On Friday night, the Hurricanes will face the New York Rangers for the first time during the 2021-22 NHL season. That game will mark the first game in Raleigh for former Canes prospect Adam Fox who has since become one of the best defensemen in the entire NHL and arguably the best offensively.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a shot at building the best team possible from former Canes.
The goalie position is one where the Hurricanes really do not have any regrets right now with Frederik Andersen having a strong year as a true #1. But in building a tandem from former Canes, there are recent options. Petr Mrazek has yet to really launch in Toronto having started only four games after an early season injury. Alex Nedeljkovic is having a respectable season in Detroit with winning record, a 2.69 goals against average and .918 save percentage. And James Reimer continues to cheat father time having a solid year in San Jose with a 12-7-1 record and a 2.67 goals against average and .918 save percentage that are nearly identical to Nedeljkovic’s numbers. Depending on if your preference is youth, career performance or the here and now of the 2021-22 season, any two of the three could be options. Reaching back a bit farther, Anton Khudobin has performed well including a deep playoff run since leaving the Hurricanes.
My selection: If forced to pick one, I would take Petr Mrazek by a slight margin over Anton Khudobin counting on a rebound once he gets up and going in Toronto.
The volume of options at forward is much greater. A good starting point would be Elias Lindholm who has excelled since going to Calgary in the Dougie Hamilton trade. He has 30 points in 35 games in 2021-22 and has played at a 70-point pace (for 82 games) since being traded. The other big name who went the other direction is Jeff Skinner who has mostly struggled in Buffalo. More recently, Brock McGinn left for Pittsburgh last summer. His 13 points in 35 games are not eye-popping, but McGinn is also a player who always finds his highest gear. Also a capable depth forward, Warren Foegele has exactly matched McGinn’s 13 points in 35 games this year in Edmonton. Other former Canes forwards who are playing in the NHL in a depth role include Nicolas Roy with Vegas, Morgan Geekie with Seattle, Janne Kuokkanen with Seattle, Julien Gauthier with the New York Rangers, Riley Nash with Arizona, Derek Ryan with Edmonton, Patrick Brown with Philadelphia, Ryan Dzingel with Arizona, Eetu Luostarinen with Florida and Erik Haula with Boston. What strikes me is that out of a big list of Hurricanes forward alumni, the only player who would be a difference-maker if he stayed or returned is Elias Lindholm.
My selections: Elias Lindholm makes a nice start for building a first scoring line, but the underwhelming options at wing leaving me taking Brock McGinn and Warren Foegele.
Whereas the forward group is mostly a collection of depth forwards who would slot in the bottom 6 of an NHL lineup, one can build quite a blue line with departed Canes. Though they are both right shots, Adam Fox (though he never actually signed with the Canes) with the New York Rangers and Dougie Hamilton with New Jersey could be the most offensively potent defense pairings in the NHL today. Justin Faulk struggled a bit in acclimating in St. Louis but has since righted the ship. And though he has never matched his draft expectations, Noah Hanifin in Calgary offers another top 4 option. Haydn Fleury with Seattle and Jake Bean with Columbus are both young defensemen with significant NHL experience. Other depth options include Trevor van Riemsdyk in Washington, Joakim Ryan with Florida and Andrej Sekera with Dallas.
My selections: Dougie Hamilton and Adam Fox would be an absolute blast to watch.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Who has former Canes that I missed that we can add to the list?
2) Of the many depth players which, if any, would you welcome back to bolster the bottom half of the roster?
3) Who wants to try to build out a full lineup of 20 players?