The Carolina Hurricanes have hopes of adding another banner to the rafters this season. Free use photo from Amy Meredith on Flickr.

So far, we have looked at all the teams in the Atlantic Division and the team we project to finish at the top of the Metro Division, the Washington Capitals. In Part 2 of our series previewing the Metro Division, we look at my second ranked team in the division, the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes were the surprise of the NHL in many ways last season. After years of being a high shot generation and possession team yet missing the playoffs, the Hurricanes were often used as an example of how “analytics are not working.” However, after new coach Rod Brind’Amour took over last year, the Hurricanes continued to dominate in those categories and also find a way to make the postseason. Defeating the Capitals in Round 1 was huge for the franchise, and they look like a team destined for long-term success, especially with the young pieces they have put together.

Eric Tulsky, the analytics genius behind much of the Hurricanes success, very clearly has a voice in the decisions made by the Hurricanes front office. Not only did the Hurricanes make some shrewd deals, but they also had the cap space to trade for and then buy-out overpaid veteran Patrick Marleau in exchange for a first round pick. The Hurricanes as a whole are an entertaining team to watch for this season (even if they don’t continue their “storm surge” celebrations). Let’s take a look at the 2019-2020 Hurricanes’ roster.

Goalies

  1. Petr Mrazek
  2. James Reimer
  3. Anton Forsberg
  4. Alex Nedeljkovic
  5. Jeremy Helvig

Petr Mrazek returns as the incumbent starter for the Hurricanes. Mrazek was a cheap free agent signing last summer, and he regained some of the form he seemed to have lost playing for bottom dweller Detroit. Mrazek is one of the smallest goalies in the league, but he makes up for it in athleticism. He challenges shooters well and plays very aggressively. The Canes re-signed him this summer, still to a reasonable contract. One of the biggest detriments to the Hurricanes in the past was their lack of goaltending depth and talent. The Canes brass hopes that Mrazek can provide average to above average goaltending again this season.

James Reimer comes in as the backup. Acquired in return for failed Hurricanes’ starter Scott Darling (who was immediately bought out by the Panthers), Reimer has had past success for both the Panthers and Leafs. However, last year was a struggle. The Canes are hoping he can somewhat return to form in a support role for Mrazek. Forsberg could also compete for a backup position if Reimer falters. Forsberg has played NHL games and doesn’t have much left to prove at the AHL level. He may be the result of a numbers game however and could start the year in the AHL unless he is plucked off waivers by another team.

Alex Nedeljkovic won the Calder Cup in the AHL for Charlotte (the Canes’ affiliate) and was excellent. He, like Mrazek, is small in stature, and that has some scouts concerned. However, he has shown an ability to win games and be counted on for big saves in key times. He is unlikely to compete this season for a roster spot, but he is a prospect to keep an eye on. Overall, the Canes need this group to provide average goaltending in order for them to be a playoff team. With this tandem, it is a very likely possibility.

Defense

  1. Jacob Slavin
  2. Dougie Hamilton
  3. Brett Pesce
  4. Jake Gardiner
  5. Justin Faulk
  6. Trevor Van Riemsdyk
  7. Gustav Forsling
  8. Hayden Fleury
  9. Jake Bean
  10. Rolland McKeown
  11. Kyle Wood
  12. Jesper Sellgren

The Hurricanes boast one of the best defensive cores in the league, and it just got better. Jacob Slavin is one of the most underrated defenders in the game. He is an excellent two-way defender who rarely makes mistakes. He returns as the top minute guy. Dougie Hamilton played mostly second pairing minutes last season, but dominated on the power play and in the offensive zone. He is a strong possession player and managed to score 18 goals last season. Brett Pesce is the perfect modern day defensive defenseman. He is a great skater and makes few mistakes in his own zone. He returns as a top four.

Newly signed Jake Gardiner, though prone to defensive gaffs at times, brings a strong offensive element to the Canes. Gardiner is an elite skater and loves to rush the puck. He will have opportunity to do this with lots of defensive minded defenders to play with. Justin Faulk has been in trade rumors for a while, and the Canes may unload him at some point this season. However, he too is a still a solid offensive minded defenseman who could easily play a top four role. Faulk scored 11 goals last season and can contribute offensively. Rounding out the top six is Trevor Van Riemsdyk. Also a great skater, Van Riemsdyk plays a solid two-way game and provides strong stability to the Canes’ third pairing.

The Canes have the deepest top six in the NHL, and there are no question marks. There isn’t even room for competition from other players. Forsling and Fleury will likely fight for the seventh defenseman role unless Faulk is traded. Both players are capable NHL players, though in the case of Fleury, more development is likely needed. Jake Bean, a top strong defensive prospect, may get a look at some point in the season if injuries occur. He is an offensive minded blue-line with upside. At the end of the day, the Canes boast a solid group of defenders who will once again help them maintain dominant standing in the Metro.

Forwards

LW C RW
1. Teuvo Teravainen 1. Sebastian Aho 1. Nino Niederreiter
2. Ryan Dzingel 2. Jordan Staal 2. Andrei Svechnikov
3. Warren Foegele 3. Eric Haula 3. Martin Necas
4. Brock McGinn 4. Lucas Wallmark 4. Jordan Martinook
5. Janne Kuokkanen 5. Clark Bishop 5. Brian Gibbons
6. Stelio Mattheos 6. Morgan Geekie 6. Julian Gauthier

The Canes’ forward core has a strong mix of veterans and youth who have yet to meet their full potential. Center Sebastian Aho just signed a five year contract and returns as the team’s best forward. Aho was a point-per-game player, and the sky seems the limit for him offensively. He is a dominant two-way center and is reaching elite status in the NHL. Fellow Fin Teuvo Teravainen showed last year he is a first-line winger at the NHL level. Look for him to produce around 70 points once again.

Andrei Svechnikov had a successful rookie season, even if his numbers weren’t as high as expected. Svechnikov is a shot generating machine, and if he continues on that trend, 30 goals isn’t out of the question. Niederreiter, acquired from Minnesota for basically nothing last season, looked like the Nino of old in a scoring role on the Canes. Nino plays a strong two-way game and can score goals. He should be good for 20-25 this season. Veteran Ryan Dzingel signed for two seasons and brings strong two-way play as well. At this point in his career, he is a perrenial 20 goal guy and should do so again. Jordan Staal has been one of the league’s best defensive centers for a decade now. Unless more injuries hit, Staal should continue to dominate defensively.

Skilled rookie Martin Necas should crack the roster and play a second or third-line role. Necas played in the AHL as a 19 year-old and was highly successful. He should help the Canes’ power play and scoring depth. Newly acquired Haula brings lightning fast speed and penalty killing ability the team. He was injured for most of last year and was acquired in yet another salary dump, but the Canes believe he will solidify the third-line center position. Foegele, McGinn, and Martinook will round out the bottom six forwards. Foegele has the highest upside, as shown by his production in the playoffs. Overall, this group is deep and able to produce. Look for many of the Canes’ forwards to have career seasons and for young stars to continue their progression.

Bottom Line

The Hurricanes have very much become the team to watch in the Eastern Conference and the Metro Division. They are a young and exciting team with depth at all positions. As long the goaltending holds up, expect the Canes to be both a regular season and playoff contender in 2019-2020.