When Janne Kuokkanen arrives at New Jersey Devils training camp later this year looking to earn a full-time NHL role for the first time in his career, he will have the advantage of being in game shape. The Devils have announced that Kuokkanen has been loaned to Karpat of the Finnish Liiga for the time being and will be recalled from the loan when New Jersey opens training camp.
Kuokkanen, 22, has just a dozen NHL games under his belt to this point in his career, but did make his Devils debut in one game following the deadline deal that brought him to New Jersey in February and prior to league’s pause in March, which served as the end of the Devils’ season. Kuokkanen was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes alongside Fredrik Claesson and a conditional draft pick at the trade deadline in exchange for veteran defenseman Sami Vatanen. Kuokkanen, a second-round pick in 2016, was undoubtedly the prize of the return for the Devils, as the young forward has racked up points in the AHL over the past few years and appears ready to take the next step. Kuokkanen recorded 48 points in 56 games this year, including six in four with AHL Binghamton, and has totaled 126 points in 164 AHL games in his career. A player with two-way ability and positional versatility. Kukkanen should be a useful piece for New Jersey as he breaks into the NHL.
There is no better place for Kuokkanen to prepare for the 2020-21 season than with Karpat. The team plays in his hometown of Oulu and rosters several former and current NHLers. Karpat notably also owns a number of top 2020 and 2021 draft prospects, as well as some previously drafted prospects. Perhaps the Devils will turn to Kuokkanen for some advice ahead of the draft next month or as they evaluate trade offers this summer (Jesse Puljujarvi perhaps?). Regardless, Karpat is a great place for Kuokkanen to play, as he will have a major role to begin the Liiga season, which he hopes will give him a leg up when it comes to securing a meaningful role with New Jersey down the road as well.