I’m going to be honest with everyone, I signed up for Mikko Kokkonen because I had myself convinced he was Kalle Loponen. it was going to be a great story of a 7th round pick being ranked as a near top 10 player under 25 in the Maple Leafs organization. Then it turns out that no, not every 5’11 Finnish defender drafted in 2019 is the same person. Who knew? Not me.
Mikko Kokkonen was drafted in 2019, like Loponen, and plays defence, like Loponen, but shoots left instead of right and was taken in the 3rd round, rather than the 7th. He also played high level professional hockey in Finland in his post-draft season where Loponen was still in junior with the Sudbury Wolves. Loponen has also never been ranked in the Top 25 Under 25, whereas Kokkonen was ranked 20th, 13th, 11th (tied), and now 12th. Man, it’s a good thing I didn’t buy this jersey.
So, clearly between the two we’d rather have Kokkonen. If this were the “Top 2 Finnish Defenders Drafted in 2019” then we’re good. However, we’re only halfway through the Top 25, and we’re looking at an unsigned defender two years past his draft date who was committed to playing in Liiga for his hometown club Jukurit; an organization he’s played for since 2013 when he joined their U16 program. Next season he’s moving to a new club for the first time, when he becomes a member of the Lahti Pelicans. The Pelicans of late regularly make the Liiga playoffs, something Jukurit hasn’t done.
Points wise Kokkonen has been fine. Clocking in a steady 10 points in Liiga the past few seasons. He’s a trusted player on the blue line, not one to leave his position to go on a scoring rush, and the Maple Leafs seemed to see enough in him that he was invited to join the Toronto Marlies after the Liiga season was over last year, where he almost matched his 50 game point total in just 11 AHL games, which could show some potential for his North American pro game, or show off how weak the Marlies were last season.
I ranked him 17th because when I was looking through the names of players he felt like someone who had been around the organization a lot longer than he actually has been so I thought he was behind in his development - something I’m wrong about - I held the fact he wasn’t signed yet against him, but that could be his own choice, and that his rights expire in 2023, with a few players who need signing before or at the same time, and I would put them ahead of Kokkonen on the priority list (Abruzzese, Rindell, Loponen). I do use closeness to the NHL as part of my rankings, which is why he’s barely in my top 20.
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Others at the site see potential, but also aren’t as sold on him:
Katya: What is this guy doing ranked so high! This is so hard to get used to, that the top half of this list holds players I find dull, workmanlike and at their peak already. I truly do think Kokkonen has plateaued, and that’s not terrible. He can likely add some experience playing on a better pro team this season, but he’s got more game than players like Král and Hollowell, but lacks the points to hide behind like they do. He’s a role playing utility player lacking in a few things that would translate that to the NHL, and he’s ranked this high largely because no one else was higher, not because of the strength of the votes for him.
Hardev: a happily boring defenseman that can jump into the AHL and play well. He was used as a shutdown fourth defenseman on Finland’s national junior teams and logged lots of minutes at 5v5 and 5v4 in the Liiga. I don’t see a large learning curve needed before he’s potentially able to play in the NHL, unlike Liljegren who needed a lot of work, that’s a point in his favour.
Brigstew: I see the potential for being a nice and boring third pairing PK specialist, who isn’t a complete pylon at even strength. That’s useful, at least, so I ranked him 17th just in front of the goalies which is where I really stopped thinking there was anyone with even a remote chance of being a future NHLer.
That’s Mikko Kokkonen. He’s a Finnish defender who may or may not come to North America to play full time, and may or may not succeed here. We’ll see you next summer, when you’ll probably be ranked somewhere between 10th and 27th.
Mikko Kokkonen’s past aPPPearances:
If you were the Maple Leafs would you sign Kokkonen?
This poll is closed
Yes, he has NHL potential
Yeah, the Marlies always need players
Not until he’s NHL ready, until then he can stay in Finland
No, he’s fine but not an NHL player.
Are we really sure he isn’t actually Kalle Loponen?