Carolina Hurricanes boast small but talented group of collegiate defensemen

By Cory Lavalette
Photo: Danny Biega is one of the top offensive defensemen in the ECAC, leading all defensemen in the conference with nine goals and 21 assists. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Kellner)

In recent years, the Carolina Hurricanes have looked to college-bound players, specifically defensemen, to fill their future needs. Conversely, the Canes have not drafted many European players and half of their current overseas prospects were playing in North America when Carolina drafted them.

NCAA

Mark Alt, D, 19
Acquired: 2nd round, 53rd overall


Carolina may not have a bigger boom-or-bust prospect than Alt. The athletic defenseman comes from football bloodlines – his father was a longtime NFL offensive lineman – and was pursued by several major colleges to play quarterback. Instead, Alt decided hockey was his best path to being a professional athlete, and his first year at the University of Minnesota has helped him become better accustomed to high-level hockey. In 35 games this season, Alt had two goals and eight assists, but all but one of those points came in 28 WCHA conference games. He may have the longest road among Carolina’s impressive crop of collegiate defensemen, but he could also have the most potential as well.

Danny Biega, D, 19
Acquired: 3rd round, 67th overall, 2010

Even if Harvard didn’t have a season to remember, Biega had one for the ages. The sophomore defenseman led the Crimson (12-21-1) in scoring this season with 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in 34 games and was one of only two blueliners in college hockey to lead his team in scoring. For his efforts, Biega, the third of three brothers to play for Harvard, was named second-team all-ECAC. He led all ECAC defensemen in conference scoring (21 points) and goals (nine), and was sixth in the entire league in points. His 11 goals were the most by a Crimson defender in more than a decade, and he is the first d-man to lead Harvard in scoring since 1981-82.

Brian Dumoulin, D, 19
Acquired: 2nd round, 51st overall in 2009

Dumoulin was a key cog in Boston College’s national championship in 2010, and he was even better this season despite the Eagles’ early departure from the NCAA Tournament. The sophomore was named Hockey East’s defensive defenseman of the year and was named to the all-conference first team. On top of his defensive efforts, Dumoulin led all Hockey East blueliners in conference scoring and finished the entire season with three goals and 33 points in 37 games, and was tied for 16th in the entire nation with 30 assists. Dumoulin also represented the United States at the World Junior Championships this winter, registering two assists in six games in Team USA’s bronze medal performance while spending much of the tournament paired with fellow Carolina prospect Justin Faulk. Dumoulin has already announced that he will be returning for his junior season.

Justin Faulk, D, 19
Acquired: 2nd round, 37th overall, 2010

Faulk has been a key part of Minnesota-Duluth’s run to their first NCAA championship. The freshman defender has led all Bulldog blueliners in scoring, posting eight goals and 25 assists, including six power play goals through 39 games. He was named to the WCHA’s all-rookie team and the conference’s third team, plus College Hockey News placed him on its all-rookie squad. In UMD’s regional final, Faulk had two assists in his team’s upset over No. 1 seed Yale. Faulk also shined at the World Junior Championships playing alongside Dumoulin on Team USA’s defense. He had a goal and three assists in six games in the U.S.’s bronze medal showing. There’s been no official word on his status for next season. Even though he’s just a freshman, Faulk could decide to turn pro following UMD’s championship run.

Europe

Frederik Andersen, G, 21
Acquired: 7th round, 187th overall, 2010

The Hurricanes took a flier on the Danish goalie in the seventh round of last summer’s draft, but they probably won’t learn more about his pro potential until he makes the jump to a higher level of competition. As a 20-year-old last season, Anderson dominated the Danish league and was named the league’s MVP. He followed that up with an equally impressive campaign this year, but the team would like him to come to North America next season and participate in prospect conditioning camp before deciding the best destination for him in 2011-12.

Tommi Kivisto, D, 19
Acquired: 7th round, 208th overall, 2009

When Carolina selected Kivisto, he was coming off a solid season with the WHL‘s Red Deer Rebels. Projected as a mid-round pick, Kivisto instead fell into the final round and, disappointed with the slide, decided to return to his native Finland. He’s spent the past two seasons with Jokerit as an everyday defenseman in Finland‘s top league. He also joined fellow Hurricanes defensive prospect Rasmus Rissanen on Team Finland at the World Junior Championships, registering one assist in six games. Carolina was satisfied with the work ethic and conditioning Kivisto showed at conditioning camp, so they are comfortable with him playing overseas in the short term.

Mattias Lindstrom, LW, 19,
Acquired: 3rd round, 88th overall, 2009

The Hurricanes will have a decision to make regarding Lindstrom, who missed nearly all of last season with a knee injury and has been trying to return to the form that made him a third round pick. He has spent the majority of the 2010-11 season in the Swedish Elite League’s second division, managing 11 points in 28 games and was held without a point in 11 games in the top division. European draft picks have to be signed within two years of their selection, so Carolina needs to determine if Lindstrom is worth taking a chance on – and the team could use a player of his size and skill in their system – or if they should cut their losses with the 6’3 Finn.