL teams. Be sure to follow Canes Prospects on Twitter for more updates!