The one place the Carolina Hurricanes have benefited from five seasons out of the postseason is in the prospect department. Carolina has selected in the top 12 in four of the last five drafts, giving them a core of solid young players on which to rebuild the franchise and return to the playoffs.
Some of those top picks, like Elias Lindholm and Ryan Murphy, are close to contributing full-time at the NHL level. The team’s latest top pick, defenseman Haydn Fleury, will get a look at training camp but will likely return to junior hockey for the 2014-15 season.
1. (1) Elias Lindholm, C/W, 7.5B
Drafted 1st round, 5th overall, 2013
Lindholm was one of six 2013 draft picks to spend the majority of last season in the NHL, finishing with nine goals and 12 assists in 58 games. It was not an overwhelmingly strong campaign for Lindholm, who at times looked over-matched playing in the NHL, but there were flashes of what could come from the former fifth overall pick. Lindholm was productive on the powerplay when given the opportunity and his two-way play was as advertised. He should take on an even bigger role in 2014-15.
2. (NR) Haydn Fleury, D, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 7th overall, 2014
Carolina is hoping Fleury can become the first bona fide number one defenseman the team has had since moving from Hartford. He brings a combination of size, speed and smarts to the blue line that the Hurricanes think will translate into a franchise defender. Some question Fleury’s offensive upside, but he was still the consensus second best defender in the draft behind first overall pick Aaron Ekblad (FLA) and will be given time to develop — something that has not necessarily been given to the team’s recent top picks.
3. (2) Ryan Murphy, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 12th overall, 2011
Murphy was expected to play a major role in 2013-14, but he instead bounced between the Hurricanes and AHL’s Checkers. While his impact was limited with Carolina (two goals, 10 assists in 48 games), he was often the best player on the ice during his 22-game run with Charlotte. Murphy is still only 21 years old, so it is not time to panic about his future. He will, however, need to find a full-time role under new coach Bill Peters, particularly on the powerplay, if he is going to turn a corner in his development.
4. (NR) Alex Nedeljkovic, G, 8.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 37th overall, 2014
The Hurricanes needed to add goaltending depth, and no one knew more about the Plymouth goaltender than new Carolina assistant GM Mike Vellucci, Nedeljkovic’s coach with the Whalers the past two seasons. Nedeljkovic was the third goaltender taken in the draft — all within four picks near the beginning of the second round — but many considered him the best available netminder in the 2014 class.
Nedeljkovic was OHL Goaltender of the Year for 2013-14, carrying Plymouth to the postseason. He also had international success playing for Team USA. With their NHL tandem signed for the next two seasons and prospect Daniel Altshuller set to start his pro career this coming season, the team can afford to be patient with Nedeljkovic.
5. (3) Brock McGinn, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 47th overall, 2012
McGinn will begin his professional career in 2014-15, giving him a chance to forge his own path without successful Guelph teammates Scott Kosmachuk (WIN), Robby Fabbri (STL) and Zack Mitchell (MIN), and also make a name for himself rather than being the younger brother of Jamie (an established NHL forward with Colorado) and Tye (36 NHL games in three pro seasons with the Sharks). The latest McGinn to turn pro has garnered attention for his combination of gritty play and scoring acumen (combined 71 goals and 68 assists the past two OHL seasons), attributes Carolina has lacked in its entire system in recent years. McGinn could find his way in the NHL this season, but the best path for the small but fiesty forward might be to test the waters in the AHL first.
6. (4) Victor Rask, C, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 42nd overall, 2011
Rask got off to a slow start in his first professional season, but the Swedish forward was strong down the stretch for Charlotte, finishing with 16 goals and 23 assists in 76 games for the Checkers. He was the only Charlotte player to dress in all 76 of the team’s games in 2013-14, and he should take on a bigger role in his second professional season.
7. (6) Daniel Altshuller, G, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 69th overall, 2012
One of two goalies taken by Carolina in the 2012 draft, Altshuller won a combined 67 games the past two seasons for the Oshawa Generals as one of the OHL’s top goaltenders. Altshuller will compete with veterans Drew MacIntyre and John Muse for a spot with the Checkers, but might be best suited being the number one goalie with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades and getting in as many games in his first professional season as possible.
8. (5) Jaccob Slavin, D, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 120th overall, 2012
The Hurricanes had to wait a year to see Slavin against better competition, but the defenseman’s freshman year at Colorado College proved he was ready to make the leap. Slavin led the Tigers in scoring (five goals, 20 assists) and was NCHC Rookie of the Year. He also represented Team USA at the World Junior Championships, playing in five games and registering a goal and an assist.
9. (8) Trevor Carrick, D, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 115th overall, 2012
Carrick heads into his professional career with a pedigree as a high-scoring OHL defenseman. Carrick split the 2013-14 seasons between Mississauga and Sudbury, combining for 22 goals and 29 assists in 70 regular season games. Carolina is hopeful Carrick can bring more blue line scoring to the Checkers this coming season, with Michal Jordan’s 25 points the most of any returning defender.
10. (7) Brett Pesce, D, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 66th overall, 2013
Pesce continues to develop at the University of New Hampshire, where he notched seven goals and 14 assists in 41 games as a sophomore in 2013-14. Those numbers were a big improvement over his freshman campaign, when he managed just six points for the Wildcats.
11. (NR) Warren Foegele, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2014
Foegele is a bit of a wild card, having never played a season of junior or college hockey before being drafted by Carolina this past summer. He is set to join Pesce at UNH this fall, where he will undoubtedly face the toughest competition of his career. Foegele will likely get a chance to contribute as a freshman with the Wildcats, but coach Dick Umile is known for easing in his newcomers and could take that tact with Foegele.
12. (14) Sergey Tolchinsky, LW, 7.0D
Signed as a free agent, 2013
Tolchinsky justified Carolina’s decision to sign him as a free agent last summer by putting together another solid season with the Soo Greyhounds, finishing with 31 goals and 60 assists in 66 games of his second OHL campaign. Unless Tolchinky earns his way on to the Carolina roster — he is a big long shot, but do not completely rule him out — he will be back with the Greyhounds for 2014-15.
13. (9) Phil Di Giuseppe, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 38th overall, 2012
Di Giuseppe passed on his senior year at Michigan, instead opting to start his professional career after the Wolverines failed to make the NCAA Tournament last spring. A streaky scorer, Di Giuseppe notched 33 goals in 105 games in Ann Arbor, and he will have to score as a pro if he is going to move up the ladder in the Hurricanes organization.
14. (10) Keegan Lowe, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 73rd overall, 2011
Lowe carved out a full-time role in Charlotte in his first pro season, finishing with 12 points and a Charlotte rookie record 86 penalty minutes in 2013-14. The son of Kevin Lowe, a current Oilers executive and member of Edmonton’s 1980s dynasty, Lowe will again be one of the younger defensemen on the Checkers this season, but should get the opportunity to play an even bigger role.
15. (11) Danny Biega, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2010
Biega completed his first professional season as a mainstay on the Charlotte blue line, finishing with three goals and 15 assists in 65 games. Biega often logged big minutes for the Checkers in 2013-14, and should again see a substantial role with the Hurricanes’ top affiliate this coming season.
16. (NR) Lucas Wallmark, C, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 97th overall, 2014
Passed over in 2013, Wallmark was nabbed by Carolina at this summer’s draft. Wallmark is a two-way center who has seen significant time with Sweden’s junior team and also played the majority of 2013-14 in the SHL, registering three goals and seven assists in 41 games. Wallmark will return to Sweden for the 2014-15 season.
17. (NR) Josh Wesley, D, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 96th overall, 2014
The Hurricanes are already quite familiar with Wesley. Not only is he the son of Glen Wesley — whose number ‘2’ hangs in the PNC Arena rafters — but he also plays for the Plymouth Whalers, a team with several ties to Carolina. Wesley is not out of his element with the Hurricanes either, having grown up in Raleigh and around the team. He had a solid first OHL season last year, finishing with nine points in a defensive role for Plymouth, where he will again play in 2014-15.
18. (12) Michal Jordan, D, 6.0B
Drafted 4th round, 105th overall, 2008
Jordan reached the Hurricanes for a five-game audition in 2012-13, but spent all of last season back with the Checkers, finishing with a career-best 25 points in 70 games. Entering his fifth professional season, Jordan is reaching make-or-break time with the Hurricanes, who are loaded with defensive prospects and already have six blueliners on one-way deals and two more — Ryan Murphy and Brett Bellemore — ahead of him on the depth chart.
19. (NR) Clark Bishop, C, 6.0B
Drafted 5th round, 127th overall, 2014
Bishop is a heart-and-soul player who may not have top-six upside, but has the determination and skill to be a future NHL role player. Bishop was the third overall pick by Cape Breton in 2012 QMJHL draft and finished with 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) in 56 games in his second season with the Screaming Eagles in 2013-14. He will be back with Cape Breton this season and should compete for a spot on Canada’s World Junior team.
20. (15) Brody Sutter, 5.5B
Drafted 7th round, 193rd overall, 2011
Sutter earned a full-time spot in the AHL last season, just his second pro campaign, and finished with eight goals and 20 assists in 69 games. A big, checking center, Sutter has the size and bloodlines to be an NHL depth forward down the road. For now, expect him to return to Charlotte in a bigger role in 2014-15.