Carolina Hurricanes looking for big contributions from several prospects

By Robert Theodorson

Victor Rask - Carolina Hurricanes

Photo: Forward Victor Rask is now in his first full season of professional hockey. Rask spent the majority of the past two seasons playing for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. (courtesy of Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

With a top-six group that appears set for the foreseeable future, the Carolina Hurricanes are desperate for scoring help from their bottom-six. The organization is also looking for one of their numerous defensive prospects to become an everyday defenseman in the NHL.

Management and fans alike are hungry for a playoff berth and there is reason to believe that a few of these skilled youngsters can certainly carry this team to the playoffs once more.


Top Pro Prospect
Elias Lindholm, C, Carolina Hurricanes (NHL)

Lindholm showed up to NHL training camp with some question marks, mainly whether or not he would be able to make an immediate contribution to the NHL roster. Those questions were answered almost immediately and the former fifth overall pick now looks like a lock to spend the 2013-14 season in Carolina. Lindholm possesses all the playmaking skills and moves necessary to become an important offensive weapon in the NHL.

Teams will not know what they are quite up against the first few times they see the Swedish center. Anyone who is lucky enough to get ice time with Lindholm should see their point totals improve. If he can break into the top-six early enough in the season he should be a favorite for the Calder Trophy, which is award to the top NHL rookie.

Ryan Murphy, D, Carolina Hurricanes (NHL)

It appeared for a very short few hours that Ryan Murphy would finally get a legitimate shot to be a top defensemen for the Canes once offensive-defenseman Joni Pitkanen was deemed lost for the season. Murphy looked to be a sure thing for top four duties, including the powerplay duties Pitkanen long held with the club. After the signing of Ron Hainsey, it seems management has decided to go with a stop gap rather than let their top defensive prospect step up and fill big shoes.

Although Murphy might not get as much ice time as once thought, he will certainly remain the top defensive prospect. Barring a trade for a blue chip prospect, the former Kitchener Rangers' captain will be counted on to play big minutes when he's more experienced and polished.

First-Year Pro
Danny Biega, D, Charlotte Checkers (AHL)

Biega rounds out Carolina's big three defensive prospects, the other two being Murphy and Brett Pesce. Like Pesce, Biega is a nimble defenseman who plays a strong two-way game. Winning the ECAC Best Defensive Defenseman award during his junior year at Harvard shows what kind of player Carolina might have on their hands in the future.

Everyone is waiting for Murphy to finally make the permanent jump to the NHL but Biega may have the better overall game. It might not be long either before the Hurricanes give Biega a serious shot at sticking on the NHL roster.

Offensive Breakout
Victor Rask, C, Charlotte Checkers (AHL)

After gaining some much needed development at the professional level, it appears Rask is very close to making the NHL roster. A point-per-game player in the WHL (104 points in 101 games) the international standout has finally grown into his frame and is more than capable of holding his own against NHL players.

Even though Rask was supplanted on the roster by Lindholm, there is still room for him on the wing if the Hurricanes see fit to convert him from center. Otherwise, look for Rask to play center in the AHL for the Checkers this season, with an eye towards the NHL in 2014-15.


Top Junior Prospect
Sergey Tolchinsky, C/W, Saint-Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

After the high scoring forward saw himself go undrafted in New Jersey, all seemed lost for the undersized but incredibly talented Russian. A first round pick in both the KHL and CHL, Tolchinsky accepted an invitation from the Hurricanes and eventually signed a three-year entry-level deal.

In his most recent action with the Greyhounds the 5'9 sniper scored 26 goals and added 25 assists for a very respectable 51 points in 62 games. He also represented Russia in the U18 competition and put up four points in seven games. Tolchinsky is an incredibly intriguing prospect, and though he is small in stature and needs to add a good amount of muscle, he is a speedy player with plenty of scoring ability. Should Carolina be able to harness his offensive talent and have it translate to the pro level, the Canes could have the next undrafted success story on their hands.


Top Amateur Prospect
Brett Pesce, D, New Hampshire Wildcats (Hockey East)

Pesce is just starting his collegiate career but he already has scouts salivating over his natural talent and ability. It is rare to find a complete defenseman at such a young age but it looks like Pesce will be molded into a two-way defenseman who can play in all situations.

His two-way play is possibly what sets him apart from many of the Hurricanes' other prospects. Several defenseman in the farm system are decent at one end of the ice or the other, but rarely both. In the modern NHL a defenseman needs speed, smarts, vision, and offensive upside and Pesce has all that and more.

Collin Olson, G, Ohio State Buckeyes (Big 10)

Olson is a decent talent who simply needs more playing time. He is still fairly raw in terms of his abilities and his long-term success may hinge on whether or not he can secure the starting job at Ohio State. In 2012-13, Olson managed to make only nine starts and posted a 2-3-1 record and 3.09 goals against average.

Fortunately for the young goaltender, there is only one netminder above him on the depth chart so there is not much competition.

Offensive Breakout
Phil Di Giuseppe, F, Michigan Wolverines (Big 10)

Di Giuseppe is Carolina's top scoring option on the wing in what is a rather shallow depth pool for them at that position. Playing on an always competitive Michigan squad, the junior's last two years in college will be used to define what type of player he really is.

For both Di Giuseppe and the Hurricanes' sake, the young forward will need to show that he is a premier goal-scoring talent before the organization starts filling roster spots via trades or acquisitions. He will also have to further develop his all-around game if said goal-scoring talent does not fully materialize in the NCAA.        


Offensive Breakout
Erik Karlsson, C, Frolunda (SHL)

With Lindholm and Rask in the system, the center who shares the same name as one of the NHL's elite defenseman is often overlooked. Karlsson will continue to compete and impress at the international level, but it seems he is further away from going pro in North America than most of his colleagues.

In order for Karlsson to get the organization to notice him, he needs to move to North America and prove that he can play in a men's league and handle himself accordingly. He will also need to maintain some sort of offensive production in the pros. While he has put up decent numbers during his time in Sweden they have mostly been at the developmental level.