Today the Carolina Hurricanes announced that Nicolas Roy and Janne Kuokkanen were released from the NHL training camp and returned to their junior hockey clubs. Janne Kuokkanen will join the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League, and Nicolas Roy will rejoin the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The moves drop the Hurricanes training camp roster to 51 players.
Part of the process more than negative statements on Nicolas Roy and Janne Kuokkanen
The moves fit within the expected schedule for the Hurricanes roster cuts that I outlined earlier this week. I would not consider either cut a real demotion. At his age and early stage of development, I think the basic idea with Janne Kuokkanen was to give him a taste of training camp and then NHL action in preseason before getting him quickly started on his first season in North America playing in the OHL. Some had Nicolas Roy as a dark horse/player to watch. I never really did. He is a good hockey player who still projects well and offers great upside for being only a fourth round pick, but he just is not there mobility-wise yet. I think that is a general theme for any and all mid-tier prospects trying to make today’s NHL. The league is ‘skating above all else’, so for players who are average or below average in terms of skating ability and speed, the deck is stacked against them unless they are utterly phenomenal in other aspects of the game.
Quick assessments of Roy and Kuokkanen
Prior to the 2014-15 season, Roy was a consensus projection to be a first-round selection at the 2015 NHL draft. He had a rough 2014-15 season, plummeted in the rankings and was a great value selection all the way down in the fourth round. After only 50 points in 68 games in his difficult 2014-15 campaign, Roy vaulted upward in 2015-16 with 90 points in 63 games. He exited the 2015-16 season worth significantly more than the fourth round selection spent by the Hurricanes to attain him. He is still on a great trajectory, but critical will be continued work and improvement on his speed and basic mobility.
Kuokkanen had a very good first summer in North America and made it clear why Ron Francis and his scouting staff were willing to invest an early second round draft pick to get him. He is early in the development, but the selection harkens back to the brilliant Sebastian Aho selection near the top of the second round one year earlier. Part of it is the fact that they are both Finnish skill players, but another part is how good Kuokkanen looked at times. His scoring totals were surprisingly modest, but he was easily among the Hurricanes better players who helped win the tourney. I wrote in some detail about Kuokkanen in my recap from the Red/White scrimmage. Most impressive to me is his comfort level playing where it is crowded and his ability to push pace through the middle of the rink even without a ton of open ice to do so.
What does it mean?
In terms of winners, I think the biggest one might be Warren Foegele. By virtue of his solid game on Tuesday, he is still in Raleigh. He outlasted 8 Hurricanes prospects who are already back in juniors and is in elite company with only first-rounders Jake Bean and Julien Gauthier still remaining. Foegele would be an absolute shocker to make the NHL squad for 2016-17, but I think the fact that he is still with the big club is a significant statement about what management thinks about him.
In terms of the path forward, I suggest looking at the article noted above. We could see a few more cuts coming out of Friday’s game with the biggest round of cuts coming over the weekend to load up a bus of players for AHL Charlotte’s training camp which starts on Monday.