Carolina Hurricanes short on prospects after large graduating class

By Cory Lavalette

Photo: Haydn Fleury has 17 points in 47 games this season. (Courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Photo: Haydn Fleury has 17 points in 47 games this season. (Courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

 

The Carolina Hurricanes prospects list might look thin, but given the young talent already in the NHL it is easy to understand why. Five players drafted by the team since 2010 are already full-time Hurricanes or on the cusp of making the leap. That includes ahead-of the-curve Victor Rask, who climbs a few spots into the top three but will also soon graduate as a prospect.

As for the players still honing their skills in the minors, junior or college, it has been a mostly disappointing season for the Hurricanes’ prospects. But late-season scoring surges from several players have provided hope for the future.

1. (2) Haydn Fleury, D, 8.0 C
Drafted 1st round, 7th overall, 2014

With Elias Lindholm graduating to a full-time NHL spot, Fleury takes over as Carolina’s top prospect. Fleury’s future has been in question since before Carolina selected him seventh overall last summer, and his 2014-15 campaign—during which he was omitted from Canada’s entry at the World Juniors—has done nothing to ease those concerns. Still, Fleury is just 18 years old and has the size and skillset to grow into a top-four defender. It is naïve to say there are not some warning signs, but it is too early to give up on Fleury’s future.

2. (6) Victor Rask, C, 7.0 B
Drafted 2nd round, 42nd overall, 2011

The preseason injury to Jordan Staal opened a door for Rask, and the second-year pro busted through it without looking back. To the outside observer, Rask’s eight goals and 18 points through 54 games is not eye-popping, but the rookie’s impact has extended beyond the numbers for Carolina this season. Rask has already proven to be a better-than-average defensive center, a second unit power play quarterback, and adept faceoff man for the Hurricanes. The big payoff will come as Rask’s considerable offensive skills continue to mature.

3. (4) Alex Nedeljkovic, G, 8.0 D
Drafted 2nd round, 37th overall, 2014

Nedeljkovic’s numbers have dipped this season, but that is to be expected given the turbulence surrounding the Plymouth franchise. The Whalers not only have a new coach and front office this season, but the team also announced it will be moving to Flint, Michigan. Still, Nedeljkovic has been Plymouth’s best player most nights and he earned a spot as the backup on Team USA at the World Juniors.

4. (5) Brock McGinn, LW, 7.0 C
Drafted 2nd round, 47th overall, 2012

It has not been an easy first professional year for McGinn, who has managed just 16 points through 49 games in a season of slumps and bad luck. But the undersized wrecking ball may finally be rounding into form, scoring four goals in three games for the Charlotte Checkers in mid-February. Brothers Jamie and Tye also had growing pains in their development, but the youngest McGinn still has the potential to be the best of them all.

5. (8) Jaccob Slavin, D, 7.0 C
Drafted 4th round, 120th overall, 2012

After a dynamite freshman season at Colorado College, much was expected from Slavin in 2014-15. Instead, the sophomore defender and his teammates were slow to adapt to a new coach. But Slavin has started to produce again for the Tigers after registering just two assists in the season’s first 15 games. In the first 12 games since the calendar flipped to 2015, Slavin has three goals and nine assists and his 14 total points are tied for second on the team.

6. (9) Trevor Carrick, D, 7.0 C
Drafted 4th round, 115th overall, 2012

In his first professional season, Carrick’s well-known offensive prowess is already starting to manifest itself. He ranks second among Checkers blueliners in points (14) through Feb. 18th, including a defense-best four goals. Carrick has also fought six times this season.

7. (10) Brett Pesce, D, 7.0 C
Drafted 3rd round, 66th overall, 2013

Pesce has been hampered by multiple ailments this year: first a knee injury in December, then a respiratory problem that cost him games in January. But the junior is still New Hampshire’s top defenseman, logging time on both the top powerplay and penalty kill units. The Wildcats have struggled when he has been sidelined.

8. (12) Sergey Tolchinsky, LW, 7.0 C
Undrafted free agent signing

Tolchinsky continues to produce at an elite level. The Russian forward is averaging nearly a point-and-a-half per game for Sault Ste. Marie this season and ranks in the top 15 in OHL scoring. He was also a key part of Russia’s second-place finish at the World Juniors, tying for the team lead with four goals. Tolchinksy’s size will always be a concern, but it is hard to ignore his scoring ability.

9. (11) Warren Foegele, LW, 7.0 C
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2014

 Going from high school to NCAA hockey is a big jump, and Foegele’s ordinary numbers in his freshman season at New Hampshire illustrate that. But Foegele’s offense has picked up of late with eight points in the six games from Jan. 30th through Feb. 14th. That included a four-point weekend against Boston University that saw him notch his first three-point game in the Wildcats’ 4-3 upset over the Terriers on Valentine’s Day.

10. (NR) Andrej Nestrasil, C/W, 6.0 B
Claimed on waivers from Detroit

Nestrasil’s versatility and hard work along the boards have been well-received in Carolina. Nestrasil scored his first NHL goal in his Hurricanes’ debut on Nov. 22nd, but was soon sidelined by an injury that kept him out of the Hurricanes lineup for more than a month. Nestrasil has rounded back into form in February, notching five points in a three-game stretch mid-month, including his first multi-point effort on Feb. 16th in Ottawa, when he had a goal and two assists.

11. (18) Michal Jordan, D, 6.0 B
Drafted 4th round, 105th overall, 2008

Jordan has paid his dues in the AHL and has become the go-to depth defenseman for the Hurricanes when injuries occur. In 19 games with Carolina this season, Jordan has three points—including his first NHL goal on Feb. 16th at Ottawa. With the Hurricanes likely to move at least one NHL defenseman at the trade deadline, Jordan should get a longer look in Raleigh down the stretch.

12. (19) Clark Bishop, C, 6.0 B
Drafted 5th round, 127th overall, 2014

Bishop’s breakthrough offensive season was derailed in December due to an ankle injury. The Cape Breton captain missed nearly a month, then reinjured the ankle in late January—and has not played since. Still, Bishop will not need gaudy numbers to blaze a trail to the NHL. His value lies off of the score sheet as a valuable energy player, penalty kill specialist and defensive center.

13. (16) Lucas Wallmark, C, 6.5 C
Drafted 4th round, 97th overall, 2014

Some thought Wallmark did not do nearly enough at the World Juniors Championships, but the Swedish alternate captain still managed to tie for the team lead in goals (four) and finished with six points in seven games. Wallmark has also been a key contributor for Lulea in the SHL.

14. (13) Phil Di Giuseppe, LW, 6.5 C
Drafted 2nd round, 38th overall, 2012

Di Giuseppe was a streaky scorer in at Michigan, so the start to his professional career should not be a surprise. At times, Di Giuseppe has been a key offensive contributor, including a three-game goal streak in late December. But he also had three stretches this season without a goal in 10 or more games. Consistency will be key for the 21-year-old winger.

15. (14) Keegan Lowe, D, 6.5 C
Drafted 3rd round, 73rd overall, 2011

Lowe’s path to the NHL should be a slow and steady one. The second-year pro has established himself as a rugged, stay-at-home defenseman who is still growing into his frame. He is second on the Checkers in penalty minutes (102) and fighting majors (eight).

16. (17) Josh Wesley, D, 6.5 C
Drafted 4th round, 96th overall, 2014

Like Nedeljkovic, Wesley has had to adapt to the massive changes surrounding the Plymouth Whalers. In his second OHL season, Wesley has already topped his rookie season with five goals and 10 points despite missing some time due to injury.

17. (20) Brody Sutter, C, 5.5 B
Drafted 7th round, 193rd overall, 2011

Sutter got a four-game viewing in the NHL earlier this season, but much of his campaign has been hampered by injury. Sutter missed two months and 26 games starting in mid-November, but has been a fixture in the Checkers lineup since his return. His size and smarts make him an ideal fourth-line center candidate down the road.

18. (NR) Brendan Woods, LW, 5.5 B
Drafted 5th round, 129th overall, 2012

Woods has picked up his scoring in his second full pro season, registering 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) through 44 games after managing just eight points in 42 contests last season. Woods benefits from having an NHL frame and has the makings of a bottom-six grinder. He earned a two-game recall in December, totaling three shots on goal and two hits in 12:04 combined minutes of ice time.

19. (15) Danny Biega, D, 6.0 C
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2010

Biega has been able to log important AHL minutes the past two seasons, but his ability to make the next step is worth questioning at this point. Biega is already 23, so he is—and has always been, thanks to his off-ice work ethic—ready physically for the NHL. But he lacks the overall size to be a shutdown defender at the next level, and his offensive production has not blossomed like many believed it would.

20. (7) Daniel Altshuller, G, 6.0 C
Drafted 3rd round, 69th overall, 2012

It is not time to give up on Altshuller, but his first professional season has involved a lot of watching and little playing in the ECHL. Altshuller has the size to be an NHL goalie, but he needs to see more ice. 2014-15 will likely go down as a long season of development for the 20-year-old.