Buffalo Sabres Top 25 Under 25, #23: Miska Kukkonen

The 20-year-old had a down year in Liiga, suffering a long-term injury in the process

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of seven staff writers and over 250 fans that ranked players under the age of 25 as of July 15th, 2020. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player. This is our 2020 pre-draft rankings.

The 2019-20 season was a rough one for Buffalo Sabres’ defensive prospect, Miska Kukkonen. In what should have been his first full season in Liiga after spending a vast majority of last season playing in Mestis, the 20-year-old faced a couple different obstacles as a member of Lukko.

After posting a mere two assists in 19 games this season, Kukkonen was forced to undergo surgery in January, effectively ending his 19-20 campaign. The exact nature of the ailment was not made public, but the rehabilitation took about five months (he just recently started skating again). Injuries plagued him leading up to his draft season, a year where he only appeared in 12 games with the Ilves U20 team.

Known as more of a “defensive defenseman” in the traditional sense, the lack of point production isn’t necessarily surprising. While he does at times make poor decisions when carrying the puck (as shown in the clip below), he’s very good at suppressing danger. The concern here is his role in a very crowded Lukko blue line.

According to Josh Tessler of Dobber Prospects, Kukkonen saw a reduction in his ice time after a lackluster start to the season. Tessler also speculated that he could be traded within Liiga at some point as a result.

Next season has a little bit of a “do or die” feel to it. Not only does he need to stay healthy, but he needs to make sure that he’s earning consistent ice time, whether that be with Luuko or elsewhere.

There is still a chance for him to turn things around. He’s a great skater with solid vision, but with a relatively crowded stable of defensive prospects in the system, he needs to put together a big 2020-21 performance in order to keep his NHL hopes alive.

#25 Linus Weissbach

#24 Aaron Huglen