Once a bleak aspect of an otherwise solid franchise, Carolina’s prospect ranks have climbed back to respectability thanks to savvy drafting and a commitment to holding on to their young players and picks.
But most importantly, the Hurricanes have seemed to turn over a new leaf in player development. In the past, the team has often used the NHL as a proving ground for its prospects. But with the additions of several veterans to the roster for the upcoming season, it appears several of Carolina’s top prospects will get the chance to develop together in Albany with the team’s AHL affiliate in 2009-10.
The Canes will also be participating in the Traverse City (Mich.) Prospect Tournament — the first time since 2005 the team has competed in such an event — Sept. 6-10, and the team has indicated that play in the tournament will determine who gets an invite to training camp.
Top 20 at a glance
1. (1) Zach Boychuk, C
2. (2) Brandon Sutter, C
3. (3) Drayson Bowman, LW
4. (4) Jamie McBain, D
5. (5) Zac Dalpe, C
6. (6) Mike Murphy, G
7. (NR) Philippe Paradis, C
8. (NR) Brian Dumoulin, D
9. (7) Brett Carson, D
10. (9) Chris Terry, LW
11. (8) Casey Borer, D
12. (NR) Mattias Lindstrom, LW
13. (12) Michal Jordan, D
14. (11) Nick Dodge, RW
15. (10) Kyle Lawson, D
16. (13) Justin Peters, G
17. (18) Stefan Chaput , C
18. (17) Jerome Samson, RW
19. (NR) Matt Kennedy, RW
20. (NR) Rasmus Rissanen, D
1. (1) Zach Boychuk, C, 19, 7.5B
Acquired 1st round, 14th overall, 2008
Talented, fast, determined and — despite his small stature — tough, Boychuk is everything Carolina looks for in a player. Despite battling through early and mid-season injuries last year, Boychuk finished over a point per game for the third straight year in Lethbridge, registering 28 goals, 29 assists and 57 points in just 43 games.
While many expected Boychuk to join the Hurricanes this season and perhaps contend for the Calder Trophy, the glut of skilled forwards on the Canes roster points to Boychuk spending the season getting stronger and building chemistry with several of his fellow prospects in Albany. Still, he may be the top option if injuries strike or the Canes find they need more scoring punch.
2. (2) Brandon Sutter, C, 20, 7.5B
Acquired 1st round, 11th overall, 2007
There’s no denying Sutter has the smarts to be an NHLer. His play last year with the Hurricanes as one of the team’s go-to penalty killers early in the season exhibited how well the young pivot thinks the game. But a concussion he suffered on a hit, coupled with a slight frame, sidetracked Sutter’s season and led to a conditioning assignment and, eventually, outright assignment to Albany. He played 50 games with Carolina, managing a goal and five assists, and wound up with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 22 games with the River Rats.
With the signing of veteran center Stephane Yelle this offseason, Sutter will likely play 2009-10 in Albany. His full-time arrival in Raleigh should take place the following season, when the Carolina roster will experience some turnover due to several expiring contracts.
3. (3) Drayson Bowman, LW, 20, 7.5C
Acquired 3rd round, 72nd overall, 2007
Bowman may have the most upside of any of the Carolina prospects. He terrorized WHL goalies the past two seasons, scoring 42 and 47 goals in 128 games, doing most of the damage with a lethal shot that many have labeled as NHL-ready. Not only has Bowman put up the numbers in junior, but he was arguably the best player on Spokane — the team that won the Memorial Cup in 2008 and performed admirably in falling short of its bid to win back-to-back titles in 2009.
Like Sutter and Boychuk, Bowman will likely find himself with the River Rats this season, perhaps even on a line that includes all three of the Canes’ top forward prospects.
4. (4) Jamie McBain, D, 21, 7.5B
Acquired 2nd round, 63rd overall, 2006
The University of Wisconsin’s loss becomes Carolina’s gain. McBain decided to turn pro following a junior season that saw him finish second in the NCAA in points by a defenseman (37), win the WCHA Player of the Year award, and earn a nomination for the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top performer.
McBain provides the complete package on the blueline: size, skill, skating and smarts. In a 10-game stint with Albany the end of last season, the 21-year-old managed just a goal and an assist, but his poise and ability to play in every situation surely made an impression. Expect him to play big minutes in his first full season with the River Rats.
5. (5) Zac Dalpe, C/W, 19, 7C
Acquired 2nd round, 45th overall, 2008
Dalpe was one of only two players — along with goalie Mike Murphy — back for a second time through the Canes grueling prospect conditioning camp. And while the focus was on the newest additions added in the draft, it was Dalpe who stood out on the ice.
Standing out is something that’s becoming a regular thing for Dalpe. In his freshman season at Ohio State, the Paris, Ont., native had 25 points (13 goals and 12 assists) in 37 games, good for fifth on the Buckeyes. He was also the fourth-leading freshman scorer in CCHA play, registering nine goals and nine assists in 24 conference games. His play was a big reason OSU earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. He is returning to Ohio State for his sophomore season.
6. (6) Mike Murphy, G, 20, 7C
Acquired 6th round, 165th overall, 2008
After dominating the OHL for the past two seasons, Murphy moves up to the pro ranks this year. The unconventional-yet-spectacular 5’11 goalie is coming off back-to-back OHL Goalie of the Year awards and will battle Justin Peters for the starting job in Albany this season.
Like Dalpe, Murphy returned to Raleigh for prospect conditioning camp earlier in the summer noticeably bigger and more confident. While many view Peters — the bigger, more technical of the two — as the favorite to land the backup job with the Canes in 2010-11, Murphy’s never-give-up style and impressive junior resume give him a shot at moving to the top of the goalie prospect pecking order.
7. (NR) Philippe Paradis, C, 18, 7C
Acquired 1st round, 27th overall, 2009
The Hurricanes entered the 2009 Entry Draft looking to add size and grit to the roster, and selecting Paradis 27th overall was the first step in what turned into a weekend of drafting bigger players. On top of his size, Paradis possesses a big shot — he won the hardest shot competition at the 2009 CHL Top Prospects Game with a blast clocked at 95.7 mph — and a willingness to compete for the puck and in corners.
While his numbers with Shawinigan last season were not jaw-dropping (19 goals, 31 assists in 66 games), Paradis was impressive at the Canes’ prospect conditioning camp in mid-July. On top of getting stronger, Paradis — a native of Normandin, Que. — will continue to work on his English this season in the QMJHL.
8. (NR) Brian Dumoulin, D, 17, 7C
Acquired 2nd round, 51st overall, 2009
Despite having the lowest body fat and being one of the youngest eligible players in this year’s draft class, Dumoulin and his 6’3 frame stood out at Carolina’s prospect conditioning camp. But Dumoulin — who won’t be 18 until Sept. 6 — looked more like a man among boys than the youngest of the bunch when he came to Raleigh in mid-July.
Dumoulin had seven goals and 23 assists in 41 games with the EJHL’s New Hampshire Monarchs last season, but the biggest question surrounding him is whether or not his skills will translate against better competition. That should be clear soon, as Dumoulin will be joining Boston College this season and should slide into a significant role right from the start. He will be teammates with friend and fellow 2009 draft pick Chris Kreider, who went 19th overall to the Rangers.
9. (7) Brett Carson, D, 23, 7C
Acquired 4th round, 109th overall, 2004
Entering his fourth professional season, Carson is on the cusp of become a full-time NHLer. He got his first taste last season, playing five games with the Hurricanes when injuries struck the Carolina blueline. He will likely start this season back with Albany, but is probably the organization’s No. 1 choice for a call-up if the need for a defenseman arises.
Carson’s offensive production has improved each of his three seasons with the River Rats. He finished last year second among Rats’ defenders with 35 points (six goals, 29 assists), but Carson’s path to the NHL will be paved by play in his own zone. At 6’4, Carson is one of the bigger defenseman in the Carolina system, and his ability to shutdown opponents at even strength and on the penalty kill make him a likely candidate for promotion to the NHL in the near future.
10. (9) Chris Terry, LW, 20, 7.0C
Acquired 5th round, 132nd overall, 2007
Terry was a standout for the Peter Karmanos-owned Plymouth Whalers the past two seasons, scoring 83 goals and 112 assists as one of the OHL’s top scorers in 2007-08 and 2008-09. This year he takes his game to Albany where he’ll need to show his junior success wasn’t a fluke.
He should get his shot in a top-nine role with the River Rats this year, but will need to prove he’s big enough and fast enough to compete in the pro ranks.
11. (8) Casey Borer, D, 24, 7C
Acquired 3rd round, 69th overall, 2004
Two seasons ago, Borer came to Raleigh on an injury recall and wowed everyone with his play. In 11 games with Carolina, his skating, puck movement and poise all were on display. But heading into 2009-10, the 24-year-old defenseman is coming off back-to-back seasons that ended with injuries, plus a drop in production (10 points in 54 combined pro games) from his impressive rookie campaign (22 points in 72 pro games) in 2007-08.
But the knee injury that ended his first pro season and neck injury suffered in the River Rats’ bus crash last year are in the past, and this year will be an important one for Borer. With McBain, Carson and Bryan Rodney all vying for positions with Carolina in the near future, Borer needs to re-establish himself as one of the frontrunners among the young D corps.
12. (NR) Mattias Lindstrom, LW, 18, 6.5C
Acquired 3rd round, 88th overall, 2009
Described as “a huge truck on wheels” by International Scouting Services, Lindstrom is just what the Hurricanes ordered in their attempt to add size and toughness to their prospect ranks. Still just 18, Lindstrom played seven games last year with Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League — scoring once — and 31 games with their second tier team, managing eight goals and five assists in 31 games.
While Paradis may be more skilled than Lindstrom, the third-round pick is bigger and tougher, and could be an in-front-of-the-net presence down the road. He should get the chance to play full time with Skelleftea’s SEL team this season.
13. (12) Michal Jordan, D, 19, 6.5C
Acquired 4th round, 105th overall, 2008
Jordan finished the 2008-09 season as Plymouth’s top scoring defenseman, registering 12 goals and 32 assists in 58 games. His 44 points ranked tied for 13th among all OHL defensemen. With Terry moving on to Albany, Jordan will be one of the top returning Whalers in 2009-10.
Labeled as a puck-moving defenseman, Jordan was also reliable in his own end, finishing tied for 16th in the OHL in plus/minus with a team-high plus-28.
14. (11) Nick Dodge, RW, 23, 6.5C
Acquired 6th round, 183rd overall, 2006
Dodge may not have the upside of other prospects, but there may not be more of a sure thing than the reliable winger. Dodge’s game — he was one of college hockey’s best defensive forwards and an offensive contributor during his collegiate career — translated well to the pros last year. Not only that, but Dodge did something many River Rats couldn’t last year: stay healthy. In his first professional season, Dodge played a team-high 80 games while scoring 13 goals and 26 assists. His 39 points ranked fifth on Albany and 22nd among all AHL rookies in 2008-09 — not bad for a guy who joined the pro ranks with a defense-first reputation. He will again be with the Rats this season.
15. (10) Kyle Lawson, D, 22, 6.5C
Acquired 7th round, 198th overall, 2005
Lawson’s numbers dipped slightly in 2008-09, but his contributions to the Fighting Irish did not. Sharing the spotlight with well-known NHL prospects Ian Cole and Ted Ruth, Lawson was the glue that held the Notre Dame blueline together the past two seasons.
Under the guidance of coach Jeff Jackson, the Irish have become one of the best teams in the CCHA — and NCAA. Lawson has been a big part of that. At 5’11, Lawson is smaller than most defensemen, but he’s proven to be reliable in all three zones, including manning the point on the power play and killing penalties. He had four goals and 19 assists in 40 games with Notre Dame last season and will return for his senior year in 2009-10.
16. (13) Justin Peters, G, 22, 6C
Acquired 2nd round, 38th overall, 2004
The 2009-10 season will be a make-or-break one for Peters. With journeyman backup Michael Leighton’s contract with Carolina set to expire following the season, Peters will need to prove he is worthy of assuming the No. 2 spot behind Cam Ward next year. Hot on his heels is Murphy, who will be given the chance to compete with Peters for the starting gig in Albany and the inside track to the NHL.
While Peters’ numbers in 2008-09 were pedestrian (19-30-4, 2.89 goals-against average, .908 save percentage), they suffered due to a lack of goal support and an overall poor team performance. With increased firepower and a talented defense in place for this year, Peters needs to show he can lead the way as an AHL starter if he is going to be given the chance to play in the NHL.
17. (18) Stefan Chaput, C, 21, 6C
Acquired 5th round, 153rd overall, 2006
Chaput’s first pro season lasted just 15 games, but that was still enough time to show he was ready to make the leap. A hip injury derailed the forward’s season in November, but he still had 11 points (four goals and seven assists) during that short time, a sign that his 33-goal season in 2007-08 with Lewiston in the QMJHL wasn’t an accident.
Chaput’s biggest hurdle this season might be his fight for ice time on a vastly improved Albany front line. With Boychuk, Bowman and Terry all joining the River Rats, plus the likelihood that Sutter will spend the year in the minors, Chaput will need another fast start if he is to earn the time needed to produce.
18. (17) Jerome Samson, RW, 21, 5.5C
Signed as an undrafted free agent
Samson has quietly put together back-to-back 20-plus goal seasons in his first two professional campaigns. But like Chaput, Samson faces an uphill battle in the struggle for ice time on the 2009-10 River Rats.
His 54-point season last year ranked tied for first on the team with Europe-bound Jakub Petruzalek, but Samson was passed over for Petruzalek, Patrick Dwyer and Michael Ryan on a couple occasions when the Hurricanes needed to recall a forward to Raleigh. Entering the final year of his three-year entry-level contract, Samson will need to prove his worth if he is to get another deal. On the flipside, Carolina has to make sure the young winger feels valued in the organization.
19. (NR) Matt Kennedy, RW, 20, 5.5C
Acquired 5th round, 131st overall, 2009
Twice passed over in the NHL Entry Draft, Kennedy finally heard his name called in 2009. The 6’2, 200-plus pound forward was another piece in the Canes’ efforts to bulk up. But that’s not to say Kennedy can’t produce on the scoresheet.
In his third full season with the Guelph Storm in 2008-09, Kennedy led the team in goals (33), assists (40) and points (73), more than tripling his point output from the previous year. His goals nearly doubled (17 in 2007-08) and his assists increased tenfold (four in 2007-08). Kennedy was also near the top in penalty minutes, registering 95. Kennedy is expected to play in Guelph again this season.
20. (NR) Rasmus Rissanen, D, 18, 5.5C
Acquired 6th round, 178th overall, 2009
The selection of Rissanen in the sixth round added more tenacity to Carolina’s blueline corps. The Finnish defenseman won’t wow anyone with his skill set, but he’s a fiery player.
The WHL’s Everett Silvertips chose Rissanen with the 17th overall pick in the CHL import draft in June, and he will play with the Tips this season. Due to offseason surgery, Rissanen is not participating in training camp with Everett, but he is expected to be back on the ice without limitations in early September.