As the Checkers wrapped up their season with exit interviews Friday morning, two of their highly regarded European forwards announced their intentions for next season.
Janne Kuokkanen, selected in the second round of the 2016 draft by Carolina, stated that he thinks he will turn pro next season. The 18-year-old appeared in one game for the Checkers, making his North American pro debut in Game 3 of Charlotte’s first-round series against Chicago. Prior to that Kuokkanen, a native of Finland, spent this year starring for the OHL’s London Knights.
Additionally, Aleksi Saarela said that he is “for sure” going to play in North America next season. The 20-year-old Finn made a splash when he joined the Checkers in late March following the conclusion of his SM-Liiga season. Saarela recorded 10 points (6g, 4a) in nine games with Charlotte before he was sidelined with an injury. He returned to the lineup for the team’s playoff series against Chicago but suffered another injury in Game 5 that forced him out. Saarela had an MRI Friday morning but said he ""feels better" and “thinks [he’ll] be alright.”
Stay tuned for more stories from exit interviews coming over the next few weeks.