High-end talent headlines prospect pool for Carolina Hurricanes

By Cory Lavalette
Brett Pesce - Carolina Hurricanes

Photo: Defenseman Brett Pesce is part of a deep group of defensive prospects for the Carolina Hurricanes. Pesce was picked in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon Sportswire)

 

The Carolina Hurricanes NHL roster is filled with young players, from established mainstays like Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner to emerging talents like Elias Lindholm and Ryan Murphy.

That can make it tough to assess exactly where Carolina stands as far as depth and their future. While early season injuries have forced the team’s hand, new general manager Ron Francis seems poised to give more development time to his young players and bring them along slowly.

Left Wing

The Hurricanes have done a good job of mixing skill, grit, speed, and size in their left wing ranks. In Brock McGinn, Warren Foegele, Sergey Tolchinsky, and Phil Di Giuseppe, the Hurricanes have four different players who have been proven scorers at lower levels but do it in different ways. McGinn is an undersized wrecking ball that can also fill the net. Foegele is a speedy and still-growing sniper that needs to prove himself against better competition. Tolchinsky went undrafted, but his shifty moves and elite vision make him a threat to score every shift. Di Giuseppe is capable of going on a scoring run, but needs to improve his consistency.

Beyond that, there are some other intriguing options. Justin Shugg is often overlooked, but the former Memorial Cup champion has worked his way up from the ECHL and will play a prominent role in Charlotte this year.

Brent Pedersen has not developed into much of a scorer, but he has NHL size and shown a willingness to play a rugged game.

Brendan Collier is undersized and was pushed out at Boston University, but he starts a new chapter at Northeastern this year.

Center

Due to injuries at forward in training camp and the beginning of the regular season, Carolina is getting their depth at center tested.  Lindholm continues to play mostly on the wing, but the team still envisions him at center down the road and may need him there sooner rather than later.

Victor Rask was on track to win a job this preseason after dominating at Traverse City and impressing new coach Bill Peters in camp, and then Jordan Staal’s injury pushed him into a top six role on opening night.

Undrafted college free agent Patrick Brown was one of the team’s final cuts in his first training camp, but then earned a recall to play wing on the fourth line due to more injuries.

The other AHL center, Brody Sutter, also impressed at camp with his combination of size and effort and could be in line for a promotion at some point.

The team added two more centers at the 2014 NHL Draft, taking 2013 draft holdover Lucas Wallmark and defensive-minded Clark Bishop with two of their picks. Wallmark is off to a fast start with Lulea in the SHL with seven points through 10 games, so if he can combine scoring with his proven all-situations play and faceoff acumen, the Hurricanes might have a steal. Bishop is captain of a very good Cape Breton team and plays a shut down and energy role.

Finally, 2012 fourth-round pick Erik Karlsson is in his second full season in the SHL with Frolunda and is still adapting to playing with men in Sweden’s top league.

Right Wing

Without a doubt the organization’s top weakness, right wing is a concern for the Hurricanes. Both Jared Staal and Brendan Woods look like AHL energy players to this point, and Flames castoff Greg Nemisz is hoping to prove Calgary should not have given up on their former first round pick.

Nemisz has been good since coming to Carolina via trade last season, and he was named an alternate captain with the Checkers ahead of the 2014-15 season. He has the size and hands to be an NHL forward, but needs to avoid injuries and put everything together to get back on track.

Defensemen

Of course, the two most important pieces to the Carolina blue line pipeline are former first round picks Murphy and Haydn Fleury Murphy was a healthy scratch for the season opener but should see extensive time with the Hurricanes this season as they search for ways to score at even strength and on the power play. Fleury is a bit raw, but the team loves his size and skating ability. He may never develop into a top point producer or a bruising defender, but he has the potential to be a top pairing, reliable rear guard in the future.

Beyond that, Carolina has done a good job at using middle round picks to find intriguing defensive prospects. Collegiate blueliners Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin could both prove to be steals for the Hurricanes, and former junior hockey picks like Trevor CarrickKeegan Lowe, and Michal Jordan – the new Checkers captain – all play roles for Charlotte and figure to eventually make their way to the NHL as at least fill-ins. Rugged Finn Rasmus Rissanen continues to make an impression on the front office, while former Plymouth Whaler Austin Levi is still a work in progress.

Former NCAA captains Danny Biega and Dennis Robertson (acquired via trade) are steady and composed presences on the blue line in the minors, and Sault Ste. Marie teammates Tyler Ganly and Kyle Jenkins have become an important pairing for the Greyhounds. Hurricanes legacy pick Josh Wesley continues to improve and has the size and smarts to make an impact down the road.

Goaltending

The team has high hopes for both Alex Nedeljkovic (37th overall pick this summer) and Daniel Altshuller (69th in 2012). Nedljkovic was the Ontario Hockey League’s top goalie last season, and Altshuller is coming off a stellar OHL career with Oshawa and should see plenty of action with the team’s ECHL affiliate in Florida this year.

Collin Olson, also chosen in the 2012 draft, was originally slated to be at Ohio State but left after just two games. He has since been with Sioux City in the USHL because NCAA rules dictate that he must sit out a full year before transferring to another school for the 2105-16 season.