In case you missed it over the snowy weekend, Canes and Coffee was lucky enough to have Dominic Tiano from OHL Writers stop in and offer an assessment of all 4 Canes prospects who participated in the world juniors tourney.
Canes and Coffee was also lucky enough to get a second assessment of Janne Kuokkanen’s play from Zachary DeVine (Twitter=@zakkthebear). Zachary tracks all things Finland hockey closely and does broader NHL prospect coverage at The Hockey Writers, Dobber Prospects and The Hockey Prophets.
I want to reiterate an important disclaimer/piece of context on the Kuokkanen evaluation which is not overly favorable. These tourneys whiz by in a hurry and are very short, so sometimes a bad game or 2 or even more simply a team that just does not click instantly can show unfavorably on a player. I do think evaluating players based on play against other elite players in the same age group is useful/valuable, but it must be balanced against longer-term evaluations from full seasons and even years prior to the short tourney bursts.
By Zachary DeVine:
Finland brought a young squad to the National Junior Evaluation Camp this summer in Plymouth, MI. Nearly half of the players were eligible for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, but there were enough experienced and skilled players that everyone thought it was still a team to contend with once the games counted.
And then the tournament started.
In a team of disappointments, Janne Kuokkanen was second only to Olli Juolevi as the most disappointing player for Finland. Kuokkanen came over to North America and had 40 points for the London Knights before heading off to the WJC. Only getting a secondary assist in the final game of a relegation round and nine shots on goal over six games can’t be viewed as positive at all. But it’s important to remember that the entire team struggled and the two most talented youngsters on the young team, Eeli Tolvanen, and Kristian Vesalainen skated most of the tournament with Aapeli Rasanen. Kuokkanen did not lack for minutes nor opportunity.
Over the six games, long stretches of invisibility were the most concerning for Kuokkanen. Players will slump, and rough patches occur even for the best players and prospects. The whole team struggled and he struggled with them. But when the work ethic wanes, that is a red flag. That was not something I noted of Kuokkanen in watching the Finland.
Speaking of red flags, a six-game meltdown in which a coaching staff is dismissed mid-tournament, with a young squad that is missing an All-Star line falters, well, there are a lot of things to consider. It was not a good showing for Kuokkanen but these things happen. Most importantly will be how he responds for the remainder of the 2016-17 season. Does he head back to London lacking confidence or ready to prove the miserable tournament was a fluke? It should be the latter and could be a good test of character and resiliency for the Hurricanes 2016 selection.