Hello and welcome to a weekly feature on CarolinaHurricanes.com in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.
Let's get to it.
The World Junior Summer Showcase, featuring the United States, Canada, Sweden and Finland, wrapped up last weekend, and Hurricanes prospect Janne Kuokkanen was, without a doubt, among the standouts. He got completely snubbed by NHL.com's list of top players from the tournament, but his performance did not go unnoticed.
His head coach, too, was impressed.
This short tournament is an interesting one because it's essentially a pre-tournament for the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, which will take palce Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Buffalo. What coaches and scouts are seeing are players who aren't yet in midseason shape, but it's easy to notice when someone stands out - and all reports say Kuokkanen did just that.
In five contests, Kuokkanen was a point-per-game producer with three goals and two assists. The 19-year-old forward paced all tournament skaters with 25 shots on goal, and it wasn't even very close. Kuokkanen was also a plus-2.
It was a solid showing for a mid-summer tournament, and I will be intrigued to see how he can carry that momentum into the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., in a month. More on that soon. Then in training camp, could he make roster decisions difficult? It's certainly a possibility.
Which leads us to …
Both Kuokkanen and Julien Gauthier are eligible to play for the Charlotte Checkers if they do not make the Hurricanes' roster out of training camp.
Kuokkanen played with the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) last season, but since he was drafted out of a European league, American Hockey League (AHL) age restrictions do not apply. The move to North America, he told me in April, was beneficial for his development process.
"I think it was a good year for me. I learned lots of things here. The small rink play was a big thing for me," he said. "Culture, language, everything. I had a lot of good friends, and they helped me out a lot this year."
Kuokkanen joined the Checkers for the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs this season and skated in a game.
"I see what these pro guys are doing every day and trying to learn from them," he said. "I need to get stronger, faster and a harder shot. Everything."
Gauthier will turn 20 years old in October, so he's eligible for AHL play, as well. The goal, of course, will be for him to make the big club, but a year to develop amongst professionals in the AHL wouldn't be a detriment.
Martin Necas, the Canes' 12th overall pick from this year, is more of a wild card. He's got a few options, including heading back to HC Kometa Brno in the Czech Republic for a second season with their big club or playing with the OHL's Saginaw Spirit, who selected Necas in this year's CHL Import Draft.
The Hurricanes are aiming to defend their title at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, which takes place Sept. 8-12. (As a bonus, fun side-note: as returning champs, the Hurricanes get one of the two big locker rooms at Centre Ice Arena, the other of which is occupied by the tournament host Red Wings.)
The Canes' roster, which will be released in the coming weeks, should be solid. The team has a talented stable of prospects, and you'll probably see some familiar names - tournament "veterans," if you will - on the roster. It's a group that will be fully capable of repeating as champions, which bodes well for the future of the Hurricanes. However, it is a short tournament, and anything can happen.
As always, you can expect full coverage of the tournament on CarolinaHurricanes.com, which likely will include live streams of the games once again. That was a big add last year, and we're hopeful that can continue.
Creamy, and it's not even close. End of discussion.
Join me next week for more questions and more answers!
If you have a question you'd like answered or you have a good argument for crunchy peanut butter (these don't exist), you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes or drop an email here.