Editor’s note: Introducing Canes Country’s top 25 under 25 series. Last week, a group of us set out to rank the top 25 players 25 years of age or younger in the Carolina Hurricanes’ organization. We were successful in that endeavor. We took into account what players have accomplished to date, their likelihood of making it as a regular NHLer and the level of impact they’re likely to have.
On this list, you’ll find players currently on the Hurricanes’ roster and prospects scattered across the AHL, Canadian junior leagues and Europe. We’ll be revealing one player each week day (with a couple exceptions for holidays) from now through early January.
Today, we continue with a recent mid-round pick looking to make take the next step in Finland.
When Carolina selected Tieksola in the fourth round of the 2019 draft it was all about the offensive skillset and upside that the Finnish winger possesses. In recent years, the organization has focused on players who have high ceilings, but may have fallen down the draft board due to size or consistency concerns with its mid-round picks
Tieksola’s 2019-20 season in Finland’s U20 league was sensational, as he averaged 1.42 points per game, and finished second in the league with 61 points in just 43 games. He was awarded the Saku Koivu Award as the league’s best forward, and was named a First Team All-Star. He did get the call up to Liiga for five games, but has yet to record his first point at the top level.
Clearly, Tieksola has shown all he can at the U20 level. The next step in his development will be proving that he can score, and stick at the Liiga level. Kärpät is one of the strongest organizations in Finland, so its not surprising that a 19-year-old, even one of Tieksola’s ability and pedigree hasn’t carved out a consistent role at the top level yet. He likely will get more of a run out than the five games he received a year ago, with more of an opportunity to showcase himself in a favorable offensive deployment. His omission from Finland’s World Junior roster isn’t ideal, but less shocking than fellow Carolina prospect Patrik Puistola.
It will likely be a few seasons before we see Tieksola on US soil, as he will be a slower prospect to develop physically. His ability to gain strength will be imperative to his NHL future, because as the ice shrinks, so will his time and space. However, his natural puck skills and skating ability should offset some of the adjustment. He plays at a high rate of speed, with the ability to control tempo both in the neutral and offensive zones. Tieksola loves to pick up the puck between the blue lines and lead the rush, thriving in one-on-one situations.
Although the talent is intriguing, being realistic about Tieksola’s fairly low floor is necessary. Not every 5-foot-10, 170-pound, mid-round pick makes and sticks at the NHL level. For this list however, the upside outweighs the concern due to his ability to project as a top-six forward and power-play producer. Not many of his peers in the low 20’s of this list have a similar ceiling.