The Carolina Hurricanes made the Eastern Conference Finals last season, ultimately falling to the Boston Bruins but they have indeed arrived. They feature a balanced attack, a defense corps that ranks among the best in the NHL and goaltending, that although can be shaky, can get hot at times. Let’s jump right in.
It starts with their dynamite top line of Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. Svechnikov has established himself as one of the rising stars of the NHL. After a dynamite rookie season where he scored 20 goals in 82 games, Svechnikov scored 24 in 68 this year and it was beginning to look like he just might be able to scratch 30 if the season hadn’t been stopped. You may remember him from how mich they showed his lacrosse goal this season on highlight reels. He’s only 20 years old and one of Carolina’s most skillful forwards. Svechnikov ranked 3rd in points on the team this year with 61.
Teravainen, who was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks a few seasons ago, has blossomed in Carolina. Teravainen was a 30-40 point forward in Chicago but has since turned into a 60-70 point player in Carolina with the potential for 80 if things fall right for him. He’s only 25 years old and had 63 points this season which was good enough for 2nd on the Hurricanes in points.
Finally, we get to Sebastian Aho. He drives that top line and has turned himself into the Hurricane’s number one center. Aho, who was drafted 35th overall in 2015, has become one of the premier forwards in the NHL. Aho is the centerpiece of the Hurricanes offense and will looks to continue to lead their top line and forward corps at the play in/playoffs continue. Aho, Teravainen and Svechnikov thrive off each other. Aho became an 80 point guy last year so look for him to continue his ascension. He’s only 22 years old.
The Hurricanes powerful top line isn’t the only thing going for them. The other members of their forward corps are nothing to laugh at. Nino Niederreiter, a speedy winger with good hands who the Hurricanes acquired from the Minnesota Wild has proven to be quite the acquisition for the Hurricanes and he provides nice secondary scoring. Prized rookie Martin Necas will also look to make a bigger impact as his NHL career grows. Vincent Trocheck, acquired from the Florida Panthers, slots in just below Aho to form a deadly one-two center punch. Jordan Staal, while not the player he once was, is still a very solid dependable center as well. Justin Williams, Ryan Dzingel and Warren Foegele round out the forward corps but one wild card is youngster Morgan Geekie. Geekie, 21, scored four points, including two goals, in two games before the season pause. He could provide some nice secondary scoring. Here’s a preview of their forward lines for the play in/playoffs:
Andrei Svechnikov – Sebastian Aho – Teuvo Teravainen
Nino Niederreiter – Vincent Trocheck – Martin Necas
Brock McGinn – Jordan Staal – Justin Williams
Ryan Dzingel – Morgan Geekie – Warren Foegele
This is where the Hurricanes biggest strength lies. They have one of the top defense corps in the National Hockey League and for the play in round, they get their best defenseman back from injury making them even more deadly. The Hurricanes are bringing 10 defensemen with them to the play in tournament. Those include: Dougie Hamilton (who had 40 points in 47 games before an injury), Joel Edmundson (former Stanley Cup Champion), Haydn Fleury (promising rookie), Jake Gardiner (talented offensive dman they acquired in the offseason), Jake Bean (one of the best defenseman in the AHL), Brett Pesce (who may not play due to injury but is one of the most underrated dmen in the entire league), Brady Skjei (acquired from the Rangers for a first round pick for depth), Jaccob Slavin (one of the best young dmen in the league), Trevor van Riemsdyk (a great depth guy) and Sami Vatanen (acquired from the NJ Devils for depth).
We can count Pesce and possibly even Vatanen out, even if the latter did skate with the team in July so far. Which leaves eight guys fighting for six spots on the blueline. This is a good problem to have as the Hurricanes will get the best of the best out of their defenseman as the battle to make the team rages on in training camp. My prediction is that Hamiton, Edmundson, Slavin, Bean, Gardiner and Skjei will make the team with Fleury and Vatanen serving as injury replacements.
Hamilton was on the way to his first Norris trophy season and it will be great to see what he can bring to the table during some playoff action. Edmundson has won a cup and knows what it takes to get there. Bean was one of the best defenseman in the AHL and could be a spark on the Hurricanes defense to give them yet another weapon. Gardiner has great offensive instincts, he just needs to cut down on the mistakes and Brady Skjei will make a good second or third pairing guy as long as he can cut down on the mistakes. The Hurricanes defense will be a challenge for any team to get by. Here is a preview of their defense pairings:
Jaccob Slavin – Dougie Hamilton
Joel Edmundson – Jake Bean
Brady Skjei – Jake Gardiner
This is where the Hurricanes falter a bit. They have serviceable goaltending but none of them are the most consistent. Petr Mrazek can steal a game here and there but isn’t the most consistent. James Reimer is cut from the same cloth, he’s reliable sometimes but other times he can be a trainwreck. Alex Nedeljkovic will be joining the team and the rookie has shown great flashes of potential but nothing too consistent so far at the NHL level. Anton Forsberg rounds out their goaltending depth but he’s nothing more than a backup at this point. Who starts is anyone’s guess but at the end of the day, look for Mrazek to start with Nedeljkovic backing him up.
Armed with a balanced attack that features a deadly top line, a defense corps that ranks among the best in the league and goaltending, that although shaky can steal a game here and there, makes the Hurricanes one of the most intriguing teams in the play in/playoffs. Will they get back to the Eastern Conference Finals? Time will tell.