December Was Great For Kochetkov And Aho, Kotkaniemi Not So Much

No surprises here for fans of the Carolina Hurricanes. Sebastian Aho's December was capped off with a nomination to the NHL All-Star Game and the NHL's First Star Of The Month. Pyotr Kochetkov also improve every statistic on his scorecard with great play for the month. Inversely Jesperi Kotkaniemi was almost none existent, leaving us to hop for a repeat of last year's mid-season tear.

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If you looked at Jesperi Kotkaniemi's late November you might see a glimmer of hope for what was to come heading into American Thanksgiving. Goals in 2 straight games (November 26th against the Columbus Blue Jackets, November 28th at the Philadelphia Flyers) broke a 5 game pointless streak. Since then, however, things have been bleak with a capital "B."

After those 2 goals in 2 games, it was another 10 before Kotkaniemi found the net with a goal at home against Vegas on December 19th. That would be the last time in 2023 he would too. In what equates to an extremely unproductive December, Kotkaniemi managed just 1 point for the entire month.

What happens the rest of the season with Jesperi Kotkaniemi remains unseen. Optimistically, the year thus far looks similar to last season, which saw KK wake up from a stooper mid season to help fill the hole left by Max Pacioretty's brief stint on the ice and later a injury to Andrei Svechnikov. Kotkaniemi is set to match his goal total from the 2022-23 season, though he is well short of pace to hit his point total. All the while he is averaging roughly the same amount of ice time.

Even though Jesperi Kotkaniemi has struggled to find his typical offensive production, Sebastian Aho had absolutely no trouble stamping his mark on the month. December saw 24 points in 15 games that was in fact just an extension to a November that saw him notch 17 points, in 11 games.

Sebastian Aho
Vegas Golden Knights v Carolina Hurricanes / Jared C. Tilton/GettyImages

In all the flashiness of Aho's production, it would be easy to miss the fact that he had 20 or fewer shift in a game just 4 times during the month of December and just 7 for the year. He is averaging 19 minutes and 26 second of ice time a thus far, and making use of every tick of the game clock with just 10 PIM for the month and 16 for the year.

Backstopping Aho's successful month, Pyotr Kochetkov managed to pull, what well could be the season, from the jaws of defeat in December. At the end of a dismal November, Kochetkov's record was 3-1-1 with a reasonable GAA of 2.60 but a S% at .899 stretched over just 116 saves.

Over 11 games in December, Kochetkov raised his S% to .915, only letting in 24. His record of 10-7-3 improved with 6 wins to just 3 losses in regulation. And picking a single goal, of the 260 he made in December, to highlight was harder than you might think.

Without incurring the wrath of a jinx, judging from Tuesday's 6-1 beat down of the New York Rangers in New York, the Hurricanes look to have a good month ahead. Key to their success and a solid mid-season will be either another stellar month from Sebastian Aho, or another player (in typically Carolina Hurricanes fashion) picking up the mantle and running loose. Continued phenomenal play from Pyotr Kochetkov is only going to help.