On on the prospects front, today’s Daily Cup of Joe reviewed the six Hurricanes prospects at the NCAA level. You can also find and bookmark the menu for the “Midterms” series which will be updated with clickable links as we work through the rest of the Hurricanes sub-AHL prospect pool.
After making five of six stops to check in on Carolina Hurricanes prospects playing at the NCAA level for the 2017-18 season, the “Midterms” series will hop across the pond for our first stop in Europe. The stop is in Finland which is the native home of NHLers Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, AHLer Janne Kuokkanen and three Finnish players drafted in the 2017 NHL draft. Up first is forward Eetu Luostarinen.
Selected in the second round of the 2017 NHL draft, Eetu Luostarinen follows an interesting and promising lineage of Finnish forwards selected in the second round. First was Sebastian Aho in 2015, and next was Janne Kuokkanen in 2016. Luostarinen is of course his own man, but he does bring some of the same playmaking and hockey sense possessed by his fellow countrymen. He was a rapid riser during his draft year going from off many charts up into the second round. In 2016-17, he split his time between U20 and men’s professional hockey in Finland and finished with three goals and four assists in 32 games at the higher level. Luostarinen is playing for KalPa in the SM-Liiga in Finland for the 2017-18 season.
Interview with Jokke Nevalainen from Dobber Prospects
About the interviewee
Interview on Eetu Luostarinen
Canes and Coffee: What is Eetu Luostarinen’s playing situation for the 2017-18 season?
Jokke Nevalainen: Luostarinen is playing professional hockey at the top level in Finland in Liiga. He’s playing for Kuopio KalPa – a middle-of-the-pack team fighting for a playoff spot. Their head coach is Sami Kapanen, a former NHL player who also spent a few years with the Carolina Hurricanes. Interestingly, Luostarinen isn’t the only second round draft choice on that team as they also have Joni Ikonen and Alexandre Texier, so for a prospect junkie like myself, they’re an interesting team to watch.
Luostarinen is currently centering the first line and playing on the second power play unit but KalPa is using their top two lines and power play units evenly. Luostarinen isn’t a regular on the penalty kill but has been used there when a regular is unavailable.
Canes and Coffee: Briefly summarize Luostarinen’s season thus far in 2017-18.
Jokke Nevalainen: Luostarinen played 15 to 16 minutes per game for the first few months but has received more ice time recently and is now playing about 17 minutes per game. All forwards on that team are below 18 minutes, so Luostarinen is definitely one of the top players on his team. KalPa is a low-scoring team, currently second worst in the league in goals scored. Luostarinen isn’t at the top of the scoring race for his team but he isn’t very far either. I would call that a very successful season for a 19-year-old playing professional hockey.
Canes and Coffee: In comparing Luostarinen in 2017-18 to previous years, is there anything that stands out as improved compared to past years?
Jokke Nevalainen: The short answer is everything. He wasn’t a well-known prospect a year ago – he never played in any major tournaments with his age group and he was playing limited minutes with KalPa after he was passed over in the 2016 NHL draft. He isn’t a flashy player by any means, so you didn’t notice him if you weren’t looking for him. He’s still not a flashy player but he’s much more noticeable now when he’s playing bigger minutes. And he’s playing bigger minutes because he’s much better in all areas of the game.
Canes and Coffee: As a young player, what areas of his game project to being NHL level?
Jokke Nevalainen: Luostarinen is a smart two-way center who has enough offensive talent to be considered a legitimate NHL prospect. Like most players coming from Finland, he’s defensively responsible. As a 19-year-old player, he plays a surprisingly well-rounded game. Luostarinen is good at skating the puck up the ice, a good dangler, and he has a good wrist shot. His skating is good once he gets going. He definitely knows how to hit when it’s needed.
Canes and Coffee: What areas of Eetu Luostarinen’s game still show room/need for improvement as he continues his development?
Jokke Nevalainen: Luostarinen needs to add some muscle to his 6-3 frame as he’s outmuscled too often. His official weight is 86 kg (190 lbs) but that seems a bit high considering how skinny he looks. Other improvement areas include his first couple of steps, discipline, defensive zone positioning and faceoffs. Sometimes he has a bad habit of drifting around with no real purpose. I’d also like to see more 5-on-5 scoring because about half of his points have come on the power play.
Luostarinen isn’t a dynamic offensive player which limits his upside but I think he could develop into a reliable third line center in the NHL. It will take some time and he’s no sure thing but his trajectory is looking good so far.
Canes and Coffee: Is there anything else about Eetu Luostarinen that is not covered above that would be of interest to Carolina Hurricanes fans who are tracking him from afar?
Jokke Nevalainen: Luostarinen was a surprise cut from the 2018 World Junior Championship team. He wasn’t the only one, though, as Jerry Turkulainen and Jesperi Kotkaniemi were also expected to make the team but didn’t. With a disappointing quarter-final loss for Team Finland, those omissions have raised a lot of questions here in Finland. He definitely would have been on my team.
Canes and Coffee would like to extend a huge thank you to Jokke Nevalainen from Dobber Prospects for generously sharing his ‘from the rink’ insight on Carolina Hurricanes prospect Eetu Luostarinen.