The Kraken are still deep in their playoff run, but that shouldn’t be a reason that Ron Francis can’t think about bolstering the team, right?
The Kraken announced today (though really yesterday) that they have signed Finnish Goalie prospect Niklas Kokko to his Entry-Level Contract, with CapFriendly reporting that it will be a 3-year, $950,000 AAV contract.
Kokko was first drafted by Seattle in 2022 in the 2nd round, out of Liiga’s Oulun Kärpät.
His Development so far
Kärpät have long been one of Liiga’s most prestigious teams: having been a huge force through the 2000’s up into the 2010s, with only Tappara matching/succeeding their on-ice accolades. Unfortunately for younger players, that means you have to be really really good in order to get ice time wearing the White Ermine. With guys like Joel Blomqvist and Leevi Meriläinen coming into their own as goalies, there really wasn’t much room for him, so Kärpät put him on loan to the Finnish 2nd league (Mestis) team Kokkolan Hermes.
While he was down with Hermes, he played a pretty respectable game; playing 14 games to get a decent .901 SV%. He then got to play in Hermes’ run for the Mestis championship, but they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Kiekko-Pojat. He finished his playoffs with a .917 SV%.
Fiending for ice time got a brief stint in Liiga with another loan, this time to SaiPa, where he played eight games and finished with a respectable .903 SV%. Given that SaiPa’s goaltending was uh…
…That’s a pretty solid record for him!
It was in international competition where he found the most success, playing for the Finnish national team in the U19 and U20 squad, even getting a nod for the World Juniors…but he never played, so we’ll never know if he could’ve helped Finland get farther than the quarterfinals. Otherwise, he played extremely well for the U19 team, finishing his brief time as a .943 SV% goalie with 2 wins!
Where his future lies
Kokko’s got a bit of a trek ahead of him before he hits the PNW. As Zaiem pointed out in his discussion of Ales Stezka’s ELC; goaltenders take a long time to develop and teams are generally quite hands-off until they’re under contract in more importantly, in North America. Which could be an option for Kokko, as Meriläinen and Blomqvist aren’t going anywhere in Oulu for the time being. Maybe he could consider a back-up role as part of the Firebirds if they can’t find ice-time for him? Unlike OHL prospects, there’s nothing but a long plane ride keeping a European prospect from going to the AHL.
Regardless, I think being nice and patient with Niklas will be the best for him, as he still has a long way to go. For now, let’s all welcome Niklas to the Kraken officially!