This season it seemed that the NHL lockout was a godsend for Carolina Hurricanes as they were able to draft future franchise player Jack Johnson third overall due to the open 2005 draft lottery. Not only that, but with seemingly minor adjustments, GM Jim Rutherford and Coach Peter Laviolette brought the ‘Canes from a tie for 22nd overall in 2003-04 to a tie for third-best overall record in 2005-06.
Below are the five rookies that dressed for the ‘Canes during the 2005-06 season.
Cam Ward, G Age: 22
Hailed as one of Carolina’s best prospects since being drafted in the first round in 2002, Rutherford had such confidence in the young goaltender that if there had not been a lockout in 2004-05, he planned to move the junior player straight to the NHL. Perhaps luckily for Ward he got a year of seasoning in the AHL first where he led the league in save percentage with a mark of .937 and made the AHL All-Rookie team.
This season, Rutherford’s original plan of action was executed and Ward backed up Martin Gerber behind a strong and rejuvenated Hurricanes team. Ward’s numbers didn’t threaten Gerber’s position as starter, but he still did well enough to put up a 14-8-2 record, appearing in a total of 28 regular season games.
Although his regular season numbers weren’t all too impressive (3.68 GAA, .882 save %), Ward, who was the CHL Goaltender of the Year in 2003-04, has been stellar in the postseason. His opportunity to shine came after Gerber faltered and in seven appearances Ward has a 6-1 record, a1.37 GAA and .944 save percentage, along with one shutout.
Andrew Ladd, LW Age: 20
The Hurricanes had the eighth overall pick in the 2004 Entry Draft, but that wasn’t enough for Rutherford who traded that pick along with their 59th overall to the Columbus Blue Jackets in order to take Ladd fourth overall.
Ladd spent the 2004-05 season in the WHL, but this season he began the year with the Lowell Lock Monsters and played 15 games before his first call-up to the NHL against Tampa Bay on Nov. 20. However it wasn’t until his third game against the Toronto Maple Leafs that he notched his first NHL goal on the power play. In total he played seven straight games for the ‘Canes and had four goals before a knee injury knocked him out of the lineup for just over a month.
When Ladd returned from the injury on Jan. 17, he played nine more games for the Hurricanes, scoring two more goals and adding a couple of assists, before he was repeatedly shipped between Lowell and Carolina. He played nine games for Lowell in total in February before being called up to the Hurricanes once and for all after a March 4 game when he had a goal and two assists for the Lock Monsters. The Hurricanes were hoping that Ladd would add the grit for their playoff run following a serious injury to Erik Cole, in which Cole fractured vertebrae. Ladd played 11 more games for the ‘Canes, but only managed three assists before a lower body injury caused him to miss more time. Since healing, Ladd has played a few more games including a playoff match in which he got an assist, but he’s most often been a healthy scratch.
After a promising start to his NHL career Ladd finished the regular season with six goals and five assists in 29 games and an even plus/minus rating.
Anton Babchuk, D Age: 22
The Hurricanes acquired Babchuk on Jan. 20 in a trade for Danny Richmond and he immediately began logging minutes on the ‘Canes blue line. Babchuk’s NHL debut came back in 2003-04, but this season he played 39 games combined for the Blackhawks and Hurricanes, and he had five goals and five assists. Babchuk’s first NHL goal came on Dec. 15 while wearing a Chicago uniform against the Nashville Predators.
Originally drafted 21st overall by the Blackhawks in 2002, Babchuk stands 6’5 tall and uses his size well as a pro. Although he hasn’t appeared for the Hurricanes this playoff run, Babchuk made good progress in the NHL this season but has yet to earn a regular spot on the blue line.
Chad LaRose, RW Age: 24
After winning the OHL’s overage player of the year award for his 117-point season with the Plymouth Whalers in 2002-03, LaRose was signed by the Hurricanes as a Free Agent on August 6th, 2003. He split time between Lowell and the ECHL’s Florida Everblades in 2003-04 before playing with the Lock Monsters for all of 2004-05. This season LaRose started with Lowell and had 25 points in 23 games but was called up on Dec. 4, sticking with the Hurricanes the rest of the season and into the playoffs.
Before this season, the ‘Canes were somewhat concerned that LaRose’s size would keep him from being effective in the NHL, however the rule changes combined with the size of his heart and work ethic amounted to him playing 49 regular season games with the Hurricanes with only an occasional scratch.
LaRose collected his first NHL point, in the form of an assist, in his second game, and his first and only goal of the season came four games later on Dec. 17 in a 4-1 win over Marty Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils. He finished the year a +7 with the one goal and a total of 12 assists.
Although he averaged just over only ten minutes per game, the native of Fraser, Michigan did well in his role as sparkplug and proof of that is his continued playoff appearances during the current Stanley Cup championships.
Andrew Hutchinson, D Age: 25
A native of Evanston, Illinois, Hutchinson was drafted by the Nashville Predators in 1999 in the second round, 54th overall, while he was playing for Michigan State. After completing his college career in 2001-02 he was signed and began to work his way up the Predators system in 2002-03 with Toledo of the ECHL and the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. He made his NHL debut in 2003-04 and played a total of 18 games for the Predators, scoring four goals and adding four assists with a +1 rating.
Acquired by the Hurricanes via trade on July 29 for their third round pick in the 2005 Entry Draft, Hutchinson spent all of this season in the NHL but only managed to suit up for 36 games, scoring three goals and eight assists in those appearances. There were some healthy scratches, but a hip injury in November and a wrist injury in February that required surgery accounted for the bulk of his absences from the Hurricanes line-up. Although healthy now, Hutchinson has not yet appeared for the ‘Canes in the postseason.
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