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My regular coverage is Ontario Hockey League players eligible for the National Hockey League Draft and Boston Bruins prospects. I readily admit that I am a Bruins fan, but occasionally, I get asked to provide feedback on prospects from other organizations, and I do so with pleasure.
When Matt contacted me about my thoughts about the Carolina Hurricanes’ prospects at the World Junior Championships, I couldn’t resist. I like the prospect pool Ron Francis and his team have accumulated, but for now, I’ll stick with the four prospects at the World Junior Championships.
Let me begin by saying the World Juniors is a short, grinding tournament and is just a blip on the screen in a player’s path. Success at the tournament does not always equate to success at the NHL, nor does a less than stellar performance indicate failure at the NHL.
Let’s begin with Finland and Janne Kuokkanen, a player I see plenty of with the OHL’s London Knights. It was going to be tough for the defending champs to make the playoff round let alone repeat as champions after losing their top line from a year ago.
As a player who averages 1.5 points per game in the OHL, Kuokkanen was on the Finland roster to provide some offence. He had a lone assist in six games on a team playing in the relegation round, but that is not indicative of his capabilities.
First and foremost, Kuokkanen is a playmaker. But he’s using his shot more and will need to continue to so to keep defences on their toes. He’s a good skater with good mobility. He possesses a strong hockey IQ with very good vision. He has a willingness to compete for pucks, is strong on the forecheck and once he gains possession excels in puck protection. He plays a complete 200-foot game and can play all three forward positions.
While we saw glimpses of Kuokkanen’s game at the World Juniors, let’s remember that Finland was a young team with a bright future ahead of them. It is something to take into consideration when looking at the lack of offensive production from him.
Next, we have three prospects that represented Canada and won a silver medal, defenceman Jake Bean and forwards Julien Gauthier and Nicolas Roy.
Jake Bean came exactly as advertised averaging 19 minutes per game with only Thomas Chabot and Kale Clague receiving more. He’s an intelligent player that plays the game with poise and seldom gets rattled. He can play both the left and right side. He has a very good first pass and an ability to skate the puck up ice.
While he lacks top end speed, he does possess excellent acceleration and a smooth stride that make him a threat to jump into the offense. He has excellent vision with superb passing ability and accuracy from both sides of his blade with an ability to lead players with passes. It makes him a threat offensively, especially on the power play. While he won’t over-power goaltenders with a booming shot, he has an uncanny ability to get his shot through traffic and on target.
Bean is solid but unspectacular defensively, but doesn’t have a lot of holes. He needs to work on his gap control. He has the acceleration and the smarts to do so and that’s something that is very coachable. Everything I saw from Bean at the World Juniors tells me he is well on his way to the NHL.
When I look at Julien Gauthier, I see a player that scouts sometimes drool over. He’s a player that has the size, the speed and the good hands to be an NHL player, but lacks the playmaking abilities. He’s never been known as a playmaker and he’ll make his mark as a goal scorer, if he’s to have success in the NHL.
That’s not meant to take away Gauthier. He certainly has the tools. He uses his size and reach extremely well to protect possession. He’ll use those abilities with his skating and strength to drive the net, often creating his own scoring chances.
But Gauthier is not a one trick pony, meaning he can score in multiple ways, which makes him a threat. Adding to be able to score by driving to the net, his repertoire consists of a very good shot that is hard, accurate and gets away quickly, an ability to stand in front of the net with his size, strength and reach to retrieve and knock in rebounds and an ability to deflect shots.
With 5 goals and 2 assists in the Tournament, like Bean, Gauthier is well on his way.
Nicolas Roy has always been a favorite of mine. Like Gauthier, Roy has that size and reach factor. Roy is craftier with the puck and has some very good playmaking skills. He’s made strides in his skating with the knock early on being the lack of an explosive acceleration and top end speed. But it’s heading in the right direction.
Roy is excellent in his puck protection abilities. He has the reach and the strength to hold off defenders with great one-handed skills with the puck while holding them off. With his size and strength, he could play a more physical game.
But Roy’s greatest assets are his hockey IQ and his vision, both things that you cannot teach. He thinks the game at such a high level and usually sees the play develop in his mind before it happens. Combined with his vision and ability to see the ice so well with his playmaking abilities, he’s a threat to setup teammates at any time in the offensive zone.
Roy’s overall development may lag a bit behind Bean and Gauthier and if he can continue to improve his overall skating, he’ll be a threat in the NHL.
The future looks bright for these ‘Canes prospects.
A HUGE thank you to Dominic Tiano for sharing his insight on the Canes prospects who played in the World Junior Championship.
If you haven’t yet, please check out results and vote on CandC’s set of Raleigh snow day Canes polls HERE.