Zach Boychuk remains the top of the Hurricanes’ prospect list and others nudge their way up.
Top 20 at a glance
1. Zach Boychuk, C 7.5B
2. Jamie McBain, D 7.5B
3. Drayson Bowman, LW 7.5C
4. Zac Dalpe, C 7.5C
5. Brett Carson, D 7.0C
6. Brian Dumoulin, D 7.0C
7. Mike Murphy, G 7.0D
8. Chris Terry, 6.5C
9. Michal Jordan, D 6.5C
10. Mattias Lindstrom, LW, 6.5C
11. Nick Dodge, C 6.5C
12. Stefan Chaput, C 6.5D
13. Kyle Lawson, D 7D
14. Casey Borer, D 6.5D
15. Justin Peters, G 6B
16. Jerome Samson, RW 6C
17. Rasmus Rissanen, D 5.5C
18. Matt Kennedy, RW 5.5C
19. Brett Bellemore, D 5.5C
20. Tommi Kivisto, D 5.5C
1. (1) Zach Boychuk, C, 20, 7.5B
Acquired 1st round, 14th overall, 2008
Boychuk’s first professional season hasn’t been a parade of points, but during several call-ups to Carolina he has shown glimpes of the explosiveness that makes him one of hockey’s top prospects.
"With Zach, it’s all about speed," Albany River Rats coach Jeff Daniels said. "He’s a very creative player, and he’s a special player with the puck."
Still there’s work to be done, particularly away from the puck.
"Like any young player, it’s being consistent," Daniels said of Boychuk’s play in both the defensive and neutral zones.
Boychuk had 12 goals and 16 assists for 28 points through 46 games with the Rats this season, plus four points in 12 games with the Canes this season — including his first career NHL goal scored on New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur Feb. 13. Boychuk is back in Albany for the Olympic break, but he will likely take the spot in Carolina freed up by the trade of Matt Cullen to Ottawa.
2. (4) Jamie McBain, D, 21, 7.5B
Acquired 2nd round, 63rd overall, 2006
As the season progresses, it becomes more and more clear that McBain is adjusting to the professional game. McBain had points in the each of the first seven games of February (a goal and nine assists), catapulting into second on Albany with 30 points through 56 games. That ranked him tied for 13th in scoring among AHL defensemen and tied for 12th among all rookies. Just as importantly, McBain has been among the defensive leaders in plus/minus on the Rats and has also taken just eight penalty minutes.
Carolina GM Jim Rutherford has hinted that McBain will get a look in Carolina at some point before the end of the season, and with several spots opening on the blueline for 2010-11, McBain could earn his spot soon.
3. (3) Drayson Bowman, LW, 20, 7.5C
Acquired 3rd round, 72nd overall, 2007
Like Boychuk, Bowman hasn’t filled the scoresheet in his rookie campaign. But that doesn’t mean the young sniper hasn’t made an impression.
"He’s battled some injuries this year, but he’s getting better and stronger," Daniels said of Bowman. "He’s a shooter — he likes to score goals."
The goals probably haven’t come as much as Bowman would like — 12 goals to go along with 12 assists in 40 games with the River Rats — but his lethal shot has already taken on mythical status among those awaiting his arrival in Raleigh. Still, there is progress to be made before he becomes a full-time part of the Hurricanes.
"Like Boychuk, [he needs to work on] being consistent away from the puck," Daniels said.
4. (5) Zac Dalpe, C/W, 20, 7.5C
Acquired 2nd round, 45th overall, 2008
It’s been a disappointing season for Ohio State, but not Dalpe. He has developed into one of college hockey’s top scorers, registering 32 points in 29 games with the Buckeyes. His 16 goals rank him in the top 30 of Division I hockey, and the sophomore is tied for third among all underclassmen.
He’s been lethal on the power play, scoring seven goals with the man-advantage — tied for 16th in the NCAA. He also was the CCHA Player of the Month for January.
Dalpe has made it clear he wants to get to the NHL in quick order, so it’s possible he could sign his entry-level deal once Ohio State’s season ends and begin his pro career in Albany.
5. (9) Brett Carson, D, 24, 7C
Acquired 4th round, 109th overall, 2004
Patience and hard work have served Carson well. Four seasons into his pro career, Carson has finally earned an NHL spot. The 24-year-old defenseman was recalled due to injuries on the Hurricanes blue line and played well enough to earn a spot in Raleigh the rest of the season.
After playing a No.1 role in Albany, Carson settled in to an all-situations spot on Carolina’s defense upon his recall in early December. Since the recent return of Joe Corvo from injury, he’s moved into the team’s third pairing but has looked more comfortable as each game passes.
He scored his first career NHL goal Jan. 10 against Ottawa and also has five assists in 33 games with the Canes after posting 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 14 games at the start of the season with the River Rats. With the recent trade of Nic Wallin to San Jose, Carson has solidified a spot on the Canes defense for the foreseeable future.
6. (8) Brian Dumoulin, D, 18, 7C
Acquired 2nd round, 51st overall, 2009
Dumoulin is still looking for his first collegiate goal, but the freshman defenseman has already carved a spot for himself in Boston College’s top four. Dumoulin, who just turned 18 in December, has been paired with senior Carl Sneep (PIT), learning the ropes from one of the NCAA’s top goal-scoring defensemen.
Dumoulin is second in scoring to only Sneep among Eagles defenders with 13 points — all assists — and has gained the trust of BC coach Jerry York with his solid overall play and hockey sense.
7. (6) Mike Murphy, G, 21, 7D
Acquired 6th round, 165th overall, 2008
With Justin Peters serving as Albany’s No. 1 goaltender this season, Murphy hasn’t had the 50-game workload he became accustomed to with Belleville in the OHL. In 20 games with the River Rats, Murphy is 10-9 with a 2.81 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
Although Peters is back in Albany during the Olympic break, Murphy will likely hold the No. 1 reins in March as Peters is expected to return to the NHL and split time with Carolina backup Manny Legace in Raleigh with starter Cam Ward injured.
"He’s been very patient all year," Daniels said of Murphy. "He’s just coming back from an injury, but now gets a chance to make the most of his opportunity."
That opportunity could grow due to Ward’s injury — the longer he is hurt, the longer Peters will be with the Canes. And if Peters can earn the backup job in 2010-11, Murphy will be the clear-but No. 1 when Carolina’s AHL affiliate moves to Charlotte next season.
8. (10) Chris Terry, LW, 20, 6.5C
Acquired 5th round, 132nd overall, 2007
With Boychuk and Bowman joining Albany for their first full pro seasons, Terry’s arrival as a pro was somewhat overlooked heading into 2009-10. While he was a top scorer in the OHL the past two seasons, Terry was not considered a top prospect by many.
"You didn’t know how he’d react [as a first-year pro], but he’s been a pleasant surprise for us," Daniels said. "He was a big scorer in junior. He listened to what the coaches in Carolina said [to work on]."
Terry’s 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 56 games is good for a tie with Boychuk for third on the River Rats this season, and he’s improved as the year has gone on.
"He’s playing his best hockey the past one and a half months," Daniels said.
9. (13) Michal Jordan, D, 19, 6.5C
Acquired 4th round, 105th overall, 2008
Terry’s former teammate is still in Plymouth, anchoring the blueline for the Whalers. He is in his third OHL season and leads the team in defensive scoring through 40 games with a career-high 13 goals and 19 assists — good for a tie for 21st among all OHL rearguards.
Jordan also served as the captain for the Czech Republic’s World Junior team earlier this winter.
10. (14) Nick Dodge, C, 23, 6.5C
Acquired 6th round, 183rd overall, 2006
There’s not much that’s flashy about Dodge’s game — but that’s what makes him so valuable.
"He’s steady, very professional and low maintenance," Daniels said. "I can toss him wherever I need him to be: first line, checking line. You know what you’re going to get with Dodgie. He takes pride in the little things."
That’s been true of Dodge all the way back to his days at Clarkson when he was one of college hockey’s top defensive forwards and faceoff men. While Dodge played the wing in college — though he took draws — and to start his pro career, his acumen in the faceoff circle and in his own zone led Daniels to permanently move him to center.
Dodge has followed up his rookie campaign with a similarly steady season, registering 12 goals and 12 assists in a team-high 57 games. His plus-seven is tied for the best on the River Rats.
11. (12) Mattias Lindstrom, LW, 18, 6.5C
Acquired 3rd round, 88th overall, 2009
Carolina’s third-round pick in last summer’s draft has had his post-draft season derailed by injury. A knee injury has limited Lindstrom to just one game this season, and it likely cost him a spot on Sweden’s World Junior squad in December.
12. (15) Kyle Lawson, D, 23, 7D
Acquired 7th round, 198th overall, 2005
Like Dalpe and Ohio State, Lawson and Notre Dame had high expectations for 2009-10. While the Irish have stumbled to a losing record, the senior defenseman has stood tall, ranking second on the team in scoring with 22 points (four goals, team-high 18 assists) in 33 games. And he’s done a lot of it without fellow back-end standouts Ian Cole (STL), who missed more than a month with an injury, and Teddy Ruth (CLB), who missed six games with concussion-related issues.
All of the blueline injuries have meant big minutes for Lawson, and Irish coach Jeff Jackson has had to fill the other spots on the defense with forwards, depleting his scoring depth.
Unless Notre Dame can bounce back and win the CCHA tournament, Lawson will likely join Albany at that point to get a head start on his first full pro season next year.
13. (16) Justin Peters, G, 23, 6B
Acquired 2nd round, 38th overall, 2004
This season has been good for Peters, who had seen the acrobatic Murphy steal much of the attention heading into this campaign. After seizing the No. 1 job in Albany, the fourth-year pro earned a spot on the AHL All-Star team this season, and was a recent call-up to Carolina due to Ward’s injury. Peters made the most of his chance, winning both of his starts before the Olympic break led to since demotion back to Albany.
In the two wins, Peters allowed just three goals (1.52 goals against average) and has 57 saves on 60 shots (.950 save percentage). Those are gaudy numbers and just a small sample, but Peters’ numbers in Albany are also impressive (19-14-2, 2.59 GAA, .915 save percentage).
It would’ve been easy for Peters to get discouraged when Ward’s first long-term injury this season — an accidental skate cut caused by Columbus’ Rick Nash — led to the signing of Manny Legace instead of his recall. Couple that with the fact he never got a chance to play in a preseason game, and it would’ve been easy to get down. But Daniels said the young goalie stayed focused.
"He showed it by the way he played, Daniels said. "[He played in] no exhibition games, but he worked hard. He’s a true leader and very driven."
Peters will be back in Raleigh after the Olympic break and split time with Legace until Ward is able to suit back up, if he is at all the rest of the season.
14. (11) Casey Borer, D, 24, 6.5D
Acquired 3rd round, 69th overall, 2004
It’s been more than a year since the River Rats’ bus crash on the Massachusetts Turnpike left Borer with a broken neck and uncertain future. But finally Borer is back on the ice, trying to get a career that seemed so promising just two seasons ago back on track. But with 13 games under his belt, Borer is making strides in pointing himself back to a future in the NHL.
"He’s just kind of going through his training camp," Daniels said. "We threw him right into a game and he came out hard and strong. [But there will be some] growing pains from being out so long."
He has four assists and a plus-2 rating so far since his return, and will likely spend the rest of the season in Albany.
15. (17) Stefan Chaput, C, 21, 6.5D
Acquired 5th round, 153rd overall, 2006
After having his first pro season derailed by injury, Chaput returned this season looking to bounce back. He started well, but has struggled as the season has gone on.
"He’s been OK for us," Daniels said. "He started out real strong, but he’s hit a bit of a wall. … He’s going to be a two-way center, but needs to work on [his play] in his own end."
Chaput has avoided injury, playing in all 57 games for the River Rats, and has seven goals, 20 assists and a team-high plus-7 rating.
16. (18) Jerome Samson, RW, 22, 6C
Signed as an undrafted free agent
The Rats leading scorer (23 goals, 22 assists in 55 games) made his NHL debut Jan. 7 against Nashville, registering an assist on his first shift. But after a five-game trial in Carolina where he showcased some of his abilities — particularly his puck possession skills — Samson was reassigned to Albany.
Samson did show good energy-line cycling in his time with the Hurricanes, but some untimely penalties in limited minutes did detract from his performance.
17. (NR) Brett Bellemore, D, 21, 5.5C
Acquired 6th round, 162nd overall, 2006
The big defenseman has improved throughout his first pro season after being sent back to Plymouth last year for an overage campaign when injuries slowed him. The extra year has served him well.
"He’s matured so much in that one year," Daniels said. "Positionally, he’s very sound."
The 6’4 rearguard has a goal and four assists in 54 games with the Rats this season, and has a minus-3 rating and 54 penalty minutes.
18. (20) Rasmus Rissanen, D, 18, 5.5C
Acquired 6th round, 178th overall, 2009
Rissanen joined Everett of the WHL this season, leaving his native Finland to adapt to the North American game. The rugged defenseman has four goals and 11 assists, a plus-15 rating and 87 penalty minutes for the Silvertips through 59 games. He has been prone to taking some ill-advised penalties, but Carolina drafted him, in part, because of his toughness and grit.
19. (19) Matt Kennedy, RW, 20, 5.5C
Acquired 5th round, 131st overall, 2009
Kennedy was part of one of the most memorable plays of the season, but not in a good way. Kennedy, playing for the Barrie Colts, was on the receiving end of a brutally dirty hit by Windsor’s Zach Kassian (BUF).
Kassian received a 20-game suspension — which he is still serving — and re-sparked the head shot debate throughout the hockey world. Kennedy missed two weeks and had family asking him to consider hanging up his skates after suffering the fifth concussion of his junior career.
But Kennedy — who went undrafted until last season, when Carolina took him in the fifth round — decided to come back. After a quiet January, Kennedy had points in back-to-back games Feb. 12 and 13, the first time he’s done that since early November.
Through 31 games Kennedy has a combined 12 goals and 10 assists with Guelph and Barrie this season.
20. (NR) Tommi Kivisto, D, 18, 5.5C
Acquired 7th round, 208th overall, 2009
Unlike countryman Rissanen who went left Finland to play in North America, Kivisto left Red Deer of the WHL after last season to return to Scandanavia. He has split time between Jokerit’s top-tier and junior team in SM-Liiga, totaling seven points this season, but only two assists in the top league.
The defenseman was on Finland’s World Junior team, registering one assist in six games for the Finns.