The Carolina Hurricanes have eight CHL prospects, and the high-end players have stepped to the forefront. All but one of the Hurricanes’ junior players qualified for the postseason.
Drayson Bowman, LW — Spokane Chiefs
Acquired: 3rd round, 72nd overall, 2007
No Hurricanes prospect scored more than the 47 regular season goals Bowman registered this season, five better than his output last season. His 83 points (in just 62 games) are a career high, as are the 107 penalty minutes he accumulated this season, second most on the Chiefs.
Unlike last season, Team USA made him a part of the country’s World Junior Championship team. While the United States struggled in the tournament, Bowman held his own, scoring three goals and adding an assist in six games.
The Chiefs are again in the WHL playoffs, a year after winning the Memorial Cup, and Bowman will need to again be Spokane’s No. 1 scoring option if they are to repeat.
Bowman was twice named the CHL player of the week, winning the honor for the weeks ending Feb. 3 and March 17.
Zach Boychuk, C — Lethbridge Hurricanes
Acquired: 1st round, 14th overall, 2008
Boychuk opened his season injured with the Hurricanes, but in Raleigh rather than Lethbridge. Once healthy enough to play, Boychuk got a two-game audition in the NHL before being returned to the WHL’s Hurricanes. That experience was just the beginning of a very eventful season for the Canes’ most recent first-rounder.
The wrist injury that kept him out of full-contact drills in camp and preseason games seemingly slowed Boychuk when he returned. He then joined Canada at the World Juniors, contributing four goals and three assists in seven games for the gold medal-winning team. But again Boychuk was derailed by injury, suffering an ankle injury during the tournament that didn’t keep him out any games at the WJCs, but clearly hurt his game during the remainder of the championships and beyond.
Boychuk finished the season with 28 goals and 29 assists in 43 games and already has five goals in four playoff games.
Justin McCrae, C — Spokane Chiefs
Acquired: 4th round, 102nd overall, 2007
McCrae was a key acquisition for Spokane last season on their way to the Memorial Cup, providing leadership and determination to a team loaded with skill. When McCrae missed a big part of the season due to a hyperextended knee, the Chiefs held their own while waiting for their captain to return. And now that Spokane is back in the postseason, the team will surely look at McCrae to again provide the intangibles that helped them win a CHL championship last season.
In 37 regular season games, McCrae had seven goals and seven assists. In the playoffs, he has three points in four games.
Brett Bellemore, D — Plymouth Whalers
Acquired: 6th round, 162nd overall, 2007
Bellemore started the season with Albany, the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate. But a back injury limited the big defenseman to just six games with the River Rats, and in early January Carolina reassigned him to Plymouth as an overager with the Whalers, where he had played his entire junior career.
While Bellemore’s first pro season didn’t go as planned, he did get healthy in Plymouth and regained his form, even being named the OHL’s top defensive defenseman in a poll of league coaches.
Bellemore had no points with Albany, but managed two goals and 10 assists in 29 regular season games in 29 games with Plymouth. In the OHL playoffs, he’s scoreless and +2.
Michal Jordan, D — Plymouth Whalers
Acquired: 4th round, 105th overall, 2008
Jordan’s first full season in Plymouth went well. He led all defensemen on the team in goals (12) and points (42), ranking in the top 15 in the league in both categories.
A puck-moving blueliner with good size, Jordan played for the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championships, registering an assist in six games. Like Bellemore, he is in the postseason with the Whalers.
He has just two assists in four games in the playoffs, where Plymouth leads Sarnia three games to one.
Mike Murphy, G — Belleville Bulls
Acquired: 6th round, 165th overall, 2008
Too small. Too unconventional. Too good.
Say what you want about Murphy, but all he does is win. For the second straight year, Murphy was clearly the OHL’s top netminder, going 40-9-4 with a gaudy .941 save percentage and paltry 2.08 goals-against average. Even at the Hurricanes’ prospect and training camps, Murphy opened eyes with his acrobatic saves and never-give-up style. He was the OHL’s goalie of the month for November and December, and CHL goalie of the week for the week ending Nov. 4.
In the OHL playoffs, Murphy has a 3-2 record with a .928 save percentage and 2.00 goals against.
Chris Terry, LW — Plymouth Whalers
Acquired: 5th round, 132nd overall, 2007
Prior to the 2007-08 season, many wondered if Plymouth would be able to function without stars James Neal, Evan Brophey and Dan Collins. Enter Terry, the team’s top returning scorer. Last season, the left winger doubled his goal total and added 35 to his 2006-07 points to finish with 101 points (44 goals, 57 assists) in 68 games. He followed it up with 39 goals, 55 assists and 94 points in just 53 games this year — the second straight year he had more than 25 points over the Whalers’ No. 2 point producer.
His 94 points were second only to phenom John Tavares’ 104 in the league, and he finished third in the OHL coaches poll in the category “Most Dangerous in Goal Area,” behind Tavares and Sarnia’s Justin DiBenedetto. Terry was also OHL player of the month twice, in December and February.
Terry has seven points in four games in the OHL playoffs.
Samuel Morneau, LW — Val d’Or Foreurs
Acquired: 7th round, 195th overall, 2008
Morneau is the Canes’ only QMJHL prospect and lone CHLer not playing in the postseason. Morneau put up good numbers this season on a bad team, finishing with 25 goals and 29 assists in 64 games for Val d’Or (tied for the league’s worst record at 19-41-3-5). His 54 points were 12 better than he had with Baie-Comeau last season. His 81 penalty minutes this season were only three shy of the team lead.