2020-21 Team: Maple Grove Crimson, USHS-MN
Date of Birth: Nov. 13, 2002
Place of Birth: Maple Grove, Minnesota, USA
Ht: 5-foot-10 Wt: 165 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2021 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 78th (among NA skaters)
- The Hockey Writers (Zator): 128th
- The Hockey Writers (Forbes): 120th
Minnesota-bred forward Kyle Kukkonen wrapped up a fantastic 2020-21 season at Maple Grove High and has since drawn heads for being an outstanding player and leader in the American hockey system.
Kukkonen finished atop his Maple Grove Crimson with 31 goals and 43 assists for 74 points in just 23 games. Previously, in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League (UMHSEHL), Kukkonen ran away with the scoring title, tallying 47 points in 19 games and nine points in three playoff games with Team Twin Cities Orthopedics.
Related: THW 2021 NHL Draft Guide
As captain of the Crimson, Kukkonen has been lauded for his excellent leadership abilities that helped Maple Grove High to an overall 21-2-0 record. In the state championship tournament, Kukkonen led the Crimson to a third-place finish – the highest placing in their history.
Kukkonen is gifted with silky hands and great footspeed. He does especially well in getting himself into open ice with and without the puck, and if he’s left alone to go toe-to-toe with a goalie, he has an arsenal of moves to get the job done.
Kukkonen tends to be a shooter rather than a passer, often looking off his teammates, which can be a good or a bad thing. He’s used to carrying the offense on his team but he may have to make minor adjustments to his game when he moves up to play with more talented teammates.
Work ethic and energy are other aspects scouts have noted about his game. He’s strong in the faceoff dot and boasts a stellar two-way game as well. He’s always aware when one of his defensemen is pinching and is quick to cover for them. At 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, Kukkonen will need to add strength and muscle to stand with the college level players he’ll soon be competing against.
Kukkonen has committed to Michigan Tech, where he’ll play with his brother Trevor Kukkonen next season.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Player – Draft Projection
Kukkonen had the luxury of being one of the few players to get a lot of games in this season, and he used that opportunity to put on a dominating display. Despite that, he’ll likely be picked in the fifth or sixth round due to the quality of competition he faced.
“One of the fastest skaters in the list of Minnesota prospects, he is slight of build, but his two way play, unlimited push, and work ethic are what drives his teammates and the play.” – Bill Placzek, Lines
“Very clever and unpredictable with the puck, he does not have any tells of what he is doing next and has a plethora of scoring methods. His patience with the puck opens-up opportunities to present themselves. Releases his shot quickly and with great accuracy. Overall Kukkonen’s defensive game is an asset as he maintains great gap control and works just as hard in the defensive zone as he does in the offensive zone… Gives his team possession with good face-off skills, especially when he lines up on his backhand. Goes on sprees where he is dominant working the dot.” – Michael Sonday, MN Hockey Life
- Stick handling
- Two-way game
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Size & strength
Kukkonen’s road to the NHL will take time. He has four years at Michigan Tech to develop his game, but based on the fundamentals he already possesses at such a young age, he projects to be a solid two-way forward who can play in any situation. At the NHL level, Kukkonen could be a support forward who fits somewhere into the middle six.
Risk – 1/5, Reward – 3/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 7/10, Defense – 6/10
In 2017-18, Kukkonen was awarded High School Player of the Year by the Youth Hockey Hub (YHH) in Minnesota. After a leg injury sidelined him for much of the 2019-20 season, Kukkonen returned in 2020-21 to put up spectacular numbers and earned himself a second YHH Player of the Year award.
Kyle Kukkonen Statistics
Matt Cosman is a Sheridan College print journalism graduate from Oakville, Ontario. I’ve been with THW since 2019 covering the Carolina Hurricanes, one of my favorite childhood teams. When I’m not in my hockey bubble you can probably catch me jamming out on the piano or losing money at the poker tables.