Finland’s under-19 team competed in a tournament against Europe’s other four top hockey nations, intended to be a precursor event to the 2024 World Junior Championship in Gothenberg, Sweden. Seattle Kraken goalie prospect Niklas Kokko drew rave reviews, winning both of his starts and boasting a .943 save percentage.
Finland won all four of its games and allowed just three goals total, all coming in Kokko’s starts.
The performance from Kokko should draw some hope he’ll be more involved in Finland’s World Junior team after making the roster but not seeing any time between the pipes for the Finns in the 2023 tournament. His main competition appears to be Topias Leinonen, a Buffalo Sabres second-round pick in 2022 who recorded two shutouts in the four-game tournament.
While Leinonen’s stats were more impressive, Kokko may have the upper hand for the 2024 World Juniors, considering he was included on the 2023 roster and drew the toughest start against Sweden in the most recent tournament.
Kokko will also finish the season for a new team on loan with SaiPa of Liiga, Finland’s top league. The 18-year-old has played 20 minutes thus far for his new team, stopping eight of 11 shots (a .727 save percentage).
Kokko’s rights belong to Karpat of Liiga, and he was initially loaned to Hermes — which plays in Finland’s second division, Mestis — where he boasted a .901 save percentage in 14 games.
Wright still out with injury, return potentially nearing
Kraken top prospect Shane Wright continues to miss games for the Windsor Spitfires but is expected to begin skating again this week, according to Jim Parker of The Windsor Star.
Wright has missed seven of the last eight games for the Spitfires, who are riding a seven-game winning streak. We’ll be keeping a close eye on if Shane Wright is in the lineup for Windsor’s next game on Thursday against the Flint Firebirds.
Poturalski has season-ending surgery
The last couple of weeks have not been kind to Seattle’s forward depth on both the NHL and American Hockey League levels, from an injury standpoint, as Coachella Valley Firebirds forward Andrew Poturalski underwent season-ending surgery on Feb. 9.
The team announced that Poturalski underwent surgery to repair a lower-body injury, and the timeline for his recovery is four-to-six months, which will cause him to miss the rest of the regular season and likely the postseason, as well.
While he’s too old to be considered a prospect, Poturalski’s absence is a ding to Seattle’s organizational depth. The 29-year-old forward is third on the Firebirds with 42 points in 38 games and was the AHL’s scoring champ the prior two seasons.
Robertson, Firkus join hat trick club
Soon after Ty Nelson scored his hat trick, Kraken prospects Jagger Firkus and Tucker Robertson followed his lead.
Firkus tallied three goals in Moose Jaw’s 6-3 win over Edmonton on Feb. 8, bringing his season total to 28. The second-round pick in 2022 has collected 63 points in 51 Western Hockey League games this season.
In a 8-3 rout over Oshawa, Robertson notched an assist to go along with the trio of goals. The fourth-round pick in 2022 has 31 goals and 72 points for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League. Robertson also leads all Kraken prospects with 19 points over his last 10 games.
Keeping an eye on pundits
Scott Wheeler of The Athletic released his top 50 prospect list, and Wright was the only Kraken included in the top 50, although Firkus, Nelson, and forward David Goyette were honorable mentions.
The No. 7 ranking for Wright isn’t totally surprising, but seeing David Jiricek, who went two spots behind him at No. 6 overall in the 2022 draft, move above Wright raised my eyebrow. Wheeler’s assessment of Wright was generally positive, but he confessed he’s cooled on Wright since he was considered the consensus top prospect entering the draft.