Carolina may be a surprise to some as having the third best prospect depth in the league. This is most certainly true due to the fact the Hurricanes are not currently rebuilding and are instead a bonafide NHL contender. This is a testament to the Hurricanes and their approach to scouting and drafting.
Many of the players on this list dropped in their draft year for surprising reasons. Others are undersized, or perhaps have some flaws in their game that led teams to pick them later on. However, the Hurricanes draft model seems to involve drafting for skill above all else, a strategy that has given them the third best prospect pool in the NHL. Without further ado, here is the Carolina Hurricanes top 10 prospect list.
1. C/W Seth Jarvis 5’10 175 AHL 4-4-2-6-4
I was very high on Jarvis last season and thought he may sneak into the top 10. The Hurricanes, however, were thrilled to snag him at 13. Jarvis is a well-rounded offensive player and he does everything well. Jarvis’ release stands out the most and he can score from all angles. Due to COVID restrictions, the WHL season hasn’t started yet, but Jarvis has wasted little time in taking the AHL by storm.
He has managed four goals in four games so far as a barely 19-year-old and has looked tremendous. The WHL recently announced they will play games in March, so it is likely Jarvis will be returned for the end of the season. However, he is a likely full-time NHL player next season and projects as a top-line forward at the NHL level.
2. D Jake Bean 6’1 186 NHL 3-0-0-0-2
Bean has been in the Hurricanes’ system for a while, but has struggled to break into the main roster. This is more due to the Hurricane’s overall depth and less to do with his development. Bean is an offensive-minded defender and has shown he can put up numbers in the AHL and the WHL. Bean can quarterback a power play and possesses an excellent first pass.
While being offensively minded, Bean is more of a passer than a puck carrier and is an excellent complimentary blue-liner for a team that is excellent at keeping possession. Bean has played some NHL games, but he is unlikely to be a full-time NHLer this season. He will likely play third-pairing minutes with regularity next season. He projects as a second-pairing NHL blue-liner.
3. C Ryan Suzuki 6’1 180 AHL 4-0-2-2-0
Suzuki, a 2019 first-round pick, has improved greatly over the past few seasons. Suzuki’s skill has rarely been questioned, but there are times he has gained the reputation as a perimeter player. The Hurricanes banked on that area of his game improving, and so far it looks like an excellent decision. Suzuki has excellent hands and hockey sense. More of a playmaker than a goal-scorer, Suzuki loves drawing defenders to the outside before setting up open teammates.
Due to the OHL shutdown, Suzuki began the year in the AHL and hasn’t looked out of place. He also managed 4 points for Canada at the World Junior Championship. While improving, Suzuki still needs some overall time to develop. He is likely two seasons away and projects as a top-six forward at the NHL level.
4. W Noel Gunler 6’0 170 SWEHL 30-7-5-12-16
The Hurricanes were surprised Gunler was available in the second round last season and they were happy to snatch him up with the 41st pick. Gunler was in many scouts top-10 lists to begin the season, but dropped steadily after being labelled by some as a one-dimensional player. Yet, Gunler’s skill, in my opinion, outweighs the risk of his one-dimension. Gunler has high-end offense skill, which was on full display at the World Junior Championship this past season.
Gunler scored at an almost goal-per-game pace and his hands and tenacity on the forecheck were on full display. The distractors are quick to point out Gunler isn’t great defensively and at times can be a liability. It has also limited his minutes in Sweden’s top-league, possibly stunting his development. I’m personally a believer in his talent and believe Gunler will turn into a top-six NHL forward at the NHL level. He will need three to four years of further development, however.
5. W Dominik Bokk 6’0 179 AHL 3-0-1-1-2
Bokk has struggled this season to some extent, but in the past has shown high offensive talent and an ability to set-up plays with regularity in all situations. Bokk has been leading a resurging German youth movement and was one of the key pieces to the Justin Faulk deal between St. Louis and Carolina. Bokk has bounced around quite a bit over the past few seasons in Sweden’s top league before heading to the AHL about a month ago.
A well-rounded offensive player, Bokk can play in all situations and is an excellent complementary scorer. His biggest concern currently is consistency offensively. Bokk can disappear in moments, which is a concern for some. Bokk looks like a middle-six forward at the NHL level but will need at least two more seasons of AHL seasoning.
6. D Anttoni Honka 5’9 170 FIN 32-2-12-14-10
Honka is a boom or bust prospect who can be labeled “electric” at times. Honka, a 2019 third-round pick, is an elite skater and loves to carry the puck and attempt to drive play. This is the “boom” to Honka’s game. The “bust” is his defensive liabilities, though they are improving. Honka loves to carry the puck and contribute offensively, but at times, he becomes a liability through taking too many risks. The Hurricanes’ hope this improves with time and age, and believe the risk is worth it.
Honka has played in the top league in Finland for a few seasons now and will likely spend next year in that league as well. He is at least three years away from full-time NHL duty.
7. D Joey Keane 6’0 187 AHL 4-0-4-4-8
Keane has been a favorite of mine for the past few seasons and thought he was an excellent third-round pick for the Rangers back in 2018 before he was traded for former Hurricanes’ first-rounder Julian Gauthier. There is a lot to love about Keane’s game and he has managed to produce with high regularity in any league he has played in.
Keane is an excellent skater and excels at moving the puck up the ice quickly. At times, he looks like he can drive play and looks like an excellent complementary, offensive-minded blue-liner. Keane is close to NHL duty and could find himself competing for a full-time spot as soon as next season.
8. C Vasily Ponomarev 5’11 176 QMJHL 19-6-15-21-10
Ponomarev, a 2020 second-round pick (and another Hurricanes’ second-round steal) had an excellent World Junior championship and has had a solid season so far in the QMJHL. Ponomarev has excellent hands and solid offensive instincts, but he also looks like he has some potential as a two-way threat as well.
Ponomarev excelled in a penalty-killing role for Russia at the World Juniors, and he may find himself in that sort of secondary scoring role at the NHL level. A few questions remain about his offensive ceiling, but he looks like a middle-six forward at the NHL level. He is likely three seasons away from NHL duty.
9. W Zion Nybeck 5’7 176 SWEHL 30-1-4-5-4
Nybeck, a fourth-round pick in 2020, is small but highly skilled. At 5’7 176, he may seem like an NHL long-shot. However, his elite skater and his willingness to attack the net regardless of size, makes him a future candidate as a top-six winger at the NHL level. Nybeck’s biggest question is surrounding his size and strength.
I personally don’t see this as a huge barrier for him and believe his speed and hockey sense make him for a lack of average NHL size. Nybeck will need at least three to four years of seasoning before making the NHL. He will likely spend the next few seasons in Sweden’s top men’s league.
10. Jamieson Rees 5’11 172 AHL 4-1-1-2-2
Rees, a 2019 second-round pick, was a surprise cut from Canada’s World Junior roster this season. Yet, he has had a decent start to his AHL career with two points in four games. Rees is known for his tenacity and edge and has a physical element to his game. He is also skilled offensively, shown but his high point-per-game average in the OHL last season.
There are a few questions surrounding just what type of player he will be at the NHL level, but at worst he looks like a bottom-six player who can provide some physicality. Rees is likely two to three years away from competing for a bottom-six NHL role.