Carolina Hurricanes Prospect Profiles

By Parker Neale

The motto for the Carolina Hurricanes seems to have become ‘quality, not quantity,’ as can be demonstrated by the mere 13 members of their Top Prospect List. However, if you look at their track record over the past few seasons, it becomes clear that they are doing a good job of drafting and producing NHL-ready players at a fairly quick pace (please refer to David Tanabe, Josef Vasicek, Shane Willis and Niclas Wallin).

Therefore, here is a look at the top 13 in the organization right now:

Rob Zepp

(6’01 – 200 pounds)
(Born: 09/07/81 in Canada)
(After re-entering draft, was selected by Carolina in the 4th round, 110th overall in 2001)

The acquisition of Tom Barrasso forced the Hurricanes to send Tyler Moss to Lowell (AHL). Therefore, there was no room for Zepp and he landed in Florida, their ECHL affiliate. He has won 6 of the 13 games he has played and tied two others while notching a 3.33 goals-against-average and a 0.902 save percentage. Zepp had a stellar three-year career with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. He is the goaltender of the future for Carolina.

Brad DeFauw

(Left Wing)
(6’03 – 210 pounds)
(Born: 11/10/77 in the United States)
(Selected by Carolina in the 2nd round, 28th overall in the 1997 draft)

In 29 games with Lowell this year, DeFauw has tallied 11 goals, 21 points and 19 penalty minutes. He started to raise some eyebrows with Cincinnati of the International Hockey League last season when he produced 20 goals and 51 points.

The big winger saw his numbers plateau, somewhat during his career at North Dakota, finishing with 22 points in 43 games in the final season. However, he has adjusted well to the pro game and should have a home in Carolina sooner than expected.

Erik Cole

(Left Wing)
(6’01 – 185 pounds)
(Born: 11/06/78 in the United States)
(Selected by Carolina in the 3rd round, 71st overall in 1998)

Cole is on this list because it was created before the 2001-2002 season began. Therefore, nobody expected him to burst out of the gates in his NHL career and be a Calder Trophy candidate at the season’s halfway point. His days on the farm seem to be behind him as he has notched 10 goals, 21 points and 21 penalty minutes in 38 games with Carolina this year.

After completing a solid career at Clarkson University, he produced a very respectable 23 goals and 43 points with Cincinnati (IHL) last year.

Igor Knyazev

(6’00 – 195 pounds)
(Born: 01/01/83 in Russia)
(Selected 15th overall by Carolina in the 2001 draft)

Due to his maturity and poise, it was expected that Knyazev would contend for a regular spot with the Hurricanes this season. Unfortunately, he returned to the Russian Hockey League for one more season. However, it appears as though he will be a regular on the Carolina blueline within a year or two. His 2001-2002 statistics were not available.

Mike Zigomanis

(6’00 – 180 pounds)
(Born: 01/17/81 in Canada)
(After re-entering draft, he was selected by Carolina in the 2nd round, 46th overall in 2001)

Zigomanis started his professional career with a bang, earning AHL Rookie-of-the-Month honors for October. He now has 9 goals and 24 points after 31 games. It will be interesting to see how he progresses during the season as teams pay closer attention to him.

Tomas Kurka

(Left Wing)
(6’00 – 180 pounds)
(Born: 12/14/81 in the Czech Republic)
(Selected by Carolina in the 2nd round, 32nd overall in 2000)

Kurka appears to be struggling to adapt to the pro game as he has only tallied 4 goals and 8 points to go along with 6 penalty minutes in 30 games with Lowell this season.

Brett Lysak

(6’00 – 190 pounds)
(Born: 12/12/80 in Canada)
(Selected by Carolina in the 2nd round, 49th overall in 1999)

Like Kurka, Lysak either isn’t getting a great deal of playing time or is struggling to find his game at the pro level. After completing a solid overage year with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, he has 2 goals, 7 points and 14 penalty minutes with Lowell this season.

Jean-Marc Pelletier

(6’03 – 200 pounds)
(Born: 03/04/78 in the United States)
(Selected by Philadelphia in the 2nd round, 30th overall in the 1997 draft. Later traded to Carolina along with Rod Brind’Amour)

In 15 games this season, Pelletier has 7 wins, 1 tie, a 2.89 goals-against-average and a 0.908 save percentage. These numbers are very respectable. However, it is his fourth professional season and he has dropped down the depth chart with the additions of Barrasso and Zepp to the organization.

Nikos Tselios

(6’04 – 190 pounds)
(Born: 01/20/79 in the United States)
(Selected by Carolina in the 1st round, 22nd overall in 1997)

Tselios has 2 goals, 12 points and 31 penalty minutes with Lowell this season. Due to the fact that it is his 3rd pro season, he has yet to translate the offensive success that he realized with Belleville of the Ontario Hockey League to the pro game.

Jaroslav Svoboda

(Right Wing)
(6’02 – 190 pounds)
(Born: 06/01/80 in the Czech Republic)
(Selected by Carolina in the 8th round, 208th overall in 1998)

Svoboda is also struggling to adapt offensively to the professional ranks. In 31 games with Lowell this year, he has notched 2 goals, 10 points and 35 penalty minutes. He also tallied a mere 14 points last season. Svoboda turned pro after two standout seasons with Kootenay of the Western Hockey League.

Byron Ritchie

(5’10 – 185 pounds)
(Born: 04/24/77 in Canada)
(Selected by Hartford in the 7th round, 165th overall in 1995)

Ritchie has been one of the top performers in the AHL this season with 17 goals, 38 points and 38 penalty minutes in 32 games. However, during his career, he has failed to produce at the NHL level, with 2 points in 29 career games. He is now in his 5th professional season.

Jeff Heerema

(Right Wing)
(6’01 – 180 pounds)
(Born: 01/17/80 in Canada)
(Selected 11th overall by Carolina in the 1998 draft)

With 15 goals, 28 points and 38 penalty minutes with Lowell this season, Heerema is following up on his solid 33-point rookie campaign with Cincinnati (IHL) last year. This type of play will definitely get him a call-up to the big club sooner than expected.

Ryan Bayda
(6’0 – 185 pounds)
(Born: 12/09/80 in Canada)
(Selected by Carolina in the 3rd round, 80th overall in the 2000 draft)

Bayda is currently in his third year with North Dakota University. He was a top performer there last year, marking 59 points in 46 games and helping lead the team to the NCAA championship game. Although the team has not been as successful this season so far, he leads them with 17 points in 17 games.

Stay tuned for an article on the ‘Canes other notable prospects in the near future and have a merry Christmas.