Hurricanes’ CHL prospects have varied skills

By Cory Lavalette
Photo: Swede Victor Rask had many possible destinations in 2011-12, from remaining in Sweden to playing in the AHL. He ultimatey decided to play with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Kellner)

The Carolina Hurricanes restocked their CHL prospect pool in 2011 NHL Entry Draft, adding five players who play major junior in North America. The Canes have seven players total in the Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League with several different skill sets, from both stay-at-home and freewheeling defensemen to skilled forwards and gritty checkers.

OHL

Austin Levi, D, Plymouth Whalers
Acquired: 3rd round (85th overall) in 2010

Levi was a bit of a surprise selection in the third round two summers ago, but Carolina’s confidence in the young defenseman looks like it could pay off. When Levi was selected, he was earmarked as a stay-at-home defender who could use his big frame (6’4, 205 pounds) to stifle the opposition. While his future points in that direction, Levi has added some offense to his game the past season and a half. After 25 points in 2010-11, Levi is on pace for a similar output and has two goals, 11 assists in 31 games. His play earned him a spot at Team USA’s World Junior Under-20 preliminary roster. He will find out if he made the final cut December 22nd.

Matt Mahalak, G, Plymouth Whalers
Acquired: 6th round (163rd overall) in 2011

Mahalak will get a chance to take the reins of the number one goaltender job with normal starter Scott Wedgewood (NJ) poised to play with Team USA at the World Junior Championships. But based on the numbers, Plymouth shouldn’t see much of a dropoff. Mahalak ranks second in the OHL in goals-against average (2.12) and tied for third in save percentage (.933) with a 9-4-0 record for the Whalers, who have 47 points through 34 games, good for second in the OHL.

Ryan Murphy, D, Kitchener Rangers
Acquired: 1st round (12th overall) in 2011

When Murphy slid to Carolina at Number 12 in this past summer’s draft, the Hurricanes could not pass on the smooth-skating offensive blueliner. Murphy dazzled at training camp and earned a roster spot to start the season in the NHL. But he was a healthy scratch during his time in Raleigh and eventually returned to Kitchener. His season was derailed when he was concussed on a reckless hit by Niagara forward Tom Kuhnhackl (PIT) on November 4th. Kuhnhackl was suspended 20 games and Murphy missed 10 games before returning. Through 16 games he had nine points and was invited to Canada’s World Junior preliminary team but was among the final cuts.

WHL

Keegan Lowe, D, Edmonton Oil Kings
Acquired: 3rd round (73rd overall) in 2011

Like Levi, Lowe’s path to the NHL is as a defensive defenseman. That makes sense given what we know about his genes. The son of Hall of Famer Kevin Lowe, Keegan is poised to be bigger (already 6’3, 186 pounds) than his famous father. In 35 games this season, Lowe has already matched his career high for goals (two) and with 11 points is on pace to about match the modest 24 points he had last season. The younger Lowe plays a grittier game than his dad, having fought 17 times in his three WHL seasons.

Victor Rask, C, Calgary Hitmen
Acquired: 2nd round (42nd overall) in 2011

Rask had many possible destinations for the 2011-12 season, including the NHL, AHL, Swedish Elite League, and the CHL. In the end, Rask and the Hurricanes decided the best path for his development was with Calgary of the WHL. The creative center has made the most of his opportunity, registering 29 points through 34 games (good for second on the Hitmen and seventh among rookies in the WHL) and his team-leading 16 goals are tied for second among first-year players in the league. Rask will be a part of Team Sweden for the World Juniors in Alberta, Canada.

Tyler Stahl, D, Victoria Royals
Acquired: 6th round (167th overall) in 2010

Stahl has missed most of the 2011-12 season with a concussion suffered October 1st on an elbow to the head delivered by Prince George forward Charles Inglis. Inglis was given a match penalty and later suspended 10 games. Before the injury, Stahl had one assist and 16 penalty minutes in four games for the Royals, which relocated to Victoria from Chilliwack for the 2011-12 season. Stahl, who led the Bruins in penalty minutes last season, remains out indefinitely.

Brody Sutter, RW, Lethbridge Hurricanes
Acquired: 7th round (193rd overall) in 2011

Sutter became the third from his family line to join the Hurricanes organization when he was drafted in the final round of last summer’s draft after being passed over the previous year. Sutter, the son of former NHLer Duane Sutter, has 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) through 33 games for last-place Lethbridge. Sutter ranks second on the Hurricanes in goals, assists and points in his fourth major junior season.