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Prospect Update: Kyle Kukkonen
By Thomas Harrington
A sixth round pick from 2021, center Kyle Kukkonen played in the USHL for the Madison Capitols this past season and will attend Michigan Tech this coming season.
Kukkonen played in 58 games for Madison and scored 22 goals and 53 points. He finished second on the team in goals and points and was third in assists. Kukkonen also did some damage on the powerplay, scoring seven goals and 17 points on the man advantage. He also had a very consistent season; he had a scoreless streak of three games only twice, but two separate point streaks of five games or more. He did miss a few games after being placed into Covid protocol in January.
Kukkonen played in 14 playoff games and scored a goal and five points. He had a quiet start to the playoffs, recording only one assist in his first eight games, but had a three point night in game seven against Muskegon to help Madison win the game 8-4 and advance to the Clark Cup Finals. This was Kukkonen’s only full season in the USHL, and it was a pretty successful one.
Michigan Tech isn’t a powerhouse when it comes to college hockey programs, but they are a good program. As a result, it may prove difficult for Kukkonen to truly stand out in his first season with them. So my expectations for him will be relatively simple. First, for him to play in a majority of Michigan Tech’s games. It’s not uncommon for freshmen to be scratched at times, but I’ll be satisfied with him playing most of the season. Second, for his overall game to improve as the season moves along. He might have some lengthy pointless streaks early in the season, but I’d like to see his offensive game become more consistent as the season moves along.
Kukkonen is a better playmaker than a shooter, but he has a good shot as well. He is known for being a skilled stickhandler and puck distributor. Like many centers, he has a strong backhand pass and shot, something that helps him fool his opponents. He’s also a fast skater but needs to get stronger going forward.
In terms of his NHL future, Kukkonen is a number of years away from the NHL. He’s only just starting his college career, and I’d expect him to spend at least three years at Michigan Tech before he turns pro. He’ll then likely spend some time with the Gulls, so it could be four or five years before we see him in an Anaheim uniform. However, if he can have a great freshman year at Michigan Tech, the Ducks could sign him as early as next summer, Anaheim often likes to let their college prospects develop slowly over time, though.
That’s not a hard and fast rule; Pat Verbeek opted to sign Josh Lopina after a strong freshman season and have him join the Gulls. However, that’s going to take a great season from Kukkonen for that to happen, and while it’s possible, I think him spending two or three years in the NCAA is much more likely.
Kukkonen is unsigned and will remain that way until the conclusion of his college career. If the Ducks are happy with his development, he’ll get a standard entry-level deal at some point over the next four years. However, if his progression stalls or even regresses, the Ducks could choose to let him become a free agent in August 2026.
The next prospect update will be on Lukas Dostal.
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August 26th, 2022