Janne Kuokkanen Ready To Shine With Checkers

Author: Nicholas Niedzielski, gocheckers.com
Date: Nov 1, 2017

The next wave of offensive talent for Carolina is being developed in Charlotte, and now another highly-touted rookie is joining the mix.

Janne Kuokkanen, a second-round pick from 2016, is only a year removed from his lone season starring for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, but he impressed enough over the summer to make the Hurricanes’ opening night roster.

“I had a good preseason,” said Kuokkanen. “I felt good in my first games.”

Injuries up front opened the door for the 19-year-old to stick around for an extended period of time with Carolina, but through the team’s first 10 games of the season Kuokkanen only appeared in four, serving as a healthy extra more often than not.

Given his age and experience level, the decision was made to assign the rookie to the AHL where he could properly develop his game.

“They told me that it’s good for me to get some ice time and get some scoring,” said Kuokkanen. “It’s not good for young players to sit for lots of games in a row.”

This, of course, isn’t the forward's first time with the Checkers. Kuokkanen joined the team last season after his Knights were eliminated and spent the opening round of the Calder Cup playoffs with Charlotte, making his North American pro debut in Game 3.

Despite it being a short stint, Kuokkanen’s time in the AHL proved to be a jumping-off point to his early success this year.

“Oh yeah it was great,” said Kuokkanen. “I spent a week here and I learned what it is to be a pro athlete. So now I’m here and it’s easier to start to work.”

Kuokkanen will be a rare teenager in the AHL, but has shown over the first month of the season that he’s not out of his element in either zone in the pro game.

“He’s a good hockey player,” said Checkers assistant coach Peter Andersson. “He’s got good skill.”

“I can bring some offensive play,” said Kuokkanen. “But I’m a smart player in the D zone too.”

The Finnish-born center hops onto a Checkers team that has quickly proven to be offensively gifted from top to bottom, so the addition of the young skater only improves that.

“We have a pretty good team here,” said Kuokkanen. “I played with some of these guys in Traverse City a couple of times. There’s lots of skill, lots of power, lots of speed. I’m really happy to be a part of that.”

It can sometimes be tough for young players who make the NHL out of camp to transition to the AHL, but that will be a key to Kuokkanen’s continued growth as a pro.

“Of course he would like to still be up there,” said Andersson. “But that’s the way hockey is. He has to come down here and work hard and be productive. He’ll be seeing a lot of ice time and he’s a young player so he needs that.”

Heading into what could shape up to be the Checkers’ toughest road trip of the year, Kuokkanen should have no problem meshing with his new club.

“He’s going to fit in good,” said Andersson. “He’s a good hockey player so you could fit him into whatever kind of team you have. A good player is always a good fit.”

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