Despite five straight years without a postseason bid, the Carolina Hurricanes do have some light at the end of the tunnel. The team's NHL roster boasted several players 25 or younger, plus several of Carolina's junior and collegiate prospects had good seasons.
McGinn had a monster year in the Ontario Hockey League, finishing with 85 points – including 43 goals – in just 58 regular season games while being considered one of the hardest working players in the league.
Even if McGinn can not translate his scoring to the pro level – four of his Storm teammates had equally spectacular statistical seasons – he plays a hard-hitting style that will get him to the NHL even if his offense is not as dynamic as it is been in 2013-14.
Most Improved: Jaccob Slavin, D, Colorado College Tigers (NCHC)
Slavin made the leap to the NCAA and did not miss a beat, earning a spot on College Hockey News' all-rookie team. Slavin finished the season with five goals and 20 assists in 32 games for the 7-24-6 Tigers. Throw in a spot on Team USA's entry at the World Junior Championships and you have a great freshman year out of the rangy 2012 fourth-round pick.
Murphy split time between Raleigh and Charlotte, unable to earn a full-time job with the Hurricanes despite the team's power play struggles. But do not give up on Murphy yet, he was better than expected in his own end, including making several nice hip checks during his time with Carolina, and is still just 21 years old.
Fastest Skater: Ryan Murphy, D, Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Murphy is one of the most dynamic skaters to slip on a Hurricanes jersey, and that is saying a lot considering Bret Hedican won a Stanley Cup in Carolina. Murphy combines speed and moves with deft stick-handling, making him an end-to-end threat every shift.
Hardest Shot: Trevor Carrick, D, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
Sudbury paid a lot to get Carrick from Mississauga ahead of the OHL trade deadline, but the Wolves still fell short to Barrie in round one of the playoffs. A big reason Sudbury acquired Carrick was the point shot by possesses, which was ranked among the best by league coaches each of the last two seasons. It is no surprise he finished with 22 regular season goals this year.
Overachiever: Brody Sutter, C, Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Sutter made the full-time jump to the AHL, and the 2011 seventh-round pick continued to improve in his second professional season. Sutter will never be a big-time scorer – he had a modest seven goals and 20 assists in 69 games with the Checkers this year – but his 6'5, 200-plus pound frame makes him a valuable asset. Do not be surprised if he is centering Carolina's fourth line in the future.
Olson started his second season at Ohio State in the fall, but did not last long. After just 11 career games with the Buckeyes, including two subpar performances to start the 2013-14 season, Olson decided he would transfer out of Columbus and returned to the USHL to continue playing while he sits out a year before finding a new NCAA home. He player well with the Sioux City Musketeers, but the most important thing is for him to face better competition.
Highest Risk/Reward: Sergey Tolchinsky, LW, Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
The diminutive Tolchinsky joined the Checkers after finishing a great season with the Soo Greyhounds (31 goals and 91 points in 66 games) and will now embark on his professional career. The undrafted winger, who was signed after having an impressive prospect camp with Carolina last summer, has great hands and slick moves but will need to prove he can handle the rigors of the pro game despite being just 5'8 and 163 pounds.
Hardest Worker: Brock McGinn, LW, Guelph Storm (OHL)
The OHL's Western Conference coaches considered McGinn both the second-smartest and second-hardest working player they saw in 2013-14, two traits that catapulted him to the top 10 in goals in the league. That also translated to wins for Guelph, who won their conference and are amidst a deep run in the playoffs. That starts with McGinn, who hits everything that moves and makes his own luck on the ice with an honest effort every night.
Breakout Player: Jaccob Slavin, D, Colorado College Tigers (NCHC)
As mentioned above, Slavin had no issues stepping up a level in competition and should take on an even bigger role with Colorado College in 2014-15.