It’s the most wonderful time of the year for prospect fans because the World Juniors and the World Junior A Challenge occur this month! The Hurricanes have at least five prospects participating in World Juniors camps: Anttoni Honka, Lenni Killinen, Dominik Bokk, Jack Drury, and possibly Patrik Puistola. We’ll get to why that’s a “possibly” in a minute. Massimo Rizzo is representing Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge, and while it may not be as competitive of a tournament, it’s still valuable experience and shows that Rizzo is one of the best players in Junior A right now. Now seems like as good of a time as any to answer some of your questions, so let’s get started!
If you haven’t heard, Patrik Puistola was taken off of the ice in a stretcher during his game against Ilves on December 3. Puistola’s head was down, however the Ilves forward comes into contact with Puistola’s head in the process of delivering his hit. Puistola hits his head on the ice and has to get carried off in a stretcher. The only update that I can give is that Puistola is doing “relatively well considering the situation” after being transferred to the hospital. I seriously doubt that Puistola will be ready by the time Finland’s world Juniors camp rolls around next week, and it would be for the best to have him fully recover from his injury before returning to the ice. He’s iffy for the World Juniors as well. Now, we don’t know how serious his injury is, or even what the injury is, but I’m guessing it’s a concussion. Jukurit can’t let him play until he’s fully healed otherwise problems will continue popping up and he’ll never be the same player. As much as it would stink not seeing Puistola at the World Juniors, it’s best for his long-term health if he misses the tournament.
Janne Kuokkanen has been incredibly streaky this season and doesn’t always look like the player he was last season. Part of it has to do with the fact that he missed close to half of Charlotte’s season due to an injury and a subsequent surgery around the AHL All Star Game. I’m not entirely sure if he’s adjusting to Warsofsky’s system well, but none of the Checkers aside from Steven Lorentz seem to be doing well at the present moment. Kuokkanen seems like the type of player where if he gets one point, then the dam will burst and he’ll go on a tear. Charlotte desperately needs that to happen, because they’re scoring about as many goals as the 2014-2015 Hurricanes. And after I type this up, Julien scores two goals in 83 seconds for the Checkers. Janne Kuokkanen gets an assist!
Update number two: Janne Kuokkanen finished the game with a power play goal and an assist. So it looks like we un-jinxed him and now we need to talk about another Charlotte player so that they can have a multi-point game.
It’s no secret that the Hurricanes draft from Finland often, and when they do, it’s more than likely a good prospect. “Best” prospects can be a little relative here, especially since our picks from the 2014 draft, minus Foegele, just finished their entry-level deals. We all know how good Sebastian Aho has been, but what we don’t know is that the last Finnish player that the Carolina Hurricanes selected was Rasmus Rissanen, who was selected 178th overall in 2009. The Hurricanes have had some success with Finnish-born players since then, but we won’t know how good a lot of these players are until a few years from now. Eetu Luostarinen and Janne Kuokkanen are the only two Finns aside from Aho that have signed an ELC with the Hurricanes just yet. They have some great pieces in Honka, Killinen, Puistola, Tieksola, and Makiniemi (please forgive me if I’ve forgotten one), but they’re all a year or two away from the NHL.
It’s also interesting because the Hurricanes tend to draft well from a variety of leagues. From the OHL: Nedeljkovic and Svechnikov. Rees, Suzuki, and Murray all have potential, although it’s too early to tell. From the QMJHL: Gauthier, Smallman, Booth, Henman. The WHL: Mattheos, Geekie, Bean. So they’ve drafted fairly well in Canada, although the Hurricanes don’t draft many QMJHL players before the fourth round.
So what about the USA? Noah Hanifin, David Cotton, Matt Filipe, Luke Martin, and Jack Drury all seem to be progressing well, while guys like Webber and Fensore seem to have NHL potential as well. The Hurricanes have seen some success from the United States in the past as well, drafting guys like Faulk, Pesce, and Slavin. So I’d say that the Canes tend to have some success at drafting in the United States.
As for miscellaneous Canadian leagues such as the BCHL and otherwise, it’s always so hard to tell. Warren Foegele was committed to an NCAA program but played hockey in Canada when he was drafted. He’s been a good pick, I’d argue, but the Hurricanes rarely draft from smaller leagues. Kevin Wall and Massimo Rizzo both come from the BCHL, and once again, it’s tough to determine their potential considering how much longer they’ll be playing in college.
The Hurricanes rarely draft Swedes, but when they do, they’ve had some massive successes. Elias Lindholm, Jesper Sellgren, Lucas Wallmark, and even Victor Rask thanks to that lovely trade with the Wild. We even got the Erik Karlsson! Wait a moment… My editors are telling me that this is not the same Erik Karlsson. Regardless, the Canes have drafted Swedes few and far between, but they’ve been successful picks when it has happened.
There really aren’t any patterns in how the Hurricanes draft. Over the past few years, the Hurricanes have made it their objective to draft at least one Finnish-born player, so that’s one pattern. The Hurricanes also try to draft one or two college-bound players so that they can prepare the pipeline for a few years down the road as opposed to one or two years.
If there’s an area that I want the Hurricanes to scout more often, it’s Russia. Pyotr Kochetkov was the first player from a Russian league to be drafted by the Hurricanes since Igor Knyazev in 2001. Andrei Svechnikov was the first Russian-born player, but Kochetkov was playing in Russia at the time he was drafted while Svechnikov was dunking on the OHL. The Canes also took Kirill Slepets, who seems to be a fun prospect to keep track of as well. The Hurricanes already added a Russian scout in the offseason, which is excellent because they can finally direct more attention to a country that consistently puts forth quality players. You can almost always find value in the later rounds with Russian players, and so I believe that the Hurricanes could be better if they scouted Russia more. Honorable mention to the WHL. The Canes always seem to do well when they look to the WHL for talent, but they haven’t picked a player from the WHL since 2017.
Because the Hurricanes have let their defensemen develop as opposed to throwing them to the wolves right away. Sure, Ryan Murphy and Noah Hanifin were undoubtedly rushed to the NHL and could have used more AHL time at the start of their careers. And as was typical of a certain owner, he’d rather spend less money and rush players to the NHL. The same thing happened with Lindholm, Rask, and a handful of other forwards in the past.
Another part of it has to do with the players themselves. Pesce and Slavin took a handful of years before they made their way to the NHL, and they even saw some time in the AHL before becoming full-time NHL players. Sometimes these players just fit in a little better than some forwards can. You could also argue that the Hurricanes were simply better at evaluating defensemen than they were at evaluating forwards, which is entirely possible. After all, this is the team that drafted Gregory Hofmann one pick before Johnny Gaudreau was selected. Ah, what could have been.
Let’s go back to the 2014 draft and work our way forward. In 2014, the Hurricanes selected three forwards: Clark Bishop, Warren Foegele, and Lucas Wallmark. Bishop has seen sporadic NHL time, while Foegele and Wallmark are both full-time NHL players. So that draft was a success, although those guys aren’t ever going to be stars.
We’re still waiting on a lot of the forwards from the 2015 draft class, although Sebastian Aho is definitely a star. David Cotton and Steven Lorentz have pro potential, although it’s not clear if/when we’ll see the two on the Hurricanes’ roster full time. Nicolas Roy was also traded for Erik Haula before he could make it to the NHL. So it’s up in the air for the 2015 draft class, although we developed a star forward and a defenseman that played in over 200 games for the Hurricanes and was traded for Dougie Hamilton. Good stuff!
2016 was the first draft in the Ron Francis era where we took a forward in the first round, and he had to take a defenseman first anyways just to be safe. Bean and Gauthier are both progressing nicely and getting the AHL time that they need to be successful, which is excellent for the Hurricanes’ future. Every other draft afterwards is one that we’re still waiting on to see which players have what it takes to be NHL forwards.
So in short, the Hurricanes have drafted plenty of high end defensemen in Fleury, Hanifin, and Bean, which is obviously going to help. They’ve also allowed for players like Pesce and Slavin to develop, which prepares them for the NHL. Recently, the Hurricanes have stopped rushing forwards and letting them develop, which helps ensure that you get the most out of each player that you draft. There are always going to be misses in the draft, but it does seem like the Hurricanes are developing forwards as well as they’re developing defensemen nowadays.
It’s McKeown, and not just because I’m dying to make the Prince Pretty bit a full-time thing. McKeown’s two way play fits Rod Brind’Amour’s system perfectly, and he’s starting to come into his own as an offensive player as well, which bodes well for the Hurricanes. He’s becoming less of a dull player and more of a fun presence, which is mostly due to his increased role with the Checkers this season. Bean is also close, but the Hurricanes have Slavin, Edmundson, Fleury, and Gardiner on the left side, which is going to make it harder for him to crack the roster. TVR might not be a Hurricane next season, and McKeown could swoop in and take that third pairing spot for himself.
It’s hard to assume which prospect will be traded and which will make the lineup because it seems like every Canes defensive prospect has been the flavor of the week for trade rumors at some point. So for now, let’s rank the prospects in terms of upside and NHL readiness.
- Jake Bean
- Chase Priskie
- Roland McKeown
- Jesper Sellgren
- Anttoni Honka
- Domenick Fensore
- Cade Webber
- Luke Martin
- Ville Rasanen
Now if we’re talking about upside alone, I’d rank them like this:
Honka has high end potential but also a serious chance of being a bust, although I think that he’s improved significantly this season. Sellgren has the potential to possibly be a second pairing guy at some point, and same with Fensore. Fensore is just further away than Sellgren. McKeown and Webber could be ideal third pairing players, as could be Luke Martin. Rasanen doesn’t have pro potential in my opinion, but I’ve been wrong before. NHL readiness plays a huge part in the rankings, because McKeown and Bean are obviously going to be closer to NHL ready than someone like Sellgren and Fensore since they’ve already played in at least one AHL season.
Only doing three since we’ll be here all day since we have over 40 prospects.
Jamieson Rees – Rocky road. There’s a lot to like about Rees and it’s always an enjoyable experience when he plays. Much like rocky road ice cream, and if you disagree, it’s okay to be wrong.
Roland McKeown – Mint chocolate chip. Not sure why, I just think that McKeown seems like a mint chocolate chip kind of guy.
Caens ombsudsmna – Phish food
Thank you to everyone who submitted questions! I hope to do this more often as the season goes on. As always, if I didn’t get to your question or if you just missed the article, feel free to mention me on twitter or send me a DM! I’m always willing to answer questions and talk with Canes fans about prospects!