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Prospect Update: Kyle Kukkonen
By Thomas Harrington
Anaheim’s sixth round pick from 2021, forward Kyle Kukkonen, completed his freshman season at Michigan Tech this past year.
In his first season of NCAA hockey, Kukkonen scored 18 goals and 27 points in 39 games. He led Michigan Tech in goals and was second in points, while also leading them in powerplay goals with five, game-winning goals with five, and was second in shorthanded goals with two. Kukkonen also had a remarkably consistent season; his longest pointless drought was four games and that only happened once, while his longest point streak was six games. For his efforts, he was named the CCHA Rookie of the Year.
I had two expectations for Kukkonen last summer, and he achieved both. As a freshman, I didn’t want to put too much on him. First, I wanted him to play in a majority of Michigan Tech’s games. He ended up playing in 39 out of 39 games. Second, I wanted his game to get better as the season went along. He had a bit of a rough patch in November and December, but had his six-game point streak in late February and early March.
This coming season Kukkonen will continue his NCAA career at Michigan Tech as a sophomore. Michigan Tech has nine seniors from last year graduating, so they may end up being a very young team. Six of those seniors were forwards, and three of them finished in the top six in scoring for the team. With so many players leaving and quite a bit of offense, more will be needed out of Kukkonen.
After such a successful freshman season, my expectations for Kukkonen will be a little higher. First, I want him to break the 20 goal and 30 point marks. He was incredibly close to both last year and should be able to do so as a sophomore. Second, I’d like to see him lead Michigan Tech in points. Finally, I’d like to see Kukkonen once again play in every game. He became an invaluable member of their team as a freshman and that should continue as a sophomore, especially after they’ve lost so many players to graduation.
In terms of his NHL future, Kukkonen is still a ways away from putting on an Anaheim jersey. He’s got at least another season of college hockey in front of him, maybe more. Sixth round picks don’t often make it to the NHL, but look no further than recent Anaheim acquisition Nikita Nesterenko. He was a sixth round pick from 2019 who played college hockey, made his NHL debut with the Ducks, and scored a goal in nine games. While he’s certainly not a guarantee to be an NHL star or even have a long NHL career, he can hopefully be a good example for Kukkonen of what he needs to do to make it to the NHL in the next several years.
Kukkonen is unsigned and will remain so until the conclusion of his NCAA career. If he signs with the Ducks it will be to a standard entry-level contract. It remains to be seen if Anaheim will sign him or not, but the Ducks own his rights until August 2026, so they’ve got time to figure out if he’s ready for the pro game.
The next prospect update will be on forward Ben King.
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September 11th, 2023