The 2019 NHL draft was a significant one for the Carolina Hurricanes – with a total of 12 picks in seven rounds, they held the highest number of picks of any team. It was also the most selections they’ve had in any draft in their history.
It’s now been almost six months since the Hurricanes re-stocked their prospect shelf, so it’s a good time to check up on the development of the 12 new Hurricane draftees.
Round 1, 28th Overall: Ryan Suzuki, C
Carolina used its first pick of the draft to land Ryan Suzuki, a 6-foot, 176-pound center from the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts. In his draft year, he scored 75 points in 65 games, and he was on pace for similar numbers this season as well – he tallied 4 goals and 13 assists in 13 games – before an eye injury from a high stick sidelined him in early November.
While his status was described as week-to-week, it’s already been over a month since the injury and he’s yet to return to play. Assuming – and hoping – he makes a full recovery, which the team says he should, Suzuki will return to being the shifty, dangerous scoring threat he is, but he’s still a ways out from being ready to join the Hurricanes.
Round 2, 36th Overall: Pyotr Kochetkov, G
Pyotr Kochetkov was the top European goaltender available at the draft, and the Hurricanes pocketed him with their first of two second-round picks. In 11 games split between the Kontinental Hockey League’s St. Petersburg SKA and Podolsk Vityaz this season, He has posted a combined 4-6-0 record, with a 2.70 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.
At the 2019 World Junior Hockey Championships, he was recognized with the award for best goaltender in the tournament, as he backstopped Russia to a bronze medal. The young goaltender is still a long-term project that needs several more years of development, but there’s undeniable talent there and he’s proving it at only 20 years old.
Round 2, 44th Overall: Jamieson Rees, C
Perhaps the most intriguing of the Hurricanes’ haul of 2019 picks, Jamieson Rees has piled up 44 points in just 23 games with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting this season. He was limited to only 37 games in his draft year, as a lacerated kidney kept him out of the lineup for two months. The injury caused his stock to fall, and the Hurricanes scooped him up with the 44th-overall selection. Now healthy, the speedy center looks to be back in top form, as he’s been carrying the offense on one of the OHL’s weakest teams.
Almost like a Brendan Gallagher or a Max Domi, Rees is a smaller, but feisty forward who has a quick set of hands and isn’t afraid to get physical, but sometimes lacks discipline. In October, he was suspended six games for a dangerous hit to the head, and last season was suspended eight games for another high blindside hit. If Rees can channel his aggression in non-hazardous ways, the Hurricanes might have a real stud on their hands.
Round 3, 73rd Overall: Patrik Puistola, LW/RW
Hailing from Tampere, Finland, Patrik Puistola is another forward with Finnish roots the Hurricanes have had a history of success with. Puistola is primarily a goal-scorer who is still transitioning into playing with men in the Finnish Elite League.
He’s played most recently with Mikkelin Jukurit, where he scored three goals and two assists in seven games. However, on Dec. 3, he was the victim of a savage hit to the head, and had to be stretchered off the ice.
With no clear timetable for his return, he’s likely to miss this year’s World Juniors as he looks to make a full recovery.
Round 3, 83rd Overall: Anttoni Honka, D
A second consecutive Finn and younger brother to former Dallas Star Julius, Anttoni Honka was the 83rd-overall choice and first defenseman chosen for the Hurricanes at the 2019 draft. An offensive-minded defenseman with an aptitude for stick-handling, puck movement, and agility, Honka has contributed 13 points in 29 games to the Finnish Elite League’s highest-scoring team, JYP Jyväskylä.
At 18 years old and 5-foot-10, he’s the youngest, and one of the smallest players on his team, but he has been able to keep pace playing with men in a high-level, competitive league. He’s in a crowded waiting room of young Hurricanes defensemen, but is well equipped to make an impact once he transitions to North America.
Round 3, 90th Overall: Domenick Fensore, D
There are similarities between Honka and Domenick Fensore, the fellow defenseman drafted seven spots after him. Fensore is another small blueliner with an offensive toolkit. A freshman at Boston University, Fensore has chipped in two goals and seven points in 17 games this season.
Listed at 5-foot-7, 151 pounds, Fensore leans on his strong skating ability to close gaps defensively. At 17 years old, there may still be room to grow, but his size is a notable obstacle. If he was to play in the NHL today, he’d be listed as the smallest defenseman in the league, behind 5-foot-8 Joe Hicketts of the Detroit Red Wings. He’ll have to put in his time at the college level building his strength and learning how to best utilize his speed and offensive abilities to one day be an effective NHL player.
Round 4, 99th Overall: Cade Webber, D
It’s never a bad idea to draft a defenseman with a name like Webber, and at 6-foot-7, 201 pounds, Cade Webber comes with an obvious advantage. Webber prides himself on his fluid skating relative to his size, while being primarily a defense-first defenseman.
Currently playing with the British Columbia Hockey League’s Penticton Vees, he’s scored five points in 23 games while picking up only six penalty minutes. He’s also committed to Boston University for the 2020-21 season, where he could get the chance to play alongside Fensore for the next few years.
Round 4, 121st Overall: Tuukka Tieksola, RW
Tuukka Tieksola may be a hidden gem the Hurricanes pegged with their 121st-overall pick. In his first year with Kärpät in the Finnish Elite League’s Junior A in 2018-19, he exploded with 60 points in 51 games, finishing fifth in league scoring.
Now in his second season, he’s scored 34 points in 24 games and is well on his way to progressing to the top level of the Finnish Elite League to play with the best. He’s only seen four games at that level this season, and has failed to hit the scoresheet, but he seems to be developing quickly and could be an effective offensive weapon for the Hurricanes down the road.
Round 5, 152nd Overall: Kirill Slepets, LW/RW
Kirill Slepets is a 20-year-old Russian winger who began the season in the VHL, the second level of Russian hockey, where he scored 8 goals and 15 points in 21 games. Now with Dinamo Riga in the KHL, Slepets is getting his feet wet adjusting to top-level hockey. With one goal and three assists in nine games at the KHL level, he’s beginning to find his game, which is typically the role of a finisher. His KHL numbers this season are a minor improvement from his one goal in 10 games last season.
Round 6, 181st Overall: Kevin Wall, RW
With the 181st-overall pick, the Hurricanes selected Kevin Wall, an American-born winger and now a freshman of Penn State University. He turned some heads as an offensive-minded marksman who protects the puck well and doesn’t shy away from physicality.
With four points in 10 games with Penn State this season, he’ll look to polish his skating and defensive play as he begins his journey towards the NHL.
Round 6, 183rd Overall: Blake Murray, C
Now in his third season with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, center Blake Murray is on pace for a career-best season, as he’s scored 15 goals and 35 points in 30 games. Murray has good size at 6-foot-2, 187 pounds, and is equipped with a heavy shot, but is still several years away from being a potential Hurricanes contributor. Though his stock seemed to fall from the beginning to the end of his draft year, he has the tools to one day make the NHL – he just needs to find consistency.
Round 7, 216th Overall: Massimo Rizzo, C
The final of Carolina’s choices and the second-last pick of the entire draft, center Massimo Rizzo is a left-handed pivot who has spent his junior career in the BCHL. This year, his first with the Coquitlam Express, he’s tallied 23 points in 21 games, which is fourth on the team, but highest in terms of points-per-game. The 5-foot-10 18-year-old is a former captain of the Penticton Vees and is committed to the University of North Dakota beginning in 2020-21. We’ll have a better handle on what kind of player Rizzo may become as he transitions to the college level.