We’re close to the quarter season mark for a lot of our prospects, so now is a good time to check in and see which ones are playing well, whose stock has risen and whose has taken a bit of a hit early on. Overall, I’m happy with most of Carolina’s prospects, and I’ve seen tangible growth with the majority of the players in our pipeline. As is always the case, a few players fall short of expectations or hit slumps. Development is almost never linear and any normal player will have a slump from time to time.
As always, I won’t attempt to determine a player’s future in this article. If anything, it’s a benchmark to measure where the Canes’ prospects were at the start of their seasons as opposed to now. It’s an opportunity to spot ways that our prospects are developing and to measure trends in each player’s game that could be positive or negative.
Scott Morrow (UMass) - Morrow has settled in for UMass as of late and is the team’s second-highest scorer with nine points in 10 games to start his collegiate career. Honestly, things couldn’t be going better for Morrow. He had a three-game goal-scoring streak, his defensive game has improved a bit, and he looks flat out dominant in the offensive zone. Morrow is showing us why the Hurricanes were so high on him at the draft, and I can’t wait to see how the rest of his season plays out.
Scott Morrow of @UMassHockey scored another clutch game-winning goal, this time in the Hockey East Game of the Week on NESN last Friday— Hockey East (Taylor’s Version) (@hockey_east) November 11, 2021
Check out the rest of the Men's Plays of the Week here⬇️https://t.co/UwlI9OOjOL#HockeyEast | #WhereChampionsPlay pic.twitter.com/LncOrovkiL
Jackson Blake (Chicago Steel) - Blake currently leads the USHL in scoring with 23 points in 17 games. I’ve been impressed with his skill and compete level this season. and it’s clear that Blake is an absolute force in the offensive zone. There’s a lot of raw talent in his game and he’ll require a lot of development, but I see NHL skill in his game. It’s clear that the USHL isn’t much of a challenge for Blake and I’ll be interested to see how he adapts to the NCAA next season.
Ronan Seeley (Everett Silvertips) - I’ve liked Seeley pretty much from day one, so it’s nice to see him succeeding in his final junior season. His offensive game is getting put on full display and he’s still as reliable as ever, making him a frustrating player to play against in all three zones. Seeley’s skating is lethal and he might be one of the best skaters in the Hurricanes’ pipeline, too.
Massimo Rizzo (Denver) - I’m thrilled that Rizzo ended up in Denver. It’s a perfect fit for him. and the freshman forward has 12 points in his first ten games as a Pioneer. Rizzo has a ton of skill and he’s one of those players that could be one of college hockey’s top scorers in the next few years. I liked Rizzo a lot in his draft year and it’s great to see him fully healthy. When he’s on his game, Rizzo can be one of the most exciting players on the ice.
Ville Koivunen (Karpat) - My gosh, Koivunen has been phenomenal this year. I’m not surprised given his skill level, but I’m surprised as to how seamless his transition to the men’s league has been. Koivunen has 14 points in 21 games, good for fourth on his team in scoring. Koivunen has star potential due to his work ethic, ridiculous shot and elite hockey sense. It was on full display in Karpat’s 10-1 win over JYP the other day, when Koivunen scored and added two primary assists. Koivunen is making the most of his ice time in Finland and should be poised for success as soon as he gets to North America. When I watched him play for the profile I wrote during the offseason, I was baffled as to how Koivunen fell so far. The Hurricanes should be laughing at every other team for allowing them to draft yet another Finn that should be a star.
Jack Drury (Chicago) - Drury looks like a legitimate prospect through his first twelve games with the Wolves. I’ve loved his physicality and compete level on a nightly basis, and the offense that he is contributing is nice as well. It’s still early, but I’m happy with how Drury has looked. Drury could see an NHL call up this season if the Hurricanes suffer any injuries at center.
Eetu Makiniemi (Chicago) - Well, duh. Makiniemi has been stellar for the Wolves in spite of poor defensive play in front of him. Through seven games, Makiniemi is rocking a .929 save percentage, which is great by itself, but it doesn’t quite illustrate the amount of high danger shots that he faces on a nightly basis. Makiniemi has stolen games for Chicago simply due to the fact that he is stopping upwards of two or three breakaways a night. That doesn’t include any other odd man rushes. Simply put, Makiniemi has been fantastic and has NHL upside. I wrote about Makiniemi’s first three starts with the Wolves here.
Patrik Puistola (Jukurit) - I really want to believe in Puistola because when he’s on his game, you can see just how skilled he is. The problem is that he isn’t on his game very often and a lack of real compete mixed with so-so skating has caused him to plateau in the Finnish men’s league. I was hoping that getting moved to Jukurit would help Puistola, and he has seen more ice time, but I’m still pretty disappointed with his overall lack of production and dominant play. There’s still time to make something happen, but I’m running out of patience.
Dominik Bokk (Chicago) - It feels like I’m disappointed with Bokk a lot. I believe in the skill that he has, but I feel that he can be selfish and make poor decisions with the puck in the offensive zone. Bokk was able to dominate the junior ranks in Sweden due to his speed and skill, but I haven’t seen that once from him since the Hurricanes acquired him. He has been scratched on multiple occasions this season and it seems that head coach Ryan Warsofsky is running out of patience.
Jack LaFontaine (University of Minnesota) - The Golden Gophers should be one of the top teams in the country, but they’re struggling to find their identity right now. LaFontaine hasn’t been nearly as good as he should be, especially for a goalie that’s heading into his fifth collegiate season. I have hopes that he can turn it around, but it’s clear that his current level of play isn’t going to be enough if Minnesota wants to win a National Championship.
Other Strong Performances
- Alexander Pashin was named the U20 Four Nations tournament’s best forward after recording six points in the tournament.
- Bobby Orr has six goals and seven total points in his last four games.
- Kevin Wall leads Penn State in scoring with 11 points in 11 games. His seven goals also leads the team.
- Jake Kucharski earned his second collegiate shutout the other night, making 33 saves in a 5-0 win over Bentley.
- Joel Nystrom is quietly putting together a strong season in all three zones. His offensive game still isn’t fantastic, but I love the way he defends and his skating should push him to the NHL at some point.