Big decisions ahead for Carolina Hurricanes prospects in NCAA and overseas

By Cory Lavalette
Photo: Brett Pesce joined the Charlotte Checkers immediately following New Hampshire's season-ending loss to Boston University (Courtesy of Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

Photo: Brett Pesce joined the Charlotte Checkers immediately following New Hampshire’s season-ending loss to Boston University (Courtesy of Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

 

Deciding when it is time to turn pro is tough on every prospect. For collegiate and European players, the choice is even harder. If a college player turns pro, they end their eligibility and leave college life. For Europeans, the stakes are often higher; leaving home to come to North America and adapt to not just a different style of hockey, but a different life altogether.

With their seasons either over or on into the postseason, the Carolina Hurricanes’ collegiate and European prospects continue an open dialogue with the team about what path is best for their development.

Some of Carolina’s collegiate prospects, like New Hampshire freshman Warren Foegele, will surely spend more time in the NCAA. Others, such as defensemen Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, will face tougher decisions. The Hurricanes also have to decide which (if any) of their European players are ready to take on the tighter-checking and more rugged North American game.

NCAA

Brendan Collier, LW, Northeastern (Hockey East)
Drafted 7th round, 189th overall, 2012

Collier’s first season at Northeastern ended when the Huskies were upset in the first round of the Hockey East tournament by Merrimack, losing in consecutive games to drop the best-of-three series. Collier had transferred to Northeastern after one year at Boston University. The NCAA decided that Collier did not need to sit out a year because the Terriers had cut him from their squad.

The 21-year-old finished the 2014-15 season with two goals and six assists in 35 games, doubling his point production from the 29 games he played with BU last season.

“He’s playing better,” Darren Yorke, Carolina’s assistant to the general manager and video scout, said of Collier. “He’s getting more opportunities to play [than he did at Boston University].”

Warren Foegele, LW, New Hampshire (Hockey East)
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2014

The 2014-15 season was an adjustment period for Foegele, who went from playing high school hockey to competing in one of the NCAA’s toughest conferences with New Hampshire.  The freshman winger has improved and adapted as the season has progressed, becoming a key cog in the Wildcats attack—registering five goals and 11 assists in 33 games. In 22 Hockey East games, Foegele had four goals and seven assists.

“It was a big jump there for Warren coming from high school hockey in Canada,” Yorke said. “It’s not the toughest competition [in high school], and there is a learning curve. But I think what he’s done there he’s done well. He’s starting to play a little more now. He’s a big guy that skates well, and when he gets on the forecheck he creates a lot of havoc.”

Brett Pesce, D, New Hampshire (Hockey East)
Drafted 3rd round, 66th overall, 2013

Pesce missed time with two injuries this season, but after he returned to the lineup for good in late January the Wildcats became nearly unbeatable. He finished the season with three goals and 13 assists through 30 games.

Pesce, UNH’s clear-cut No. 1 defenseman, got his stiffest test in the Hockey East tournament. The Wildcats advanced to the semifinals with a three-game upset of No. 2 seed Providence. In the Game 3 overtime victory, Pesce carried the puck into the slot and fired a wrist shot that teammate Jay Camper deflected for the winner. New Hampshire then went on to a matchup with freshman phenom Jack Eichel and Boston University, which they lost.

“He’s been great there,” Yorke said. “He skates well and can move the puck.”

Jaccob Slavin, D, Colorado College (NCHC)
Drafted 4th round, 120th overall, 2012

Slavin’s second collegiate season ended at the hands of No. 1 North Dakota in the NCHC Tournament. But despite a second-straight tough season for the Tigers, Slavin continues to be one of the nation’s best young defensemen.

After leading Colorado College in scoring as a freshman, Slavin again put up big numbers in his sophomore season, finishing with five goals and 12 assists in 34 games. That is a drop from the 25 points he put up last season, but it is worth noting that all but two of Slavin’s points this year came in the season’s final 19 games after the team had adjusted to first-year coach Mike Haviland.

Despite the Tigers’ struggles, Slavin was named to the NCHC All-Conference First Team in mid-March. Last season Slavin earned a spot on the All-Conference Second Team and the All-Rookie Team.

Europe

Erik Karlsson, LW, Frolunda (SHL)
Drafted 4th round, 99th overall, 2012

The speedy Swede continues to play a limited role for Frolunda, registering one goal and two assists in 53 games.

“It’s been a tough year for him, minutes-wise,” Yorke said. “We’d like him to be playing more.”

Karlsson is currently on loan to Frolunda, who is facing fellow Hurricanes prospect Lucas Wallmark and Lulea in the SHL quarterfinals, after signing his entry-level deal last May. He had no points through four games of the seven-game series.

Lucas Wallmark, C, Lulea (SHL)
Drafted 4th round, 97th overall, 2014

Wallmark continues to prove to the entire NHL that they were wrong to pass on him in the 2013 draft. A Carolina fourth round pick last summer, Wallmark finished the 2014-15 season with five goals and 13 assists in 50 games with Lulea of the Swedish Hockey League, and was also among Sweden’s leading scorers at the World Juniors.

Through the first four games of Lulea’s quarterfinal matchup with Frolunda, Wallmark had an assist in each game to help lead Lulea to a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Unfortunately, Frolunda completed an unlikely comeback, winning the series in seven games.

Yorke seemed most excited about Wallmark’s prospects, saying that despite the player’s success in the SHL, the best is yet to come.

“He is better suited for North America than Europe,” Yorke said. “He is just so smart with and without the puck. He is easy to throw over the boards in any situation.”

Prospect Of The Month – Trevor Carrick

Trevor Carrick - Carolina HurricanesNot only did Carolina ship out top-pairing defender Andrej Sekera at the trade deadline, but Hurricanes defensemen have been dropping like flies since. That left a huge void on the back end in Charlotte, allowing rookie rearguard Trevor Carrick the opportunity to step into a top-pairing role.

Known for his intensity and rugged play early in his junior career, Carrick became one of the OHL’s most dangerous threats from the back end last season. That has carried over to his first professional season, with Carrick leading all Charlotte defensemen with 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) through 71 games.

Carrick has been especially good of late, with 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in 16 games since Feb. 28. His two assists on March 17 gave him the team record for points by a rookie defender (23), and it was his third multi-point game of the season and second in just three games.

 

You can follow Cory Lavalette on Twitter at @corylav