Hurricanes Top 20 prospects, Fall 2007

By Cory Lavalette

Top 20 at a glance

1. (NR) Brandon Sutter, C
2. (1) Justin Peters, G
3. (2) Bobby Hughes, C
4. (4) Harrison Reed, RW
5. (5) Jamie McBain, D
6. (6) Brett Carson, D
7. (7) Nick Dodge, RW
8. (3) Casey Borer, D
9. (NR) Drayson Bowman, C
10. (9) Daniel Manzato, G
11. (10) Kyle Lawson, D
12. (19) Noah Babin, D
13. (8) Kevin Nastiuk, G
14. (13) Mark Flood, D
15. (NR) Justin McCrae, C
16. (NR) Chris Terry, C
17. (15) Magnus Akerlund, G
18. (16) Nicolas Blanchard, C
19. (20) Stefan Chaput, C
20. (18) Jakub Petruzalek, C

1. (NR) Brandon Sutter, F

Height: 6’3, Weight: 170 lbs., Age: 18
Acquired: 1st round, 11th overall, 2007

With one crushing blow to Alexei Cherapanov (NYR), Sutter changed the tone of the Canada-Russia Super Series, and also showed the kind of grit that makes him Carolina’s top prospect.

As for the upcoming season, Sutter will be expected to improve on the 20 goals and 37 assists he had in 2006-07 with Red Deer, while continuing to show the tenacity and hockey smarts that make him a valuable prospect. Another goal will be for Sutter to add bulk to his large frame to help him prepare for the rigors of the NHL. He will do so under a new coach, his uncle Brian, since last year’s coach – and Brandon’s father – Brent Sutter left to go behind the bench in the
NHL with the Devils.

Sutter does have a chance to make the Hurricanes out of training camp, but given the forward depth on Carolina’s roster, it seems likely he will start the season back in the WHL.

NHL Potential: Two-way forward

2. (1) Justin Peters, G

Height: 6’1, Weight: 213 lbs., Age: 21

Acquired: 2nd round, 38th overall, 2004

Peters will enter his second season as a pro in Albany with the Hurricanes AHL affiliate and will share duties with newly-acquired veteran Michael Leighton.

Last season in Albany, Peters was 10-18 with a 3.26 goals-against average and .886 save percentage and one shutout while splitting time with Colorado prospect Tyler Weiman. Since Carolina will not be sharing Albany with Colorado in 2007-08, Peters is likely to get the
bulk of the load for  the River Rats, but will also get a look in training camp.

NHL Potential: Starting goalie

3. (2) Bobby Hughes, C

Height: 5’11, Weight: 180 lbs., Age: 19

Acquired: 4th round, 123 overall, 2006

The Hurricanes seemingly found a mid-round gem with Hughes. The stout center was 10th in OHL scoring with the Kingston Frontenacs in 2006-07 and signed with the Hurricanes in April, playing one playoff game for the River Rats. Hughes improved each season with the
Frontenacs, finishing with 27, 55, 75 and 96 points in his four seasons in Kingston. He was an OHL Eastern Conference All-Star in 2006-07.

While slightly undersized, Hughes proved to be tough to take off the puck. Stepping up to the AHL level full time this season will be a big test in his development. Hughes should have the chance to be a top-six forward with Albany and get power-play time with the River

NHL Potential: Top-six forward

4. (4) Harrison Reed, RW

Height: 6’1, Weight: 178 lbs., Age: 19

Acquired: 3rd round, 93rd overall, 2006

Reed notched 81 points with Sarnia in 2006-07, 31 more points than the previous season, helping the Sting reach the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

Reed was the team’s second-leading scorer in 2006-07, with 29 goals and 52 assists, and also had four assists in four playoff games. Reed has been a consistent scorer for Sarnia since being traded there after just six games with the London Knights in 2004-05, netting 26 goals with 24 assists in 2005-06.

Reed’s contributions were a huge part of Sarnia’s improvement last season, and his play on the top power-play unit was a huge factor in the Sting’s return to the postseason. While Reed improved to a -3 plus/minus from a -31 in 2005-06, he will need to continue to work on
his defensive game to make sure he gets a shot with the Canes in the future.

NHL Potential: Top-six forward

5. (5) Jamie McBain, D

Height: 6’1, Height: 180 lbs., Age: 19

Acquired: 2nd round, 63rd overall, 2006

On the heels of a successful first collegiate season at the University of Wisconsin, McBain is now ranked the Hurricanes’ top defensive prospect. McBain led all Wisconsin blueliners with three
goals and 15 assists in his freshman season, good for a tie for fifth on the entire team.

While last season was mostly a disappointment for the NCAA‘s 2005-06 champions, the Badgers were able to give many young players – McBain included – more responsibility than is normally available to incoming players at one of college hockey’s powerhouses. McBain played on the team’s power play throughout the season and established himself as a steady two-way defenseman.

McBain received numerous honors last season. He was named to the WCHA’s All-Rookie team, was the WCHA’s Rookie of the Week for Feb. 13-19, and represented the U.S. at the 2007 World Juniors in Sweden, playing in all seven games. Recently, he was among 45 players to attend the U.S. National Junior Team camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., in early August.

NHL potential: Two-way defenseman

6. (6) Brett Carson, D

Height: 6’4, Weight: 225 lbs., Age: 21

Acquired: 4th round, 109th overall, 2004

Carson is another nice mid-round find for Hurricanes’ scouting staff. He is a smooth-skating, tough blueliner who moves the puck well and makes smart decisions. In his first pro season, Carson made a quick jump from Carolina’s ECHL affiliate in Florida to the AHL’s River Rats and played 63 games in Albany. He finished with two goals and 16 assists in Albany, plus added two assists in five playoff games.

Carson showed some offensive potential with the Calgary Hitmen during his time in the WHL, finishing with 11 goals and 29 assists in 2005-06, but his path to the NHL is likely as a defense-first rearguard with the ability to get occasional points. Carson is among the 53 players on the Canes training camp roster.

NHL potential: No. 4 or 5 defenseman

7. (7) Nick Dodge, RW

Height: 5-10, Weight: 184 lbs., Age: 21

Acquired: 6th round, 183rd overall, 2006

Dodge has established himself as a hard-working, two-way forward in his three seasons at Clarkson University, leading the team in scoring each of the past two years.

Dodge, who has been Clarkson’s captain for the past two seasons, has many of the same skills and intangibles as current Hurricanes captain Rod Brind’Amour. Both are Canadian-born players who chose NCAA hockey over the CHL. While Dodge is a right winger, he has become his team’s
best faceoff man. He also plays in every situation for the Golden Knights, killing penalties and playing on the power play, and has a knack for leading his team to victory. Clarkson had one of its best seasons last year, finishing 25-9-5 and winning the ECAC’s tournament title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA’s East Regional, the Golden Knights’ first NCAA tournament appearance since 1999.

As for individual accolades, the American Hockey Coaches Association named him a second-team All-American in 2006-07. He finished the season with 18 goals and 21 assists in 36 games.

NHL potential: Third-line forward

8. (3) Casey Borer, D

Height: 6’2, Weight: 197 lbs., Age: 22

Acquired: 3rd round, 69th overall, 2004

With other prospects making big strides last season, Borer slides down to eighth from third on the Canes prospect list despite another solid season. Borer will truly begin his pro career in 2006-07 with Albany after playing one game with the River Rats last season.

Borer established himself as a reliable stay-at home defenseman in his four seasons at St. Cloud State, captaining the defensively stout Huskies in his junior and senior seasons. While Borer won’t fill up a score sheet, he is confident with the puck and capable at moving the puck up ice. Borer had 11 points in each of his final three seasons at St. Cloud State.

Borer will likely be one of the top six blueliners with Albany in 2007-08 and will attend the Hurricanes training camp.

NHL potential: Defensive defenseman

9. (NR) Drayson Bowman, C/LW

Height: 6′, Weight: 190 lbs., Age: 18

Acquired: 3rd round, 72nd overall, 2007

Bowman was the second selection of the Hurricanes in the 2007 draft. In 2006-07, he was Spokane’s fourth-leading goal scorer with 24 tallies and sixth in overall scoring with 43 points. Bowman had seven points in six postseason games for the Chiefs, leading the team in scoring for their first-round loss to the Everett Silvertips.

As a 16-year-old in 2005-06, Bowman was named the Chiefs’ rookie of the year after finishing the season with 17 goals and 17 assists. He was the first Chiefs player ever to score more than 10 goals in his rookie season and the first to hit double digits in his inaugural campaign since 1997-98. Bowman participated in the CHL Top Prospects Game in January and attended the Hurricanes conditioning camp in mid-August.

NHL potential: Third-line forward

10. (9) Daniel Manzato, G

Height: 6′, Weight: 181 lbs., Age: 23

Acquired: 5th round, 160th overall, 2002

Manzato is big butterfly goalie with fast reflexes. He will have an outside chance to unseat Peters as the starter in Albany, but more than likely will battle Kevin Nastiuk for the starting job with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL, with the loser being loaned to another team.

Manzato played for Basel in the Swiss League the past four seasons, the team finishing last in the 12-team league last season. Manzato was 13-30 with a 3.50 goals-against average last year, the heaviest workload of his Swiss career (43 of the team’s 44 games) but also his most disappointing year.

Manzato was on Switzerland‘s World Championships roster this summer, joining fellow Swiss netminder and ex-Hurricane Martin Gerber in Moscow. The team was coached by Hurricanes’ part-time European scout Ralph Krueger.

NHL potential: Backup goalie

11. (10) Kyle Lawson, D

Height: 5’11, Weight: 205 lbs., Age: 20

Acquired: 7th round, 198th overall, 2005

Lawson made the jump to Notre Dame in the CCHA in 2006-07 and proved to be more than ready for the challenge of collegiate hockey. An offensive defenseman, Lawson was second in scoring among the conference’s rookie blueliners, finishing with four goals and 15
assists in 38 games for the Fighting Irish. For his efforts, Lawson was named to all-freshman teams by, and He also helped the Irish to the NCAA’s Midwest Regional final, losing to eventual champion
Michigan State.

He represented the U.S. in their bronze-medal performance at the WJCs in Sweden, playing in all seven games.

Lawson is proving to be a steal as a seventh-rounder, fitting the profile for a post-lockout NHL rearguard – a solid skater who can move the puck. He will be leaned on heavily in the coming season, with the Irish losing three players from their blueline.

NHL potential: Power-play specialist

12. (19) Noah Babin, D

Height: 6′, Weight: 185 lbs. Age: 23

Acquired: Signed as a free agent

While Lawson impressed with the Fighting Irish in his freshman campaign, his fellow Notre Dame rearguard also caught the eye of the Hurricanes and signed a free-agent deal following his senior year. Babin led all Irish defensemen in points last year with two goals and 20 assists in 42 games. After joining the River Rats, Babin tallied seven points in just 11 regular-season games.

Albany general manager/head coach Tom Rowe immediately inserted Babin into the lineup after his signing and wasn’t disappointed, saying the young blueliner is a great skater who can move the puck well under pressure. Because of that poise and his experience, Babin could be among the first blue line prospect called up if injuries strike the big club.

In his final season at Notre Dame, Babin was chosen by his teammates as the Irish’s best defensive player and was an honorable mention All-CCHA selection.

NHL potential: Third-pairing defenseman

13. (8) Kevin Nastiuk, G

Height: 6’1, Weight: 176 lbs., Age: 22

Acquired: 4th round, 126th overall, 2003

Just two years ago, Nastiuk was behind only Cam Ward among prospects on the Hurricanes’ goaltending depth chart. But his inability to return to the AHL after a 1-7-3 record with Carolina’s then-AHL affiliate in Lowell in 2005-06 has cost the big netminder in the rankings. Nastiuk had admirable seasons in the ECHL in 2005-06 and 2006-07, but was unable to put up the kind of performance that warranted him getting another shot in the AHL ahead of other
prospects. This could prove to be a make or break year for Nastiuk with the Hurricanes.

Like Manzato, Nastiuk will get the opportunity to battle Peters for the starting job in Albany in 2007-08, but more than likely he’ll be vying for the starting job with Carolina’s ECHL affiliate in Florida. The loser of the battle will probably be loaned out to another ECHL franchise. Nastiuk put together a solid season with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers last year, finishing with a 15-8-6 record with a 2.53 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.

Like Peters, Nastiuk is tall butterfly goalie, but is more lanky. Still, Nastiuk uses his size and athleticism to his advantage and shows solid technique.

NHL potential: NHL backup/AHL starter

14. (13) Mark Flood, D

Height: 6’1, Weight: 182 lbs., Age: 22

Acquired: Via trade from Columbus, 2006

The Hurricanes acquired Flood mid-season last year for journeyman defenseman Derrick Walser. With the Hurricanes stocking Albany by themselves next season, the addition of Flood further strengthens their pool of AHL-ready blueliners.

Flood joined the River Rats after the trade last season, scoring three goals and adding seven assists in 36 games. Coupled with his time in Syracuse as a Blue Jackets prospect, he finished the season with 12 points in 44 games.

While Flood showed offensive prowess in his time with Dayton in the ECHL in 2005-06 and his four years in Peterborough prior to that season, his offensive abilities are not yet good enough to warrant a chance at an NHL job. He will need to further improve his own end to give himself a chance to make it to the next level.

NHL potential: Third-pairing defenseman

15. (NR) Justin McCrae, C

Height: 6′, Weight: 185 lbs., Age: 18

Acquired: 4th round, 102nd overall, 2007

McCrae was the Hurricanes’ fourth-round selection in this year’s entry draft. McCrae provides more all-around play to Carolina’s forward corps. He has proven to be a leader on and off the ice in Saskatoon, playing alongside fellow gritty forward and 2007 draft pick Colton Gillies (Minnesota, 16th overall), and is a candidate to named the Blades’ captain next season.

While McCrae may never score a lot of goals (16 goals, 33 assists in 2006-07), he is a speedy center who is among the most defensively responsible forwards in the WHL. He has decent size and will look to add more muscle this season to become stronger for the next level.

NHL potential: Checking forward

16. (NR) Chris Terry, C

Height: 5’10, Weight: 195 lbs., Age: 18

Acquired: 5th round, 132nd overall, 2007

The Hurricanes will learn a lot about Terry’s upside this season in Plymouth. Coming off a run to the Memorial Cup tournament, the Whalers lost major contributors James Neal, Evan Brophey and Dan Collins, leaving Terry the team’s top returning scorer.

In his second season in Plymouth, Terry finished with 66 points in 68 games, scoring 22 times and adding 44 assists. Terry also produced in the postseason, finishing with eight goals and 18 assists in 20 games.

Terry (and teammate and fellow 2007 Hurricanes draft pick Brett Bellemore) is the latest in a long line of Whalers to join the Hurricanes organization. Both teams are owned by Peter Karmanos Jr.

NHL potential: Top-nine forward

17. (15) Magnus Akerlund, G

Height: 6’1, Weight: 187 lbs., Age: 21

Acquired: 5th round, 137th overall, 2004

Akerlund is the wildcard of the Hurricanes goaltending prospect corps. He is set to join the SEL’s top league full time this year and the bump in competition should make Akerlund’s potential clearer, but all signs point to him being a star in Sweden.

If that does indeed happen, Akerlund – if he came to North America – could move way up the Hurricanes’ depth chart. Akerlund, like the other Carolina goalie prospects, fills the net with his large frame yet doesn’t sacrifice athleticism and agility. One thing that does set him apart is that he catches with his right hand.

NHL potential: Backup goalie

18. (16) Nicolas Blanchard, C

Height: 6’3, Weight: 176 lbs., Age: 20

Acquired: 6th round, 192nd overall, 2005

Blanchard will join the River Rats full time this season after joining the AHL squad at the end of last year. In his brief stint in Albany, Blanchard had three points in seven games and was held
scoreless in five playoff games. He had his best season with Chicoutimi in 2006-07, finishing with 22 goals and 35 assists, good for fourth on the Sagueneens.

With the Matt Cullen reacquisition trade sending Joe Barnes to the Rangers, Blanchard will be the River Rats’ largest forward prospect at 6’3. Like Sutter, Blanchard needs to add weight to his frame so he can become more of a force in the offensive end. He will likely play in a third-line role in Albany and will need to continue to improve as a two-way player since that is his most likely role in the NHL.

NHL potential: Third- or fourth-line checker

19. (20) Stefan Chaput, C

Height: 6’2, Weight: 190 lbs., Age: 19
Acquired: 5th round, 153rd overall, 2006

While he may be 19th on this list, Chaput should not be overlooked. Through hard work, Chaput has consistently overachieved, going from training camp casualty, to third-line grinder to now being a second-liner who plays in all situations.

While it’s unlikely Chaput would ever crack the top-six on an NHL squad, Chaput is a hard-working forechecker who can kill penalties and occasionally chip in offensively – exactly the kind of player who has filled a fourth-line role with the Hurricanes (see Craig Adams and Chad LaRose).

Chaput had similar output the past two seasons in Lewiston netting 46 points last season after getting 48 in 2005-06. Last season, however, Chaput turned it on in the postseason, scoring six goals and adding five assists in 17 playoff games. Once Chaput’s junior career concludes, expect him to get a shot to be a role player with the Canes.

NHL potential: Third- or fourth-line grinder

20. (18) Jakub Petruzalek, C

Height: 5’10, Weight: 176, Age 22
Acquired: Via trade from Rangers, 2006

Petruzalek is one of the bigger wild cards in the Hurricanes system. Acquired along with a conditional pick for journeyman forward Brad Isbister last November, the 5’10 Czech forward has gifted skating and scoring abilities, but questions about his size have followed him since he fell all the way to the ninth round of the 2004 draft.

The good news for the Canes is that in his first professional season in North America, Petruzalek flashed some of that scoring ability, finishing with 10 goals and 20 assists in 60 AHL games with Hartford and Albany, and another four points in five postseason games with the River Rats. For his efforts, the Canes rewarded him with a two-year contract this offseason. Petruzalek is likely to spend the season in Albany.

NHL potential: Third- or fourth-line forward

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