Hurricanes Top 20, Spring 2008

By Cory Lavalette

The 2007 NHL Entry Draft was kind to the Hurricanes. Carolina’s top two picks from that draft sit at first and third on the team’s Top 20 prospects list, while their fifth-rounder has developed into one of the OHL‘s top scorers. And at No. 2 sits a two-time Team USA World Juniors defenseman. The rest of the list, however, is in a state of flux, with injuries, inconsistency and underachievement all playing a role. Still, the Hurricanes’ prospect pool is deeper than it has been in some time.


Top 20 at a Glance

1. (1) Brandon Sutter, C
2. (5) Jamie McBain, D
3. (9) Drayson Bowman, C
4. (8) Casey Borer, D
5. (3) Bobby Hughes, C
6. (6) Brett Carson, D
7. (11) Kyle Lawson, D
8. (4) Harrison Reed, RW
9. (2) Justin Peters, G
10. (7) Nick Dodge, RW
11. (16) Chris Terry, C
12. (10) Daniel Manzato, G
13. (13) Kevin Nastiuk, G
14. (14) Mark Flood, D
15. (15) Justin McCrae, C
16. (NR) Jerome Samson, RW
17. (19) Stefan Chaput, C
18. (20) Jakub Petruzalek, C
19. (12) Noah Babin, D
20. (18) Nicolas Blanchard, C

 

1. (1) Brandon Sutter, F

Height: 6’3  Weight: 174  Age: 19
Acquired: 1st round, 11th overall, 2007

Despite playing on the WHL‘s Eastern Conference last-place team, Sutter solidified his status as a top prospect with his play for an inexperienced Red Deer Rebels team. Red Deer was outscored 255 to 145 this season, but Sutter was only minus-12. He led the Rebels in goals (a career-high 26) and assists (23). He was also an integral part of Canada’s World Junior Championships gold medal team, serving as the shutdown center for the squad. Next up for Sutter? The Hurricanes have begun negotiations now that his WHL season is over and and GM Jim Rutherford has said Sutter would suit up for the AHL Albany River Rats for the stretch run and playoffs.

2. (5) Jamie McBain, D

Height: 6’2  Weight: 197  Age: 20
Acquired: 2nd round, 63rd overall, 2006

For the second straight year, McBain has been a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for one of college hockey’s powerhouses. The sophomore blueliner is tied for fourth on the Badgers with 21 points, netting three goals and 18 assists. He’s also a team-best plus-11. Like Sutter, McBain also played at the World Juniors, joining Team USA for the second straight year. While he registered just one assist in six games, his play was considered solid in the tournament. Interestingly, McBain’s coach, Mike Eaves, is the father of new Hurricane Patrick Eaves.

3. (9) Drayson Bowman, C/LW

Height: 6’1  Weight: 185  Age 19
Acquired: 3rd round, 72nd overall, 2007

When Carolina selected Bowman with their second pick in last year’s draft, they knew they were getting a winger with the upside to be a scorer at the next level. But even the Hurricanes brass had to be surprised when Bowman burst out of the gate as one of the WHL’s top scorers and kept up the pace throughout the year. He is fourth in the WHL with 42 goals and his 82 points are good for 11th in scoring. The one blemish on Bowman’s resume was Team USA overlooking him for the World Juniors, but given the politics that surrounds U.S.-born players who go the CHL route rather than college, it wasn’t a surprise as much as a disappointment that Bowman was overlooked.

4. (8) Casey Borer, D

Height: 6’2  Weight: 205  Age 22
Acquired: 3rd round, 69th overall, 2004

When the Canes were desperate for help on the blueline as the calendar flipped to 2008, it was Borer they turned to for reinforcements. In his first full pro season, Borer proved in his 11-game showcase that he has a future on the Hurricanes’ back end. Borer had a goal and two assists in his time with Carolina, but more importantly held his own in the defensive zone. While Borer did suffer a few lapses in coverage, he showed a knack for timely recovery, something that is essential in the Canes’ run-and-gun system. With Bret Hedican and Glen Wesley both unrestricted free agents following this season, Borer could fill a full-time spot in Carolina as soon as next year.

5. (3) Bobby Hughes, C

Height: 5’10  Weight: 180  Age 20
Acquired: 4th round, 123 overall, 2006

At season’s start, Hughes was considered a great find by the Carolina scouting department. But just months later, his future is in doubt due to injury. Since early January, Hughes has been sidelined by a mysterious neck ailment that will likely keep him out of the River Rats’ lineup for the balance of the season. His neck injury coupled with an early season concussion has held Hughes to just 26 games, in which he scored six goals and added 10 assists. Rather than concern themselves with his development, the Hurricanes front office is surely just hoping Hughes is able to continue his hockey career. Hughes did recently practice with his teammates, offering a glimmer of hope.

6. (6) Brett Carson, D

Height: 6’4  Weight: 220  Age: 22
Acquired: 4th round, 109th overall, 2004

While Carson’s plus/minus is among the worst on the River Rats (minus-10), he’s been a contributor on Albany’s blueline. In 66 games, Carson’s collected 20 points on a goal and 19 assists. Like Carolina call-ups Tim Conboy and Wade Brookbank, Carson has also seen some work at forward this year. Already possessing an NHL body, Carson’s ability to play up front or on defense could give him a leg up on any competition he might face for an NHL job next year.

7. (11) Kyle Lawson, D

Height: 5’11  Weight: 207  Age:21
Acquired: 7th round, 198th overall, 2005

Lawson has been Notre Dame’s top blueliner this season, a tall order for a sophomore on a very good CCHA team. Teamed with freshman and fellow NHL prospect Ian Cole, Lawson has been up to the task at even strength and run the point on the power play for the Irish. While Lawson probably isn’t best suited to be point man with an extra attacker, he has managed four goals and 20 assists and a plus-11. Along with his play, Lawson has been thrust into – and accepted – a leadership role for Notre Dame. The 198th overall pick in 2005, Lawson may prove to be the best value of all of Carolina’s current draft picks.

8. (4) Harrison Reed, C/RW

Height: 6’1  Weight: 175  Age: 20
Acquired: 3rd round, 93rd overall, 2006

The Hurricanes were surely thrilled with Reed’s play last year when he scored 81 points for Sarnia. But a slow start led to him being dealt to Guelph after 28 games this season. Since the trade, Reed has eight goals and 21 assists in 41 games. While his overall numbers (14 goals and 33 assists in 69 games) are not on pace with last year’s, Reed has heated up as of late and will hopefully his play will carry over into the postseason for the Storm.

9. (2) Justin Peters, G

Height: 6’1  Weight: 213  Age: 21
Acquired: 2nd round, 38th overall, 2004

Peters still ranks as the Canes’ top goaltending prospect, but the acquisition and play of Michael Leighton in Albany led to Peters starting the season in the ECHL with Florida. Peters made the most of his time with the Everblades, being named an all-star and subsequently getting promoted to Albany to back up Leighton. After going 18-10-2 in Florida, Peters has carried his solid play to Albany, going 5-2 with a .901 save percentage and 2.96 goals against average. With Hurricanes backup John Grahame’s contract expiring and Leighton likely to take that spot, Peters should get a shot to be the main netminder with the River Rats in 2008-09.

10. (7) Nick Dodge, RW

Height: 5’10  Weight: 184  Age: 21
Acquired: 6th round, 183rd overall, 2006

Dodge was a collegiate All-American last season, and while his statistics have slipped some this year, Dodge has still solidified himself as a player who could make the NHL based on his defensive play, determination, leadership and timely scoring. As Clarkson’s captain for the second straight year, he led the Golden Knights to a 21-12-4 regular-season record and ECAC title, but an double-overtime loss to Colgate in the ECAC Tournament Quarterfinals has Dodge & Co. awaiting word on if they’ll receive an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. If Clarkson fails to get a bid, Dodge would see his college career come to an end and could join the River Rats for the rest of the season.

11. (16) Chris Terry, C

Height: 5’10  Weight: 187  Age: 18
Acquired: 5th round, 132nd overall, 2007

Like Sutter and Bowman, Terry is a 2007 selection who is showing promise for Carolina. In his third season with Plymouth, Terry has broken through and become one of the OHL‘s top scorers. Terry has doubled his goal total from last year with 44 and added 57 assists to break the 100-point barrier with 101 points, the goal and point totals both good for sixth in the league.

12. (10) Daniel Manzato, G

Height: 6’0  Weight: 178  Age: 24
Acquired: 5th round, 160th overall, 2002

With more minor league goalies than they had spots for, Manzato was loaned out to Las Vegas of the ECHL while Peters manned the net for Florida. But like Peters, Manzato’s exceptional play earned him a spot in the ECHL All-Star Game, getting credited with the win despite allowing four goals on 15 shots in a period of play. In his first pro season, the Swiss netminder is 19-5-6 with a .919 save percentage and goals against average less than 2.50 with Las Vegas. His play puts him in the thick of the competition for the mantle of top goaltending prospect in the system.

13. (13) Kevin Nastiuk, G

Height: 6’1  Weight: 170  Age 22
Acquired: 4th round, 126th overall, 2003

Nastiuk got off to a fast start this year, winning his first four starts in Albany. But a knee injury put him on the shelf and when he returned there was no room for him in the AHL. So Nastiuk was back to Florida where he played so well last season. But the combination of recovering from the injury and time off led to struggles for Nastiuk, and only recently has he said he feels back to his early-season form. With Albany and Florida, Nastiuk is a combined 8-4-2 with a 2.30 goals against average and .919 save percentage.

14. (14) Mark Flood, D

Height: 6’1  Weight: 190  Age: 23
Acquired: Via trade from Columbus, 2006

Like a lot of the River Rats’ defensemen, Flood jockeyed for a spot early in the season. But his solid play earned him top-four minutes in Albany, registering 22 points in 53 games and a plus-8. But Flood’s season came to an abrupt end Feb. 27 when a hit by Binghamton’s Jeremy Yablonski resulted in a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Flood underwent surgery and will be sidelined three to six months, meaning a return this season is highly unlikely.

15. (15) Justin McCrae, C

Height: 6’0  Weight: 182  Age: 19
Acquired: 4th round, 102nd overall, 2007

McCrae started the season as the Saskatoon Blades’ captain, but a trade early in the new year to the Spokane Chiefs put the 2007 fourth-round pick in the thick of a playoff race and alongside Bowman. McCrae made an immediate impact, scoring two goals in his Chiefs debut. In 30 games with Spokane, McCrae had eight goals and nine assists and, combined with his time in Saskatoon, 19 goals and 22 assists on the season in 65 games.

16. (NR) Jerome Samson, RW

Height: 5’11  Weight: 185  Age: 20
Acquired: Signed as a free agent

Samson has been a pleasant surprise for the River Rats. In his first professional season, Samson has scored 20 goals – second best on Albany – and added 15 assists. His 35 points are good for 14th among rookie scorers in the AHL. But a recent "lower body injury" has sidelined Samson, further depleting a River Rats’ roster ravaged by injuries and pillaged by the Hurricanes. Albany currently stands sixth in the Eastern Conference, but the Rats will need Samson and others to get healthy if they’re to make noise in the postseason.

17. (19) Stefan Chaput, C

Height: 5’11  Weight: 185  Age: 20
Acquired: 5th round, 153rd overall, 2006

Chaput has had his best season, scoring 33 goals and adding 36 assists for Lewiston, blowing away his previous high point total by more than 20. Couple that with his hard-working attitude – he received the Pat Tillman trophy at the Maineiacs awards banquet given to the team’s most inspirational player – and Chaput has made huge strides toward establishing himself as an NHL prospect.

18. (20) Jakub Petruzalek, C

Height: 5’10  Weight: 176  Age: 22
Acquired: Via trade from Rangers, 2006

In his second season with Albany, Petruzalek has improved on his numbers from last year. With 12 goals and 27 assists through 67 games, the former Rangers ninth-rounder is among the River Rats’ leading scorers with 39 points. Rats coach Tom Rowe has worked with Petruzalek to improve his defensive game, and the young Czech has responded, earning Rowe’s trust and playing quality minutes late in close games. The Rats will need Petruzalek to contribute at both ends of the ice if they plan on having postseason success.

19. (12) Noah Babin, D

Height: 6’0  Weight: 200  Age: 23
Acquired: Signed as a free agent

Babin burst on the scene last year with Albany, joining the Rats late in the season and scoring a goal and adding six assists in just 11 games after finishing his career with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Discovered by now-assistant GM Ron Francis, Babin was quickly becoming Francis’ first big success as an executive. But Babin’s first full pro season has been quite different from his late-season showcase in 2006-07. Sometimes injured and sometimes a healthy scratch, Babin has just four assists in 44 games. He played some forward in an effort by the coaching staff to help him regain his confidence, but the growing pains have been hard to overcome. Still, Babin has regained a spot in the River Rats’ defensive rotation and the Canes are hopeful he can regain the confidence that made his debut so promising.

20. (18) Nicolas Blanchard, C

Height: 6’3  Weight: 190  Age: 20
Acquired: 6th round, 192nd overall, 2005

A late-round selection in 2005, Blanchard gives the Canes some size and grit in their prospect ranks. He has managed just six goals and nine assists in 53 games of his first pro season, but he’s shown a willingness to finish his checks and will occasionally drop the gloves, fighting five times this year. If Blanchard is to make the NHL, it will be as an energy player who can provide a physical presence with his big frame.