Coming off consecutive seasons of playoff berths led by some of the team’s brightest young players, it would be easy to feel that the Hurricanes system, which has been among the NHL’s best for years now, would be tapped out.
A closer look at organizational depth shows the opposite, that there is more help on the way. Carolina’s strategy in recent draft classes has valued speed, skill and versatility, targeting players who can produce in multiple roles up and down the lineup. T
This is the first piece in a prospect segment that will run over the next month, gearing you up for the 2020 draft, the 20-21 season and beyond.
*In this definition, “prospect” is a player at the junior level.
Ryan Suzuki - C - Saginaw, OHL
Last year’s first rounder overcame an injury early in the 2019-20 season to post a solid draft plus-one year in limited action. After his deadline trade to Saginaw, Suzuki’s point-per-game rate jumped from 1.09 to 1.52 and he averaged nearly an assist-per-game with his new team. Always dynamic with the puck on his stick, the young center’s game revolves around puck distribution.
He certainly has the ability to win a one-on-one battle and contribute off the puck, but the pivot is best in possession, making his teammates better by getting them the puck in high-danger areas. A full season with Saginaw next year without injury or COVID shutdown is necessary as he continues to grow as a high-level NHL prospect, but his game suits Carolina’s system well and he’s likely the next prospect to make an impact as a top six forward in the next few years.
Dominik Bokk - RW - Rogle, SHL
We’d be understating Joel Edmundsson’s impact (especially considering how much Carolina missed him in the Boston series) by saying that Bokk was the major piece in the Justin Faulk trade last summer, but he certainly was the biggest piece for future.
Bokk was terrific in January at the World Juniors, and carried that momentum into the second half for Rogle. He should continue to grow into an impactful role in their system before making the jump to North America. Bokk will frequent the highlight reel for the Canes by showcasing his high-level skill, but what will make him a solid NHL player will be if he can make the adjustment to finding consistency away from the puck. He’ll be a large part of Carolina’s power play, likely from the start of his NHL career.
Jamieson Rees - C - Sarnia, OHL
I admittedly have Rees likely higher on this list than most who would breakdown the Carolina system. Call it player-type bias if you will, but I believe he’s in the mold of prospect that the Canes have not produced a lot of. Certainly Rees has room for improvement in the way that he projects his physicality, but his combination of skill and sandpaper is unique. He’s the type of player who looks for contact, both on and off the puck, but still has the skill to finish in rare fashion. His feet need to get a bit better, but he’ll be a great complement to a skill-heavy system in the coming years.
Patrik Puistola - LW - Tappara, Liiga
Carolina was the beneficiary of Puistola’s drift to the 73rd pick of the 2019 draft, because if you only look at overall offensive skill, he should have been off the board sooner. The Finnish winger is a high-volume goal scorer, but like other prospects who rely on seeing the puck hit the back of the net, can struggle with periods of inconsistency.
Puistola has a boatload of skill, but can lack engagement at times, and needs to continue to improve his skating as he grows. He will continue to find pockets of space where he can be dangerous as he learns to harness his offensive ability, and gets more comfortable in Liiga’s top tier. He’s likely a few years farther down the road in terms of impact on the NHL roster, but will be a sniper and offense driver when he gets there.
Pyotr Kochetkov - G - Podolsk - KHL
Kochetkov did struggle this season, but I keep him in this spot due to his pedigree. He does need to find consistency in the KHL this season in order to continue his forward development, but settling in with Podolsk following a move from SKA St. Petersburg should bring the young Russian goaltender a more stable environment this season.
He possesses the prototypical athleticism you seek in a netminder, and often makes the tough saves look routine, as he tracks the puck well and can make up for positioning shortfalls by natural ability. He’s the top organizational prospect at his position for the time being. Could that be a tease to the next couple weeks when our 2020 draft prospect profiles drop? Time will tell.
Best of the rest:
Anttoni Honka - D - JYP - Liiga - Honka could easily have slotted into the top five, and has a high-ceiling as an NHL prospect is the future. He’s a creative playmaker who can control tempo on the offensive side of the puck.
Jack Drury - C - Harvard - ECAC - Another player-type bias, Drury is a heady, consistent player who can slot in up and down the lineup and play in all situations. 200-foot player who has a bit of his future coach in him.
Tuukka Tieksola - RW - Karpat, Jr A Liiga - Tieksola is a project, but one with a high ceiling. He flashes high level offense, but needs to find the ability to showcase that talent as he jumps developmental levels.
David Cotton - LW - Boston College - Hockey East - As a four-year star and eventual captain of BC, Cotton is the elder statesman of this list. He’ll jump immediately into a role in Chicago in the fall, and could be the first of this group to push for a roster spot in a bottom-six role.