Thursday, August 22, 2019

Carolina Hurricanes 2018-19 season preview



       Going to the playoffs in the NHL means nothing if you can't win when you get there. The Carolina Hurricanes don't make it to the playoffs often, they've made it just five times in the 21st century, but when they qualify, they make it count. They made the Conference Finals in 2018-19, their first time in the playoffs since 2008-09, which was the longest drought in the NHL. When they did make it in '09, they made it to the Conference Finals. The time before that was in 2006, when they won the Stanley Cup. Before that, they lost in the Cup finals in 2002. And in 2001, they made it to the second round. In the 21 year history of the Hurricanes, they have never lost in the first round. Their problem is getting there. They have a good chance of making the playoffs in 2019-20, but they have made the playoffs in consecutive seasons once.

         Additions: Ryan Dzingel, Erik Haula, James Reimer, Gustav Forsling, Anton Forsberg, Brian Gibbons, Chase Priskie

         Subtractions: Michael Ferland, Calvin de Haan, Curtis McElhinney, Greg McKegg, Scott Darling, Adam Fox

         Forwards
Sebastian Aho became the first player since Ryan O'Reilly in 2013 to be offer sheeted, as Montreal offered Aho a five year, front loaded, $42 million contract, which he accepted. Carolina quickly matched. It was a no-brainer. A $8.454 million cap hit for a player coming off a 30 goal, 83 point season is way worth it. Aho finished 10th in Hart voting and 12th in Selke. Teuvo Teravainen has gotten better in every season, especially since a trade from Chicago. He had a career high 76 points last year. Nino Niederreiter had just nine goals and 23 points in 46 games for the Wild when they traded him to Carolina for Victor Rask. After the trade, Niederreiter scored 14 goals with 30 points in 36 games. Rask had three points in 23 games for Minnesota, and his contract is looking terrible. Niederreiter would have had his best season by far on an 82 game pace for the Canes. While Justin Williams and his 53 points remain unsigned as a UFA, there is still a very good chance he returns to Carolina. The Canes could use Williams. They have a strong core of left wingers but their right wingers are lacking. They'd be playing multiple lefties on their off wing. Michael Ferland left, but they replaced him by getting a better player for less money. Ryan Dzingel had a career season in 2018-19, with 26 goals and 30 assists. But he didn't fit in well in Columbus after a trade deadline deal from Ottawa. The second overall selection in 2018, Andrei Svechnikov, had an underrated age 18 season, scoring 20 goals, though he only finished 7th in Calder voting. Jordan Staal got Selke votes for the 11th time in his 13 year career, but he only played in 50 games, amounting to 28 points, breaking a three year 45 points streak. Erik Haula comes from Vegas, where a gruesome injury ended his 2018-19 season after 15 games. He broke out in 2017-18, with 29 goals and 55 points. In his first season in Carolina, Jordan Martinook scored a career high 15 goals. Lucas Wallmark played in just 19 games entering 2018-19, but missed just one regular season game last year, scoring 10 goals with 28 points. Brock McGinn scored 10 goals after a 16 goal season, but was a +10, and averaged over two minutes on the penalty kill a game. He led Carolina forwards in that category. Warren Foegele scored two goals in two games in 2017-18, and earned himself a 2018-19 opportunity, scoring 10 goals in 77 games. Saku Maenalanen scored four goals in 34 games in a depth role.

           Defensemen
The Hurricanes have a crop of young defensemen. Dougie Hamilton scored double digit goals for the fifth consecutive season, with a career high of 18. He lead Carolina defensemen with 39 points. Hamilton probably isn't their best defenseman. Jaccob Slavin's eight goals and 31 points aren't special, but he is an amazing defender, getting Norris votes. He averaged over 23 minutes a night. Justin Faulk could be trade bait. He scored 11 goals and 35 points last year, but he has regressed as he has hit his prime. Brett Pesce had a career high 29 points, averaged 20:29 a night, and was a +35. He finished 18th in Norris voting. The main issue with the Canes is that Pesce, Faulk and Hamilton are all right handers, and so is Trevor van Riemsdyk. The Canes don't have a great option as a lefty. Haydn Fleury will likely jump in. After playing in 67 games in 2017-18, Fleury played in just 20 last year, recording one assist, averaging 12:32 minutes. The team did trade Calvin de Haan, so they trust Fleury. Gustav Forsling, acquired for de Haan, could be an option to step in.

            Goalies
Petr Mrazek re-signed, which was monumental for Carolina. Mrazek got his career back on track, with a .914 SV% and 2.39 GAA after a rough two year stretch in Detroit and Philly. Curtis McElhinney left for Tampa Bay, but the team traded Scott Darling for James Reimer. Reimer has had good seasons and bad seasons in his career, and the last two have been bad. He had a .900 SV% and a 3.09 GAA for Florida last year. Alex Nedeljkovic has played in two NHL games, and has been impressive in both of them. In the AHL last year, he had a 2.26 GAA and .916 SV%. He will compete with Reimer for the backup role.

            Deep Depths
Clark Bishop debuted in a depth role, with three points in 20 games. Due to many injuries, he got to play in two playoff games. Brian Gibbons scored 29 points in 56 games for the Devils in 2017-18. He struggled last year in Anaheim but after a trade to Ottawa he had 14 points in 20 games. Anton Forsberg, a goalie that was a part of the de Haan trade, has a 3.21 GAA with a .901 V% inn 45 career NHL games. He had a 2.64 GAA and .919 SV% in the AHL last year. Max McCormick has 10 points in 71 career NHL games.

            Up and Coming
Martin Necas, drafted 12th overall in 2017, had a goal in seven NHL games last year. He had 52 points in 62 games in the AHL last year. Carolina's two first rounders in 2016, Jake Bean and Julien Gauthier, have combined for two NHL games, both coming from Bean. He had 44 points in 70 AHL games. Gauthier scored 27 goals in 75 AHL games. Both should be starters by 2020-21. Janne Kuokkanen, a 2016 second rounder, has 11 scoreless NHL games of experience. He has 78 points in 108 AHL games.

             2019 draft class
Round 1, 28th overall: Ryan Suzuki
Round 2, 36th overall: Pyotr Kochetkov
Round 2, 44th overall: Jamieson Rees
Round 3, 73rd overall: Patrick Puistola
Round 3, 83rd overall: Anttoni Honka
Round 3, 90th overall: Domenick Fensore
Round 4, 99th overall: Cade Webber
Round 4, 121st overall: Tuuka Tieksola
Round 5, 152nd overall: Kirill Slepets
Round 6, 181st overall: Kevin Wall
Round 6, 183rd overall: Blake Murray
Round 7, 216th overall: Massimo Rizzo

              Management
Under all new owner Tom Dundon, the Canes got a new GM and Head Coach, while firing Ron Francis and Bill Peters. While Peters was a Jack Adams contender in Calgary, and Francis will be running the Seattle expansion franchise, the Hurricanes are happy with how it turned out. Former Carolina great Rod Brind'Amour became Head Coach, and was an instant success. Like Peters, he was a Jack Adams contender, but not a finalist. New GM Don Waddell was a finalist for the GM of the Year award.

              Projected lineup
Andrei Svechnikov - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Ryan Dzingel - Jordan Staal - Nino Niederreiter
Warren Foegele - Erik Haula - Brock McGinn
Martin Necas - Lucas Wallmark - Jordan Martinook
Extras: Brian Gibbons, Clark Bishop, Saku Maenalanen

               Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
               Brett Pesce - Justin Faulk
               Haydn Fleury - Trevor van Riemsdyk
Extras: Jake Bean, Gustav Forsling

                           Petr Mrazek
                           James Reimer
Extras: Alex Nedeljkovic, Anton Forsberg

                Prediction
The Hurricanes are a good team, but their history shows inconsistency and inability to make the playoffs. I predict they'll finish 5th in the Metropolitan Division, but still make the playoffs, potentially in a tie.

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