Prospect News Roundup: May

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It’s been a weird couple of months, and even though the hockey world is at a standstill most of the time, there are still a few pieces of Hurricanes news that you may have missed. If you still check twitter, you’re probably tired of hearing about the talks about the NHL season and draft. I know I’m getting sick of it. This article will just talk about Hurricanes and Canes prospects news, so we won’t have to talk about anything else.

First, if you missed it in March, the Hurricanes signed 2015 sixth round pick David Cotton to a two year entry-level contract. The Hurricanes also signed Jason Cotton, the older brother of David, to a one year contract. I wrote more about the signings here. In short, it’s great that the Hurricanes added an AHL scorer in Jason Cotton, who can provide some leadership and grit as well. Jason was also named a second team All-American for his performance this past season. David Cotton brings a lot to the table and could contend for a roster spot next season. He was named co-MVP of Boston College’s men’s hockey team along with Spencer Knight, and was Boston College’s “Eagle of the Year.” That’s a high honor from the university’s athletic program and shows how excellent he was this past season.

Around this time, it was announced that Patrik Puistola would be signing with JYP in Finland, leaving Tappara to play with fellow Canes prospect Anttoni Honka. Puistola wasn’t seeing enough ice time with Tappara, seeing mostly fourth line minutes despite having enough talent to play up in the lineup. JYP is a young team with some top six spots open, which gives Puistola an excellent opportunity to develop. It’s a two year contract, but the current transfer agreement between the Liiga and the NHL allows for players to leave for the NHL early, as long as there is a European Assignment Clause in their pro contract. If Puistola shows enough growth, I could see him coming to North America next season.

Speaking of Finnish prospects, Tuukka Tieksola was named to the U20 league’s All-Star team and was the league’s best forward. These are fantastic honors for Tieksola, but I still wish that he could have played in the men’s league. There were plenty of times where he dominated the U20 league and made it look easy, and I don’t think he developed as much as he could have with Karpat’s men’s team.

It took over two weeks for the next piece of news, but it was a fairly large piece of news. Andy Strickland, a rinkside reporter for the St. Louis Blues’ Fox Sports crew, reported that the Hurricanes will not be signing their 2017 second round pick, Luke Martin. Martin finished up his senior season at the University of Michigan and, despite being a 52nd overall pick, never amounted to much in college. His defensive play was sound but Martin was never a threat in the offensive zone, limiting how effective he could be. The Hurricanes have a deep pipeline on defense and the fact that the Hurricanes aren’t signing Martin doesn’t change that. This also means that both of our 2017 second round picks will no longer be with the Hurricanes after August 15. Luostarinen was traded at the deadline for Vincent Trocheck.

The biggest news happens to be regarding the Hurricanes’ affiliation with the Charlotte Checkers. The affiliation agreement ends this season and as of right now, the teams have not renewed their agreement. The Hurricanes have been connected to the Chicago Wolves, who have been in need of an affiliate since Vegas moved theirs to Henderson, but it doesn’t seem like that’s a done deal. The Checkers have released statements expressing disapproval of the Hurricanes’ decision, but as of right now, no official decision has been made. The Hurricanes would be paid a higher affiliate fee from Chicago, which would earn the Canes more money and likely cover travel costs and more. Chicago has been known to be willing to spend more money on AHL free agents in the past, which would also save the Hurricanes money and lessen the need for an AHL veteran signed to an NHL contract. It’s a tough situation because Checkers fans are as dedicated of a group of fans as you’ll ever see, and it feels like they’re losing their team. And in some ways, they are. Even if the rumor that Florida will take Charlotte as their affiliate is true, the team will be entirely different and unfamiliar for the most part. It’s not a great look for the Hurricanes and local hockey either, so my hope is that the Hurricanes stay affiliated with Charlotte. For now, we’ll have to wait and see.

Kirill Slepets was traded back to Lokomotiv in the KHL at the start of the KHL’s free agency period after spending much of last season with Dinamo Riga. Slepets was a part of Lokomotiv’s VHL affiliate before moving to Riga last season and performed well on one of the KHL’s worst teams. It’s not clear whether or not Slepets will see tons of ice time with Lokomotiv, but he’ll have a better team to help him develop next season.

Jack Drury earned a few awards from Harvard for his play this season, including a “devotion to the game” award and the team’s MVP award. Drury had an excellent season with Harvard, with 39 points in 28 games in a shortened season. If the season hadn’t been cancelled, it’s very likely that we could have seen Harvard make an NCAA tournament run and Drury signing a pro contract afterwards. Now, it’s likely that he’ll return to school next season to accomplish what he couldn’t last season.

I had speculated on this in early March when another goalie transferred to Providence, but it became official on May 18. Jake Kucharski has transferred from Providence to American International College. Sure, it’s a downgrade in terms of quality of competition, but Kucharski hadn’t seen a start with Providence in the year and a half that he spent in the program. It wasn’t looking likely that his situation would change next season either, so this is 100% the right call. Kucharski will get a chance to either start for AIC or be the backup and see a handful of starts during his next season. Given the circumstances, it’s the right move for his development as a player.

Finally, Monday gave us a little bit of AHL news! Joey Keane, one of the newest Canes prospects, was named to the AHL’s All-Rookie team for the past season. Most of his production was with Hartford, but it’s still amazing that the Hurricanes were able to add one of the AHL’s best rookie blueliners this season. Jake Bean, who was on last year’s All-Rookie team, was a first team AHL All-Star and led all league defensemen in scoring. The Hurricanes’ blue line is already fantastic so having two more prospects ready to go is a wonderful thing to have. There is one rumor to announce that shouldn’t be all too surprising, and it’s about Brian Gibbons. The rumor is that he will be leaving the organization when his contract expires and will sign with Lausanne in the NLA. Gibbons was a good AHL veteran, but that’s exactly what he was: an AHL veteran. It’s possible for the Hurricanes to find another player like him elsewhere, and if they do switch affiliates to Chicago, they may not have to.

Well, that’s all of the news that you’ve missed since quarantine began! There’s still a lot of uncertainty regarding next season, but we know for a fact that the AHL’s season is over. Once anything comes up, I’ll be sure to let you all know as soon as I find out! For now, I hope that everyone stays safe!

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