Friday, May 12, 2017

Pool Outlook for Carolina

If you're very, very quiet, you may hear someone, somewhere, talking about the Carolina Hurricanes in one form or another.  It's a very patient storm brewing down in the Southern US and the Hurricanes are really starting to build up some force, albeit under the radar to some.

The Hurricanes, on paper, are a rag tag group of misfits individually, but believe it or not, they hung in the Eastern Conference playoff race for much longer than anyone may care to remember this off-season.  A revitalized Jeff Skinner and a bounce back year for Cam Ward fueled this twister they should provide a bit more hope that some good is in store for their fans, sooner, rather than later.

Ultimately, the team did fall short, 8 points back of the final wild card spot in the East, which could be attributed to some underachievers, possibly crumbling under some higher expectations and there were a couple of sophomore jinxes to take into consideration as well.  All in all, there were a number of positives for this team to build on, like rookie forward Sebastian Aho, so it may be in your best interest to keep an eye on what they are able to accomplish in this off-season, in regards to sprinkling some of their talent on your hockey pool team next year.

Much like the Red Wings, mentioned a few days ago, they did show some promise in the number of picks they saw from their team at the hockey pool draft, 11 in total, but no one was taken before the 99th overall selection, where Eddie Lack had popped their cherry.  Lack was also the first Hurricanes player dropped in the first Waiver Draft, as he and Elias Lindholm, both struggling with injuries, were dropped and only Viktor Stalberg was picked up.  Stalberg was then the only drop in the second go-around, while Lindholm and Jaccob Slavin were picked up.  It was quite the roundabout for Canes players.  With no deals at the deadline, the Hurricanes finished with 11 players in the pool in April.

Skinner was quietly great for the Hurricanes in the year, scoring 37 goals and 63 points in 79 games, good enough for 46th overall (a late 2nd round pick) in pool scoring, 29th among all forwards.  That's nothing to sneeze at, being 5th in the league in goals scored.

Besides Skinner being a bargain pick for our pool champion, Dale B., the rest of the picks fell right into place with how they were picked in the draft, if they were picked at all.  The rookie Aho was the best of the rest, followed by Victor Rask, Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Teravainen, Lee Stempniak and Masterton Trophy finalist Derek Ryan.  Four blueliners returned to pool worthiness in the 2017 season, Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin, Noah Hanifin and Brett Pesce all were among the top 100 on the blueline this year.  We may want to take notice of this before too long.  In goal, only Cam Ward gets the nod from the pool gods, as he finished 20th among keepers, which is a pretty good year, considering their expectations.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

The Hurricanes are in need of some more direction from their management team, before we can be confident that they can start winning and be a great team to pick players from for our pool teams.  On paper, the team lacks punch from the forward ranks and there is no guarantee that they are going to find any in the free agent market, nor where they're picking has a great chance of finding an NHL-ready forward to make that jump right away.  There's no question that the blueline and the goaltending will hold them in a lot of games next season, but it would be a detriment to this team, if they found their way back to the middle of the pack, with no playoff placement.  I think they'll end up with a better pick next Summer in the draft, but their offense will dictate how much of an improvement it will be.

In the 2016 entry draft, the Hurricanes were picking 13th, where they added more defense in Jake Bean, so that didn't help their forward group much at all and besides Skinner having somewhat of a return to form, the Hurricanes were projected to have the 11th pick, before the draft lottery.  Absolutely no improvement at all, rather a bit of a drop in overall production.  Still though, I will maintain that there was some good that came out of this season, but with the East getting tougher, the playoffs are still a stretch.

2018 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Jordan Staal 6.000 Justin Faulk 4.833 Scott Darling 4.150
Jeff Skinner 5.725 Noah Hanifin 0.925 Cam Ward 3.300
Victor Rask 4.000 Brett Pesce 0.809
Elias Lindholm 2.700 Jaccob Slavin 0.743
Lee Stempniak 2.500
Sebastian Aho 0.925
Joakim Nordstrom 1.275 Jake Bean 0.925 Eddie Lack 2.750
Julien Gauthier 0.925 Haydn Fleury 0.863 Alex Nedeljkovic 0.812
Andrew Poturalski 0.859 Klas Dahlbeck 0.850 Callum Booth 0.742
Janne Kuokkanen 0.843 Ryan Murphy 0.788
Aleksi Saarela 0.776 Roland McKeown 0.745
Warren Foegele 0.747 Josh Wesley 0.695
Spencer Smallman 0.742 Tyler Ganly 0.640
Steven Lorentz 0.728
Nicolas Roy 0.705
Clark Bishop 0.695
Lucas Wallmark 0.683

I think the Carolina Hurricanes are really on to something and the corner is in sight for them to turn around on.  They now have 10 skaters and a couple of goalies, potentially, pool worthy for next season and they continue to just build.  The acquisition of Scott Darling in this off-season already was a shrewd move and with their young, potent blueline gaining experience as they go, they are going to be an impact team next season.

Potential Losses in the Expansion Draft

Required exposure will likely do someone in from the Carolina Hurricanes, be it Joakim Nordstrom up front, Klas Dahlbeck on the blueline or either Cam Ward or Eddie Lack in goal, the Hurricanes will likely lose a decent play, but it certainly isn't the end of the world.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

Even with a couple of decent sized buyouts on the books, the Hurricanes still have lots of cap flexibility in their 2018 outlook.  I am counting 33 players and two buyouts on the books today and they still have $14.3 million in cap space to play with, before paring away players for their 23-man roster.  They are poised and ready to strike, possibly make a big push for a big free agent to help them over the top and they could go ahead and do it.

Forwards Teuvo Teravainen and Derek Ryan, RFA and UFA, respectively, are both pool worthy player in need of new deals and I would have to think that they'd be slam dunks over the off-season.  Both players have been given ice-time in their opportunity with Carolina and loyalty is certainly made that way.

Carolina does have a somewhat reasonable number of top prospects waiting in the wings, but depending on who you ask, there might not be a whole lot making the push to the roster in the 2018 season.  2016 1st round picks defenseman Jake Bean and forward Julien Gauthier have plenty of upside, but they have just completed another year in junior and the Hurricanes have been known to season their youth in the minors first.  It would take quite the jump for either one of these two to make it.  2014 1st round pick, defenseman Haydn Fleury, made his AHL debut this past season and he's inching closer to an NHL job.

Needs at the 2017 Entry Draft

The Carolina Hurricanes have trended towards defensemen in the 1st round of the draft for the last few seasons and now I'm thinking they should be looking to the middle of the ice, where they should be able to get NCAA youngster Ryan Poehling, who already has good size for an 18-year old and will get to take his time in the college ranks before making the transition to pro hockey.  The Hurricanes are definitely one of the more patient teams in the league, when it comes to prospects, so this appear to be a pretty good fit.

Already adding a new goalie to the mix in this off-season, before the playoffs have even ended, gives us all the impression that the Hurricanes are out to do something next season... and I certainly think they can.  They only fell four wins short from a playoff spot and the team's gradual improvement, both on paper and on the ice, suggests to me that they are going to be hunting for that playoff spot again.  This team could really do with one more pool worthy forward to help carry the load offensively, but with Skinner making a comeback and Aho emerging as a solid option, they do have lots to play with already in-house.  If the Hurricanes don't make it to the playoffs at this time next season, they'll be damn close to it.
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