December 31-in-31: Carolina Hurricanes

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2020-12-09

Well, here we are yet again. Hockey season is right around the corner (hopefully). 

The Carolina Hurricanes are coming off of yet another year of making the playoffs, after a long drought that disappointed many a Canes fan.

With one of the most lethal top lines in hockey, a lot of depth up front, a top group of blue-liners, and a bright mind behind the bench in Rod Brind’Amour, things are looking up for the Canes. 

The top line of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Andrei Svechnikov should be set in stone to start the year. The trio finished the year together and are poised to take a massive jump together this coming season. 

The core upfront will have many returnees outside of Justin Williams, who was replaced with Jesper Fast, creating one of the deepest forward groups in the league. 

Brett Pesce will be back on the backend after sitting out the end of the year, following surgery. He joins Jaccob Slavin, Dougie Hamilton, Brady Skjei, Haydn Fleury, and Jake Gardiner, which should end up being a top-five blue-line in hockey, yet again. If someone struggles, youngster Jake Bean will be in line to step in and there shouldn’t be much drop off. 

In net is always the adventure for the Canes. Petr Mrazek and James Reimer will both return. Hot on Reimer’s tail, though, is Alex Nedeljkovic, who doesn’t have much left to prove in the AHL. 

A big factor for the team’s success in the upcoming year is behind the bench, with Rod Brind’Amour. The team has done a fantastic job of embodying everything that Brind’Amour stands for – production upfront and playing with pace and toughness in both zones. That’s exactly how the team has evolved and will continue to do so. 

And yet, with all of the depth and talent the NHL team has, the Canes have an extremely deep prospect pool, so let’s take a look at how things have shaken out this offseason as well as 

Let’s take a look at how things shake out for this coming year. 

Offseason Moves

Jesper Fast – Fast was the main signing this offseason for the Canes, adding a player who can be a jack-of-all-trades guy for Head Coach, Rod Brind’Amour. He fits in perfectly with how the team wants to play, and his pace will significantly help the team play a deep forward group on a night-in and night-out basis. 

Jeremy Bracco – The Canes acquired Bracco for one year on a two-way contract. It will be interesting to see if he gets any time in one of the deepest forward groups in hockey.

Restricted Free Agents

Warren Foegele – Foegele re-signed with the team for one year, 2.15M, and will be back as a middle-six player for the team. 

Haydn Fleury – Fleury re-signed with the team for two years, 1.3M AAV, and will likely take his spot on the third-pairing with Jake Gardiner.

What to Watch For

Mikael Granlund – There’s quite a bit of talk around the potential of a signing, with the word being that the Canes are in the thick of things for signing Granlund. This would drastically affect things in the lineup, as it could move down guys such as Ryan Dzingel and Warren Foegele in the lineup.

International Transfers

Jack Drury – With the Ivy League having canceled the season, Drury has headed to Sweden to play in the SHL for Vaxjo. So far, he has been solid, scoring 12 points in his first 21 games with his new team. I’m interested in seeing what decision he will make at the end of the year. Whether he will sign with the team and head to Chicago, or whether he will stay with Harvard for another year, I don’t know. 

Oliwer KaskiKaski has headed to the KHL to play for Avangard Omsk, and has seen success on the back end for them, scoring 18 points in 31 games. He had a solid year in Charlotte in 2019-2020, scoring 20 points in 35 games. At 25, he is on the older side, so it’s disappointing to see him get another year in which he wasn’t able to make an impact stateside, but that’s the year we are in.  

Graduating Players

David Cotton – Cotton leaves Boston College after a very solid four-year career for HC Jerry York, scoring 127 points in 148 games. He has signed with the team and will head to Chicago whenever the season starts.

AHL to NHL Graduates

I’m going to be honest. There’s not a whole lot of movement possible, barring injury for the team. Only a few guys had a chance to come up and make an impact for the team last year, and when they did, it wasn’t for extended amounts of time. 

Morgan Geekie – Geekie is tricky, mostly because I don’t know whether he will be in the starting lineup from the get-go. The Canes are still in on Mikael Granlund, and the logical thought would be if Granlund was signed, it might knock Geekie down to Chicago. If Geekie stays and the Canes don’t add anyone, Geekie will be a very good fourth liner. 

Alex Nedeljkovic – Nedeljkovic is another example of a player, who I would believe, will be a full-time backup or split time with Petr Mrazek – but, James Reimer is still with the team as well. Nedeljkovic really has nothing left to prove in the AHL, so it should be his time, but we shall see for certain. The only concerning thing is you’d think if the team believed he was the guy, he would have been up by now most likely. 

Haydn Fleury – Fleury looks to be in good shape to stay on the roster on the third-pairing for the whole season. The team recently lost Joel Edmundson, and Fleury is looking to take that spot for good this year. 

Risers

Morgan Geekie – Geekie came up to the NHL roster and immediately made an impact on the score sheet. He plays physical and should have an opportunity this year to make an impact, barring changes in the lineup. 

Kevin Wall – The Hurricanes clearly saw something in Wall when they drafted him out of Chilliwack (BCHL) in the sixth-round. He scored seven points last year for Penn State in 26 games, but this year has already tallied six-points in six games for the Nittany Lions. Perhaps the team has found something in Wall. 

Jack LaFontaine – LaFontaine has been sensational to start the year for Minnesota, who is 6-0 on the year. Through the first two weeks of the season, or so, he has been possibly the best goalie in college hockey. He will be an interesting player to track if he continues this pace. 

Fallers

Saku MaenalaenenThere was some hope for the Finnish winger, who is coming off a year in which he scored 8 points in 34 games for the Hurricanes in 2018-2019. He went back to Jokerit last year and is back with the club this year. I believe the hope that he will make an impact is close to gone. 

Dominik Bokk – Bokk was acquired in the Justin Faulk deal. While I still think he could end up being a good player, in the long run, he’s really been struggling offensively, which has just continued this year. He has only tallied two points in 13 games for Djurgardens.

Patrik Puistola – I’m going to amend this a bit, so don’t see Puistola’s name and think I’m saying I think he’s going to be bad. What I mean by putting him here is that his production hasn’t been at the same level last year, and yes, that could be many different reasons. 

The most concerning thing for me about Puistola is that he didn’t even make the Finnish Preliminary roster for the WJC, where he was possibly the most exciting player for the team last year. I’m going to keep an eye on Puistola and see how he progresses. 

Prospect Depth Chart

LW C RW
Patrik Puistola Ryan Suzuki Seth Jarvis
Zion Nybeck Jamieson Rees Noel Gunler
Alexander Pashin Jack Drury Dominik Bokk
Morgan Geekie Jeremy Bracco
Vasili Ponomaryov
Stelio Mattheos
David Cotton
LD RD
Jake Bean Joey Keane
Domenick Fensore
Anttoni Honka
Alexander Nikishin
G
Alex Nedeljkovic
Pyotr Kochetkov
Jack LaFontaine
Eetu Mäkiniemi
Jeremy Helvig

Top 20 Fantasy Prospects

This section is intended to paint a picture of the Carolina Hurricanes prospects whose current trajectory projects them making the most positive fantasy impact at the time that they reach the NHL. Arrival date and NHL certainty have been taken into consideration. However, a player’s potential upside is the most important factor in determining this list.

  1. Ryan Suzuki
  2. Jake Bean
  3. Seth Jarvis
  4. Alex Nedjelkovic
  5. Noel Gunler
  6. Jamieson Rees
  7. Patrik Puistola
  8. Dominik Bokk
  9. Jack Drury
  10.  Anttoni Honka
  11.  Pyotr Kochetkov
  12.  Joey Keane
  13.  Morgan Geekie
  14.  Vasili Ponomaryov 
  15.  Zion Nybeck
  16.  Jeremy Bracco
  17.  Stelio Mattheos
  18.  Domenick Fensore
  19.  Alexander Pashin
  20.  Jack LaFontaine

**

@jacklegwin

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