Dean Kukan started the season playing for the AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Cleveland Monsters. Kukan played exceptionally well for the Monsters, registering 1-14-15 in 32 games played en route to being named to participate in his first AHL All-Star Classic. Kukan, however, was unable to compete in the Classic as he was called up to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Kukan played ten games for the Blue Jackets before suffering an injury that kept him out until the final game of the regular season. During those ten games, Kukan registered zero goals and four assists as he played mostly third pairing minutes, 12:22 per night. However, his potential was high enough that the front office signed Kukan to a two year contract extension this spring.
How much Kukan plays next season depends on the rest of the blue line depth. Jack Johnson and Ian Cole are unrestricted free agents, while Ryan Murray will be a restricted free agent. Kukan will remain in Columbus as the seventh roster defenseman next year (the Scott Harrington role, if you will), a solid reserve in case of injury.
Kukan, just 24, began taking steps forward before his injury last year. He was part of the Calder Cup winning 2016 Cleveland Monsters and had earned a call up after his invitation to the AHL All-Star Classic. If his progression continues, he could develop into a solid bottom four paring defenseman for the Jackets.
Dean Kukan Stats
Games played: 11
Time on ice: 12:22
Penalty Minutes: 2
Corsi For (even strength): 56.3%
Kukan played well enough in his first 32 games that he was able to earn a call up to the big club and a two year contract extension to keep him in Columbus. Despite an injury, Kukan was able to return to play in the World Championships where he earned a silver medal.
Despite being named to the AHL All-Star Classic, Kukan was unable to participate as he was called up to the big club. A promotion to be sure, but certainly he would have liked to participate as a reward for his great play in the AHL.
How would you grade Dean Kukan’s 2017-18 season?
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