Janne Kuokkanen was a good, though relatively unheralded prospect heading into the end of the season. Central Scouting ranked him 20th among European skaters, and there wasn't much separating him from the various other European prospects jammed in the middle of that list.
But a breakout performance at the World U18 Championships, and especially an incredible performance in the gold medal game, en route to a Finnish gold medal, helped separate Kuokkanen from the middle of that pack and has his stick surging heading into the NHL Draft.
Player: Janne Kuokkanen
Team: Karpat U20
Position: Left Wing
Height: 6'1" Weight: 179 lbs.
Stats: 47 games, 22 goals, 31 assists, 53 points, +18
Final NHL Central Scouting rank: 20th among European skaters
What I Like:
-Good below the circles
Kuokkanen doesn't have a lot of size, but he's smart, quick, and uses his body effectively to be a very good player down low. He's got really great first step quickness that he uses to be first to a lot of pucks.
In this first clip, he wins a race to the puck off a face-off then makes a tremendous power move to the net that creates a goal.
In this second slip, he makes a sneaky little play by picking up the puck behind the net and showing the quickness to wrap the puck around before the goalie can find it.
Kuokkanen is a skilled playmaker that sees the ice well and can make pinpoint passes. In this example, he places a perfect pass in a really tight window to spring Jesse Puljujarvi on a breakaway:
-Smart, complete offensive player
Kuokkanen brings a little bit of everything offensively. He can shoot, pass, he gets into the right areas of the ice. He's listed at 6'1" 179 lbs. now, which feels a little inflated, but it's easy to imagine him filling out to about 190 lbs. and really being an offensive force on the wing.
What I Don't Like:
-Could be better defensively
As good as he is offensively, he doesn't show the same discipline and intensity defensively. That should come with more coaching, experience and development, but it's going to take some time to round out that area of his game.
-Lacks game-breaking one-on-one ability
Kuokkanen is quick, but not overly fast and his puck-handling isn't sensational. He's really more of a complementary player that is going to do a lot of good things in a secondary as opposed to a guy that is really going to drive play. That's why I think he became so much more effective at the U18s once Jesse Puljujarvi showed up on his line and helped drive play and take attention away from the defense.
I think you can throw out Central Scouting's projection. The odds of Kuokkanen being the 20th European skater off the board are extremely unlikely after his strong performance at the World U18s. The highest I've seen Kuokkanen ranked is the beginning of the second round. I have him closer to mid-to-late second round and I think that's likely around where he will be picked.
Kuokkanen projects as a solid second line winger. He could potentially play a lower line role at some point in his career, but his offensive capabilities are his best asset, so he'll likely have to earn a scoring role to stick at the NHL level.