Finnish forward Janne Kuokkanen joins the long list of Carolina Hurricanes prospects who are on fire of late. How has he impacted the Charlotte Checkers’ recent climb in the AHL standings?
After an underwhelming and disappointing start to the season for the reigning Calder Cup Champions, the Charlotte Checkers have managed to climb their way out of the AHL’s basement to within four points of the division lead. Currently on a five game winning streak, the Checkers have won eleven of their last twelve games and the play of Janne Kuokkanen is a major reason why.
Often one of the more overlooked/forgotten prospects of the Carolina Hurricanes, the former 2016 second rounder has been developing into a solid two way player for the Checkers. At just 21 years of age, the Finnish forward is on pace to set new career highs in goals, assists, and points this season.
Appearing in 40 of Charlotte’s 41 games so far, Janne currently leads the team in assists (25) and points (34). Producing at a clip of .85 points per game, Kuokkanen is just six points shy of tying his career high of 40 set during his rookie season back in 2017-18, a year in which he appeared in 60 games.
While injuries derailed most of his sophomore season, he did look like he was poised to take that next step in his development. On a team that was setting records left and right from the drop of the puck on the 2018-19 season, Kuokkanen looked like he was becoming a “go-to man” for a team loaded with talent up and down the lineup.
Like a lot of Finnish players, Janne is solid on both sides of the puck. Building off of the guidance and leadership of the recently departed Mike Vellucci, he has continued to put a lot of attention into the smaller details that set everyday NHL players apart from the crowd this season.
In his brief three-year career in North America, his production has been nothing but consistent. With goal totals of 11, 12, and 9 (currently) and assists totals of 29, 26, 25 (currently) it is safe to say the coaching staff knows exactly what to expect from him each and every night. In addition to his extremely consistent production, he’s had exactly 16 penalty minutes and a single game winning goal in each of his pro seasons so far.
On the Charlotte Checkers’ current 11-1-0 streak, Kuokkanen has two goals and 13 assists for 16 points. He’s posted multi-point outings in three of his past four appearances, with three assists in each. What’s encouraging is that a vast majority of his assists are primary. If you get the chance to catch a Checkers game, you can see his vision on full display nightly.
He’s a smart player who can see a play developing in advance of a lot of opposing defenders. Because of this, he tends to find a guy streaking in undetected, back door or defenseman pinching in the offensive zone for a quality scoring chance. Given the caliber of players he plays with nightly, most of the time the puck ends up in the back of the net.
So far, Kuokkanen has done enough to earn a brief look in Raleigh with the Carolina Hurricanes a handful of times. Just limited to an average of 10:58 time on ice in 11 appearances with the Carolina Hurricanes, he just hasn’t yet done much at the NHL level to earn an extended look. Given that he’s still a young player, it would be premature to count him out long term as he is developing right on track for a second round draft selection.
Question for CC readers: What are your thoughts are Janne’s development this season?