Rutherford has made a good effort to try and solidify the future of this franchise for years to come. There is still work that must be done. Among other things, they need to bolster their defense, which they have tried to do, and drafting Russian backliner Igor Knyazev has been a giant step in the right direction. They also needed to try and get a decent back-up goaltender, to smooth over that position. They are still in need of a bit of work on the wings, in adding size, and Chris Dingman could possibly be the answer there, but he has been a big disappointment as a pro. The scoring touch he showed as a junior hasn’t been there, although he won’t be expected to score in a ‘Canes uniform, he can be more than a goon.
1. Zepp, Rob
Rob Zepp was in his final season with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, which is also owned by ‘Canes owner Peter Karmanos, was a final cut from Canada’s National Junior Team. He put in his best season yet in Plymouth, and with the help of other ‘Cane prospects, including the likes of Damian Surma, Jared Newman and Tomas Kurka, took the Whalers to the OHL finals, only to lose to the Ottawa ’67’s, and a goal by their Captain, Joe Talbot. He failed to come to terms with his original drafting team, the Atlanta Thrashers, so he re-entered, and was selected almost exactly where the Thrashers took him in ’99, but eleven picks lower, at #110. He looks like a very good bet to be a big part of the ‘Canes future.
2000-01 Plymouth OHL 55GP 34W 18L 3T 2.26GAA .916SV%
2. DeFauw, Brad
A second round pick in 1997, DeFauw is starting to reward the ‘Canes organization for giving him time to finish his education at North Dakota before going straight in to the rigors of professional hockey. The smooth-skating DeFauw was among the top scorers on the ‘Canes IHL affiliate in Cincinnati this past season, with a 51-point rookie campaign. (20g, 31a)
He still needs to work on becoming more of a physical force, especially for his size, at the minor pro level, before becoming an NHL’er. He has an excellent, hard shot, which is very accurate, and is one of his main selling points as an NHL prospect. He could be a very good power forward in the NHL someday.
2000-01 Cincinnati IHL 82GP 20G 31A 51P 39PIM
3. Cole, Erik
A native of Oswego, New York, Erik Cole has just completed his first full pro season. He had a couple of nagging injuries which kept him out for a few games here and there, otherwise, he would have been very close to the totals registered by fellow prospect Brad DeFauw, but both were impressive, considering how veteran-oriented the IHL was. He probably won’t be a scorer when he reaches the NHL, but he’s a good checker, and loves to throw his frame around. Speaking of which, he’d be well-advised to gain a few pounds of muscle this off-season if he wants a legitimate shot at making the ‘Canes full-time. He had a very positive first full season of pro hockey, and is looking to improve upon his overall totals in Lowell next season, or, possibly, Carolina, if all goes well.
2000-01 Cincinnati IHL 69GP 23G 20A 43P 28PIM
4. Knyazev, Igor
Drafting Igor Knyazev definitely filled a need. The moment he was drafted he skipped right ahead of Nikos Tselios as far as our blueline prospects go. He could have a good shot at making the ‘Canes next season, with the departures of Kevin Hatcher and David Karpa, who were just third-wheels on our defensive corps, anyway. If he doesn’t make the ‘Canes right out of camp, he should go to Plymouth for more development.
2000-01 Spartak Rus2 53GP 6G 5A 11P 101PIM
5. Zigomanis, Mike
Another re-entry, Mike Zigomanis was snatched up in the second round by the ‘Canes. His weaknesses have been well documented, he’s a poor skater, really needs to work on his defensive work. He’s a terrific offensive player, although he didn’t dominate in his final year of junior like a lot of players do, but he missed 16 games, so it’s excuseable. He was also a member of Canada’s National Junior Team, where he performed admirably. He has a lot of offensive upside, but those two major flaws will require a lot of work in the minors, possibly a year, to rectify. He will be a good NHL’er, but when?
2000-01 Kingston OHL 52GP 40G 37A 77P 44PIM
6. Kurka, Tomas
Arguably the most talented prospect in the ‘Canes organization, Kurka just finished his second season in Plymouth. He’s still a soft player, and his offensive totals dropped off a tad, but Kurka is still a very important part of the Whalers team. He’s an excellent skater, and has very good offensive instincts, but he needs to bulk up a bit.
2000-01 Plymouth OHL 47GP 15G 29A 44P 20PIM
7. Lysak, Brett
Brett Lysak was a second-round selection from the ’99 Draft. A draft which also produced future star David Tanabe. Lysak got to the Memorial Cup in his final season in Regina, (they were the host team, but had a good season in their own right.) and didn’t embarrass himself, playing solidly, and showing that Regina belonged there. He’s one of my favourite ‘Canes prospects, and he will only get better with time. He’s a very good skater, and is a tireless worker in all zones. He’s a good offensive player, won’t be anything more than a 50-60 point guy in the NHL if he pans out. Either way, he’s making the ‘Canes look very good for selecting him in Round 2 of 1999.
2000-01 Regina WHL 64GP 35G 48A 83P 44PIM
8. Pelletier, Jean-Marc
A player who was most hurt by the acquisitions of Rob Zepp, Daniel Boisclair and Tom Barrasso, Jean-Marc did not exactly have a dream season in Cincinnati. He seemed to lose his confidence at times last season when his defense had lapses in their own end. He’s still a very good NHL prospect, though, but has to show that he can rebound from an average season in the minor leagues. There’s an outside chance he can beat out veteran Tom Barrasso for the back-up’s job this coming season.
2000-01 Cincinnati IHL 39GP 18W 14L 5T 3.16GAA .906SV%
9. Tselios, Nikos
The first draft pick of the franchise after moving to Carolina, Nikos Tselios still has yet to make a ripple in NHL waters in two professional seasons. He showed in junior that he was offensively-capable, and that would be something the ‘Canes could use, being that they only have two defensemen (Ozo, Tanabe) which are offensive-style D-men. He can play offense, but his forte is definitely defense. Tselios is big, but doesn’t use his size too much to his advantage, being that he is quite big. He’s a good, albeit choppy skater, who has good puck-moving skills, and has a good shot from the point. He is definitely NHL-calibre, but the next season is a very important one, to see whether or not he was a good selection.
2000-01 Cincinnati IHL 79GP 7G 18A 25P 98PIM
10. Svoboda, Jaroslav
A player whose stock isn’t as high as it was last season, Svoboda did not appear ready for IHL competition last season. He had a paltry 14 points (4g, 10a) in 52 games, and did not display the two-way game that he showed in flashed when he was a member of the Kootenay Ice. He still projects to be a decent player at the NHL level, if he can recover his confidence after a poor rookie season with the Cyclones. He was a late-round pick, so if he doesn’t pan out, he was still a steal. He will need at least one year in Lowell before he is to become a full-time NHL’er.
2000-01 Cincinnati IHL 52GP 4G 10A 14P 25PIM
11. Ritchie, Byron
A guy who tore up the junior ranks in his earlier years, Byron Ritchie is still looking to land himself a solid job in the NHL. He has been a scoring ace at the minor pro levels for a while now, but lacks the required size to be a physical force at the NHL level. He could, and might be a regular with the ‘Canes in the coming season, but he will have to dedicate himself to solid defensive work. He has a lot of offensive talent, and we are still waiting for his defensive play to catch up with it. He could be a good one, watch for him this season in Lowell, if not with the big club.
2000-01 Cincinnati IHL 77GP 31G 35A 66P 166PIM
12. Heerema, Jeff
The guy who fell the hardest on the ‘Canes prospect charts this season, Jeff Heerema displayed only fits and starts of the offensive talent which he flashed to scouts in hus junior days in Sarnia. He’s got excellent wheels, which will be his main selling point in his future travels, and a nose for the net. He loves to throw his weight around, which is a plus, and is improving on the defensive end. He still has yet to live up to his high billing which came with the 11th Overall selection in 1998, but a good season in Lowell should dispel the notion that he is a bust. He had a poor season in Cincinnati.
2000-01 Cincinnati IHL 73GP 17G 16A 33P 42PIM
13. Bayda, Ryan
A former BCJHL scoring machine, Ryan Bayda has just finished his second season at the University of North Dakota, which was the same school attended by fellow ‘Cane prospect Brad DeFauw. He was a third round pick in 2000, and is doing his best to live up to that advanced billing, with more than point-per-game totals in his second season of eligibility. He’s small, but strong on his skates, and difficult to knock off the puck. He has a well-rounded game, which includes stellar play on the defensive end. He plays with energy and poise in all situations. He’s someone who isn’t quite ready yet, but he will definitely be one to watch in the future.
2000-01 U. of North Dakota NCAA 46GP 25G 34A 59P 48PIM