Big things expected from Ryan Murphy and rest of Carolina Hurricanes’ top 20

By Cory Lavalette
Ryan Murphy - Carolina Hurricanes

Yet another talented defensive prospect in the Carolina system, Ryan Murphy's NHL debut may not be far away. (courtesy of Jamie Kellner/HF)

The Hurricanes were arguably the NHL’s busiest team the past six months, adding Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin to their top six while committing more than $150 million in guaranteed money to both their new acquisitions and their core players.

The focus is clearly on winning — and winning now. Carolina traded one of their top prospects in defenseman Brian Dumoulin to Pittsburgh to land Staal, and the one-year deal for Semin shows that Carolina’s braintrust is willing to take a risk.

1. (1) Ryan Murphy, D, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 12th overall, 2011

Carolina’s defensive corps looks full to start 2012-13, but don’t count Murphy out of the mix. The prevailing opinion is that Murphy wouldn’t get much out of another season of junior hockey, so Carolina may opt to keep him with the team and ease him into the lineup.

Whether that means possibly dressing seven defenseman and putting Murphy in a position to succeed — even though the team has a wealth of options on the power play, no one on the roster possesses the combination of vision, passing and shooting Murphy possesses — or giving him spot starts until he proves he's ready for a full-time role will be up to Head Coach Kirk Muller. Regardless, Murphy’s skill set coupled with his standout performance in the Canada-Russia Challenge should have Carolina’s management excited for what the future holds. 

2. (4) Victor Rask, C, 8.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 42nd overall, 2011

Rask’s first season in North America was a success. As a rookie in the WHL, Rask notched 33 goals and 30 assists in 64 games to rank third on the Calgary Hitmen in scoring. The only disappointment was when an injury kept him out of the postseason, contributing to Calgary’s first-round exit.

As for 2012-13, Rask will get a chance to show what he’s learned after one year on this side of the Atlantic. While he seems intent on making Carolina’s roster, chances are the team’s new-found depth at center will mean — barring a standout training camp — another year of junior hockey for Rask.

3. (5) Jeremy Welsh, C, 7.0C
Signed as an free agent, April 5th, 2012

Welsh had a tiny sniff of NHL life last season, playing in Carolina’s season finale after inking a one-year deal with the team following Union College’s exit from the Frozen Four. The addition of Jordan Staal and Semin should minimize the pressure on Welsh to emerge as a secondary scoring threat to Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner — a role that has proven too much for Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe, among others, in recent seasons.

That does not mean it will be smooth sailing for Welsh. The 6’3", 200-pound center will have Rask vying for his spot — presumably third line center — in Raleigh, and Welsh will need to prove that the 27 goals he scored in 40 collegiate games last season can translate to the NHL. Welsh was recently locked up for two more years by Carolina.

4. (3) Zac Dalpe, C/W, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 45th overall, 2008

It is becoming do-or-die time for Dalpe. Once upon a time, he was seen as a sure-fire top-six forward for the Hurricanes. But after two years of failing to carve out a spot in Carolina, Dalpe faces an uphill climb in earning an NHL spot. His numbers regressed in 2011-12 — he had 25 fewer points than he had the previous campaign — and his 16-game audition in Raleigh saw him register just one goal and two assists.

Still, the tools are there for Dalpe to succeed and become an NHL player. But as more time passes and more players like Welsh and Rask emerge, Dalpe will find it harder and harder to earn a spot on a team that desperately needs to return to the postseason.

5. (NR) Phil Di Giuseppe, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 38th overall, 2012

The Hurricanes feel that even though they traded away their first-round pick at this June’s draft to land Jordan Staal, they still landed top-flight talent in the second round with Di Giuseppe. The Ontario native and rising sophomore winger at the University of Michigan tallied 26 points in his freshman campaign in Ann Arbor, including 11 goals.

Di Giuseppe has work to do to be a more rounded player, but having legendary coach Red Berenson behind the bench should help the emerging sniper to be more consistent and improve in his own end.

6. (6) Bobby Sanguinetti, D, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 21st overall, 2006 (NYR)
Trade with New York Rangers, June 26th, 2010

Sanguinetti has had an up-and-down career. In 2006 he was the 21st overall pick by the New York Rangers, but the Blueshirts — who had seen other defensive prospects move past Sanguinetti in their system — gave up on their former first-round pick and dealt him to Carolina in 2010. He got a fresh start in the Hurricanes system, but injuries hindered him in his first season with the organization.

Last year was a different story. Sanguinetti had the best season of his pro career, finishing with 10 goals and 40 assists with the Charlotte Checkers, plus getting a three-game audition in Raleigh. The defense corps in Carolina is crowded, but if Sanguinetti can prove himself in camp the Hurricanes would probably make room for the 24-year-old blueliner.

7. (8) Chris Terry, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 132nd overall, 2007

Terry’s progression up the Carolina prospect ladder continues. Terry was a proven OHL scorer, but when he turned pro AHL coach Jeff Daniels charged him with becoming a more rounded player. With that accomplished in his rookie season in 2009-10, Terry moved on to scoring again the next campaign, notching 34 goals and 64 points for the Charlotte Checkers. So what did he do for an encore in 2011-12? He piled up the assists. Terry finished last year with a team-high 43 assists, tied for the second most by a Carolina AHL player since Keith Aucoin notched 72 in 2006-07.

Terry’s next logical step is a chance at the NHL. While making the team out of camp is a long shot, Terry could emerge as a prime candidate as an injury recall.

8. (9) Riley Nash, C, 6.5B
Drafted 1st round, 21st overall, 2007 (EDM)
Trade with Edmonton Oilers, June 26th, 2010

Nash will compete for one of the bottom two center positions in camp, and if he can put on a performance like he did last September when he was the team’s final cut he very well may make the jump to the Hurricanes. Nash will likely never put up big points in the NHL, but his solid two-way play and size make him an ideal third- or fourth-line center down the round.

Nash’s numbers dipped a little last season with Charlotte (eight goals, 12 assists in 58 games), but he also had a five-game recall with Carolina and got his first NHL point, a primary assist on Andreas Nodl’s first-period goal in the Hurricanes’ 2-1 overtime win December 23rd, 2011.

9. (10) Danny Biega, D, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 76th overall, 2010

Biega enters his fourth and final season at Harvard as a returning All-American and the Crimson’s new captain. Biega was the team’s top scoring defenseman for the past two seasons, registering a career-high 35 points in 2011-12 and hitting double digits in goals for the second consecutive year.

The only thing left for Biega to accomplish is to lead Harvard back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. The Crimson have improved in each of Biega’s seasons in Cambridge and now will look to him to lead them back to the postseason.

10. (11) Mark Alt, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2010

If Alt continues to improve like he did in his sophomore season, the Hurricanes may have another second-round steal on their hands. After registering just 10 points in 35 games as a raw freshman, Alt jumped to 22 points in 43 games (five goals, 17 assists) and ranked second among Minnesota defenders last season.

Alt, the son of a former NFL offensive lineman and one-time college quarterback prospect, is still learning the nuances of high-level hockey, but his natural athleticism and ability to continuously improve could make him a target to turn pro at the end of the Golden Gophers’ season.

11. (13) Austin Levi, D, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 85th overall, 2010

Levi is poised to begin his professional career after signing his entry-level deal in March. Levi has always been seen as a potential shutdown defender, but he also improved offensively by scoring 30 points in 64 games last season. He capped that off with an impressive 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 13 postseason games with Plymouth.

Still, Levi’s bread and butter is his ability to defend in his own end, using his big frame and long wingspan to shield defenders from his own net. He will battle for a spot in Charlotte, but it will be a crowded defense, especially if the NHL locks out players and the minor leagues are flooded with more talent.

12. (NR) Brock McGinn, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 47th overall, 2012

After taking Di Giuseppe, Carolina used their other second round pick on McGinn, a hard-nosed winger that fits the mold of his current coach in Guelph, ex-Hurricanes forward Scott Walker. McGinn is also the latest in a long line of players picked up by Carolina with NHL bloodlines — one of his brothers, Jamie, is a forward with Colorado, while his other brother, Tye, was a 2010 selection by Philadelphia.

McGinn is not a big scorer — he has just 22 goals and 32 points in 101 career games with the Storm — but he registered a respectable 18 points in 33 games after missing much of the beginning of the 2011-12 season with a wrist injury. McGinn will return to Guelph this season.

13. (14) Keegan Lowe, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 85th overall, 2010

Lowe, the son of Oilers legend Kevin Lowe, returns to the defending WHL champion Oil Kings hoping for a shot at a Memorial Cup as part of a defense that includes 2012 Islanders first-rounder Griffin Reinhart.

Lowe continues to grow into an all-around blueliner. He can put up a modest amount of points (24 two seasons ago, 23 last year) while also serving as a shutdown defender and physical presence (262 combined penalty minutes the last two years, including 13 total fights during the 2011-12 regular season and playoffs).

14. (15) Michal Jordan, D, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 105th overall, 2008

Jordan has put up solid numbers in his first two professional seasons, but with several younger prospects on the horizon he will need to make a major impact in 2012-13 to remain in Carolina’s long-term plans.

Jordan registered 22 points in 2011-12, four more than his rookie season in nine more games. He is a reliable defensive player, often paired with bigger Brett Bellemore on the Checkers blue line the past two seasons, but he has not emerged as a dominant player in any facet in the AHL. He will battle for ice time in Charlotte again this season.

15. (NR) Daniel Altshuller, G, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 69th overall, 2012

With the departure of Mike Murphy to the KHL and Frederik Andersen’s re-entry in the draft after not being signed, the Hurricanes desperately needed depth in goal. They addressed that need twice at the 2012 draft, first with Altshuller.

Altshuller made his mark in the OHL playoffs last season, stealing the number one job in Oshawa and nearly leading the Generals to a come-from-behind win over Niagara in the first round of the playoffs. Altshuller enters 2012-13 as the team’s number one, which should mean lots of starts and a chance to prove his playoff performance last spring wasn’t an aberration.

16. (NR) Jacccob Slavin, D, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 120th overall, 2012

Much like Alt two seasons ago, Slavin is a raw prospect that could pay big dividends. Slavin will spend another season with the USHL’s Chicago Steel as he is still a year away from joining Colorado College.

Slavin is definitely a project, but Carolina could conceivably hold on to his rights for five more years and see how he progresses before deciding if he’s a future pro.

17. (NR) Erik Karlsson, C, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 99th overall, 2012

Karlsson brings speed and tenacity down the middle to Carolina’s offensive corps. The Swedish center with a familiar moniker — Ottawa’s defenseman of the same name was a Norris Trophy finalist in 2011-12 — is undersized (6’0” and 161 pounds) but makes up for it with physical play and a constant motor.

Karlsson had 33 points in 47 games with Frolunda’s SuperElit team last year and will aim to try and crack the squad’s top-league roster in 2012-13.

18. (7) Evgeni Dadonov, RW, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 71st overall, 2007 (FLA)
Trade with Florida Panthers, January 18th, 2012

When he was acquired from the Panthers, some thought Carolina may have found a right wing to help set up Carolina’s top-six scorers. But Dadonov never made it to Carolina, spending 35 games with Charlotte after the trade, and then deciding to join Donbass of the KHL for 2012-13.

Dadonov threatened to bolt for the KHL following the 2009-10 season, and actually made headway toward being a full-time NHL player by scoring eight goals and nine assists in 36 games with the Panthers the next season. But new Florida coach Kevin Dineen did not use Dadonov much in 2011-12, eventually leading to his trade to Carolina.

19. (12) Mike Murphy, G, 6.0C
Drafted 6th round, 16th overall, 2008

Murphy had emerged as a potential future NHL player, even appearing in two NHL games last season after injuries necessitated his recall. But after another solid campaign in Charlotte that saw him go 18-15-2, Murphy opted to sign with Moscow Spartak of the KHL.

The move surprised the Hurricanes, who seemed poised to hand the starting reins in Charlotte to Murphy and even potentially make him the franchise’s number three goalie. Instead, Murphy will spend 2012-13 overseas.

20. (NR) Trevor Carrick, D, 6.0C
Drafted 4th round, 115th overall, 2012

The Hurricanes think they found an unpolished gem in Carrick, a 6'2” defenseman who plays for Mississauga in the OHL. Carrick adds much-needed grit to Carolina's defensive prospects. He is similar in style to current alternate captain Tim Gleason: hard-nosed, competitive, team-first and willing to throw his weight around to keep the opposition honest. Also like Gleason coming out of junior, Carrick is thought to have some offensive potential — he had 19 points, including six goals, in 68 games last season. The big key for Carrick will be filling out and adding to his current 175 pounds.


Follow Cory Lavalette on Twitter at @corylav