Some might raise an eyebrow at ranking Dean Kukan this high on the prospect list, but experience suggests otherwise. While he is relatively new to the Blue Jackets' organization — having signed on June 1 last year — he has spent years honing his game in his native Switzerland and in the Swedish Hockey League.
While Kukan, 23, possesses the requisite size for an NHL blue liner - 6' 2", 209 lbs. — the first thing that most notice about his game is the smooth skating and puck handling. While not a huge offensive threat (3 goals, 13 assists in 33 games for Cleveland), his numbers translate to something in the 30 point range over the span of an NHL season, which is certainly competitive.
What surprised most observers during Kukan's eight-game stint with the Blue Jackets last season was the savvy he displayed in handling his defensive responsibilities. Coming up under less than favorable circumstances, he looked very comfortable in the role, showed good on-ice instincts, and seemed to make the correct decisions when the play came his way. He moved the puck between zones with pace, and showed some pro moves in doing so. In Cleveland, he reliably anchored the blue line, and showed that his Swedish experience has reaped significant benefits.
Here's the statistical breakdown on Kukan's career to date:
Outlook for 2016-17
Expect Kukan to last deep into camp come September. He impressed people with his skills, and the bottom of the blue line roster is likely to be competitive. With Murray, Jones, Johnson and Savard having four slots locked up, Dalton Prout, Cody Goloubef, Zach Werenski and Scott Harrington will compete with Kukan for the 5,6, and 7 spots. If Werenski shows as well as he did in the Calder Cup playoffs, he could lock up a roster spot early, leaving two vacancies to fill.
As Kukan signed his ELC at a relatively older age, his deal lasts only two years. So, expect the Blue Jackets to give him a good, hard look, both in camp and during the season. The pipeline is relatively deep in blue liners, but Kukan's combination of mobility and savvy might be the right mix at the right time.