Canes and Coffee’s ‘Midterms’ series featuring ‘from the rink’ updates on Hurricanes’ prospects playing below the AHL level has meandered its way through half of the team’s 17 prospects at those levels.
The articles include the formal responses from scouts and analysts often local to where the players play or at least scouting/tracking in the same league. But in addition to the formal interview responses, the process of collecting these articles is great for building more context on the players. For some players it takes a few contacts before I can find someone with the time and/or generosity to help out. In some cases, I ask for a team contact to recommend a contact or 2. And in the process of going through a few iterations trying to find interviewees, I get the chance to collect small nuggets here and there.
Over the course of a few weeks, I get to ask a few open-ended questions per day pointed at scouts and analysts along the lines of:
“What do you think about ___?”
“Are there any other Hurricanes players you have seen play recently?”
“Do you think ___ gets a contract?”
” Have you seen or heard of any red flags with ___’s development?”
The end result is a bunch of extra context, snippets and things to consider for each of these players, not all of which is captured in the formal interviews.
To be clear, I do NOT see much game action from the prospects below the AHL other than occasional highlights on Twitter, Youtube or the world juniors. And unlike the formal interviews which are direct quotes from the scouts, these snippets are my interpretation and impressions from assessing a number of bits and pieces of information. But I think they provide additional context and are interesting.
He impresses me as the kind of player who is just great at hockey. He does not test out incredibly well physically in terms of size, strength, NHL build or any of that, but pretty much unanimously anyone who comments on his play raves. Most telling might be a comment that said that the Hitmen looked like a completely different team offensively with and without him in the lineup.
As far as long shots go as seventh round draft picks, I like his chance of earning an NHL contract. He is a decent hockey player having a pretty good 2016-17 season, but what jumps out about him is how everyone who talks about him immediately starts talking about intangibles like maturity, work ethic, coachability, etc. The commitment and willingness to learn can be critical as players without eye-popping raw natural ability try to develop professionally when they are still very much kids at 20 or 21 years old.
After spending some time acclimating to NCAA hockey as a freshman, his game is surging right now. For mid-round picks who are a bit raw but have decent physical attributes, that is exactly what needs to happen at some point – they need to find some higher gear that pushes them rapidly from being the 100 or 120th best player in his age group to something more like the 20th best. It might be that is exactly what Filipe accomplishes during the second half of his freshman season at Northeastern University.
In the prospect camp this summer, I really liked his game in terms of having a ‘today’s NHL’ skill set in terms of skating and ability to carry and move the puck. But in consecutive OHL seasons, he really has not stood out as a future NHLer. Unless the Hurricanes coaches and scouts were as enamored with the puck-moving ability at prospect camp last summer, he seems doubtful to earn an entry-level contract.
My general impression from trading email or messages with a couple scouts/writers is that he still has a way to go in terms of rounding out his game to be NHL ready. My impression at least from my conversations it that he is more likely to play in the AHL rather than skip it.
His game is still pretty raw and uneven as might be expected for a third round pick.
As another later-round draft pick, he needs to at some point take a leap up to a higher level of play. The #180-ish best player in a given draft class will not play in the NHL. What I like in terms of Cotton’s odds is his situation playing at Boston College. The program has a coaching staff and system that has regularly produced NHL players many of the long-term development variety. Head Coach Jerry York is in his 23rd year, and the program has recently produced NHL power forwards at least a bit similar to Cotton in Brian Boyle, Jimmy Hayes and Kevin Hayes. Cotton’s skill level and effort will obviously play a significant role too, but one has to like his development environment.
The couple inputs I have on Kuokkanen remind me a bit of Victor Rask’s game as a center who thinks the game well in terms of positioning and decision-making. That translates well to playing at the NHL level sooner rather than later.
My hope is to post a part 2 for this article once the remainder of the ‘Midterm’ series rolls in, and I get a few more extra insights on those players similar to the first set.