After years of being the best analytical team but failing to make playoffs, the Carolina Hurricanes made it to the Eastern Conference Finals this year after a 99-point regular season.
Not only did they have a strong 2018-19 season, the Hurricanes also have a solid group of prospects in their system. Andrei Svechnikov doesn’t count but he is a 19-year-old who had a strong rookie season and should be in for a great sophomore campaign. Martin Necas was picked No.12 overall in 2017 and was great in his debut season in the AHL. Necase was third on Charlotte in scoring, picking up 52 points (16G / 36A) in 64 games. He will be given a long look to make the Hurricanes this fall. Jake Bean (No.13 Pick in 2016) made a brief NHL debut this season but spent most of the year in the AHL, where he had 44 points (13G / 31A) in 70 games. A deep blueline in Carolina could hold him back for yet another year, but the 21-year-old defenseman is a high-end D-prospect. Other solid prospects include:
- — Julien Gauthier (No.21 Pick in 2016): Gauthier put a disappointing debut season in the AHL behind him by finishing second on Charlotte in goals (27) while also adding 14 assists to finish with 41 points. The Hurricanes will look for more growth from the 21-year-old power-forward before considering him for the roster in 2020-21.
- — Janne Kuokkanen (No.42 Pick in 2016): Kuokkanen has been solid in the AHL and has appeared in 11 NHL games over the last two season, failing to record a point. He doesn’t bring a lot of offence to the table but should be a solid bottom-6 winger for Carolina as soon as 2019-20.
- — Jack Drury (No.42 Pick in 2018): Drury moved to Harvard University this season and was tied for fourth on the team in points as a freshman, scoring nine goals with 15 assists (24 points) in 32 games.
- — Stelio Mattheos (No.73 Pick in 2017): The 20-year-old winger was the best player on the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) this season, leading the team with 96 points (44G / 52A) in 65 games. Mattheos moved to the AHL when the WHL season ended and he had five goals and two assists between 25 combined regular season and playoff games. He should play a larger role in his first full season with the Checkers.
With the No.27 Overall Pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning select…
Patrik Puistola — LW — Finland
I have seen Puistola ranked anywhere from the top-20 to a third-round pick ahead of Friday’s draft. The chances of Puistola being selected in the first-round rise with the Hurricanes picking No.27 overall. Carolina owner Tom Dundon made it extremely clear that they will not be taking a defenseman in the first round and the Hurricanes have not been shy about taking Finnish-born players. Since 2015, the Hurricanes have taken at least one Finnish skater in every draft, selecting a total of six in the last four drafts.
Puistola split his season between three leagues. While playing in the second league in Finland (Mestis) he ranked seventh in the league in points-per-game (1.18), registering 15 goals with 11 assists (26 points) in 22 games. He obviously had a more difficult time in the Finnish Elite League, picking up just one assist in 16 games with Tappara. While representing Finland in the U18 World Juniors, Puistola led the team in goals (5) and points (5) in five games.
The 6-foot, 174 lbs. winger has extremely good hands and pairs it with high-end vision and a strong shot. The Hurricanes will lock-up Sebastian Aho this summer and have most of their young core signed long-term, so they can be patient with Puistola and let him improve over in Finland. When he finally comes to North America, Puistola will be right at home with fellow Finn’s Aho and Teuvo Teravainen as team leaders.
Puistola one of the best puck handlers in the draft. As a 17-year-old he made pro defenders look foolish, and he has the high level of creativity to try to make tough plays every game. He’s a good passer, but I wouldn’t call him the type who tries to find seams off the flank. Rather he relies on his creativity to find options the defense isn’t expecting and plays well in small spaces. Puistola has a good shot, too; but despite his high goal totals this season, I wouldn’t call him a sniper. He created goals with his skill and compete level. He got to the net and showed he can be a decent penalty killer. — Corey Pronman (The Athletic)
- #73 — HockeyProspect.com
- #31 — Future Considerations
- #N/A — ISS Hockey
- #28 — NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters)