The 2019-2020 season finished in unceremonious fashion for the Canes, losing to the Boston Bruins for the second time in as many years. Heading into the 2021 season, the Canes have shored up a couple of places and will have to rely upon some younger players on the blue line to be able to fill some spots that were vacated in free agency. On the whole, however, a good portion of the team is back, and there isn’t much turnover heading into the next season.
This is a young, talented team on the rise.
The biggest news on the surface for all Hurricanes fans was the retirement of Justin Williams, who called it quits after a fantastic 19-year career for the Canes, Kings and the Capitals. Williams’ departure was followed up by Joel Edmunson signing with the Montreal Canadiens and Trevor Van Riemsdyk signed with the Washington Capitals, leaving some open spots on the blue line for players to step up and take over.
The Canes re-signed Haydn Fleury to a two year, 1.3 AAV deal, which would indicate that he will take over one of those spots full time after his good performance at the end of the season and the playoffs. Warren Foegele will also be back after re-signing a one year, 2.15M deal with the team, and he will slot in somewhere in the middle six as well.
The biggest fish that was signed this offseason for the team was Jesper Fast to a three-year deal worth 2M AAV. Fast immediately slots in on the PK, and will be a valuable asset to the team as they continue to try to embody Rod Brind’Amour’s style of playing the whole ice, as Fast was one of the best defensive forwards on the market, if not the best.
Jeremy Bracco also signed a one-year two-way deal with the team, which, if he ends up fulfilling his potential could give the Canes even more depth than they already have upfront.
The biggest one, and it’s not a big one is Fast, but I wouldn’t count on a big uptick offensively for Fast over what he had accomplished in NYR. It’s possible we could see a player like Jake Bean take over that extra spot, but with Brett Pesce returning alongside Jaccob Slavin, Dougie Hamilton, Haydn Fleury, Brady Skjei and Jake Gardiner, there isn’t a lot of room even with the losses of Edmundson and Van Riemsdyk.
It was pretty much consensus around the hockey world that the Hurricanes had one of the best drafts. It’s filled with high upside promise, as well as some solid picks that look pretty sure to pan out.
13th Overall: Seth Jarvis, C- Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
The Hurricanes selected Jarvis 13th overall in the 2020 Draft, adding yet another playmaking forward to their prospect pool. Jarvis tallied 98 points in the 2019-20 season for the Winterhawks, solidifying himself as a top center in the draft.
A gifted all-around player on the offensive side of the ice, Jarvis is going to fit in nicely with the past couple of selections upfront for the Canes.
41st Overall: Noel Gunler, RW- Lulea (SHL)
The Canes made Gunler their first pick in the second round. One of the most polarizing players in the draft, Gunler is highly talented, and if things were just based on his offensive skill, he would be in the conversation to be a mid-first-round pick. Unfortunately for Gunler, there have been significant questions about his coachability and consistent effort on the ice. He was recently loaned from Luleå to Brynäs of the SHL. Not a great sign when a club decides to ship you elsewhere for nothing.
This pick long term could be a great one and a big steal if he buys in and plays up to his ability. There’s boom in this pick, but also a healthy amount of bust.
53rd Overall: Vasili Ponomaryov, C- Shawnigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Ponomaryov possesses great speed and grit that fits well into what Rod Brind’Amour wants from this forwards (See, Staal, Jordan). A player with a good shot and a full game, Ponomaryov has the tools to become a very good pro in Raleigh. Both on the ice and for fantasy purposes.
69th Overall: Alexander Nikishin, D- MHK Spartak Moskva (MHL)
Nikishin is a bit of a work in progress. He’s got good instincts on the back end and has shown flashes of puck-moving ability. He will take shots on the PP, and shows a willingness to put the puck on net, but his size and his willingness to contribute offensively is where he shows the most promise.
115th Overall: Zion Nybeck, LW- HV71 (SuperElit)
Nybeck was a steal in the fourth round for the Canes. He scored 66 points in 42 games for HV71 in the Super Elit last year, showing promise on the offensive side of the ice. He has a very good wrist shot, and with more seasoning, could end up being a very good winger down the line for the Canes. His production was just shy of the all-time U20 record in the J20.
159th Overall: Lucas Mercuri, C- Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL)
Mercuri is the lone prep draftee for the Hurricanes this year. He put up good numbers at Salisbury School, scoring 38 points in 28 games for a talented squad. The UMass Commit is a big center at 6-foot-3, 201 pounds and can impose his will very well in front of the net. He will be spending his next season in the USHL with the Des Moines Buccaneers.
199th Overall: Alexander Pashin, RW- Tolpar Ufa (MHL)
There might not have been a player in the Hurricanes draft class more discussed than Alexander Pashin. An elite level offensive talent, Pashin was knocked down draft boards significantly due to his size (5-foot-7, 154 pounds), but the Hurricanes snagged him in the 6th round, and have to feel pretty good about it.
He has silky smooth hands and an ability to make defenders look exceptionally foolish very often. He’s a name to watch moving forward.
208th Overall: Ronan Seeley, D- Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Seeley was yet another player that was selected by the Canes that many thought could end up being a steal, with most analysts having him going earlier than where the Hurricanes selected him. A physical defenseman, Seeley showed some flashes of offensive potential, but most of his value comes on the defensive side of the ice.
It will be a while before we will know if Seeley is on the right path, but he’s a player that could end up looking good down the road, as the Hurricanes are one of the best teams at developing blue line talent.