Parts 1 and 2 of “Building the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes” acknowledged the positive trajectory of the team currently but took sort of a devil’s advocate starting point.
Today’s Part 3 looks at the more positive side of things and considers potential upside that resides within the existing roster and organization.
Change in mindset
The sizable hurdle that the Carolina Hurricanes cleared to climb into the playoffs should not be underestimated. After familiar looking ups and downs with more downs in the first half of the season, the team turned the corner and never looked back. The team’s consistency was high, and each and every one of the rare letdowns was followed up immediately with a rebound win. In the NHL, I do think there is ‘learning to win’ is a legitimate thing. If that is the case, then the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes should have an advantage over the 2018-19 team simply because the group now knows what it takes.
Remaining upside for a youthful roster
If the Hurricanes were to bring back the exact same roster for the 2019-20 season, there would still be the potential for reasonable step-wise improvement. So many of the leaders on the team are young and still growing as players. Andrei Svechnikov is the most obvious case for future upside, but there are others. Sebastian Aho is still only 21 years old and entering only his second season as a center. His 83 points in 2018-19 would be solid if they proved to be his ceiling, but I think it is possible that he still has one more gear. Warren Foegele and Lucas Wallmark were also rookies last season and have the potential to find a higher gear in their second seasons in the NHL. Even on the back end which is mostly a set of veterans, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin are still early enough in their careers that upside, especially offensively, is still possible. In short, the roster is loaded with players who are very early in their NHL careers and could improve significantly.
Help from Charlotte
What is most significant about the Charlotte Checkers championship is the fact that a significant part of the core of the team was young players who are legitimate NHL prospects. The success was not the story of a bunch of AHL veterans outplaying kids. For the Checkers, it was very much the kids.
What is more, the type of young players leading the way match well with where the Hurricanes have room for improvement. One are for improvement is scoring. Players like Morgan Geekie, Julien Gauthier, Aleksi Saarela, Martin Necas and maybe even Andrew Poturalski are all players whose strengths include scoring ability. Ideally, one or two of these players breaks through in a big way and becomes a top 6 forward, but even if that does not occur there is room for decent step-wise improvement scoring-wise if a couple of these skilled players push their way into the bottom 6. In addition to the forwards, Jake Bean projects as an offense-leaning defenseman who could drive scoring from the back end and more significantly help boost one of the two power play units. Finally, there is Alex Nedeljkovic. Goaltending was overall a strength for the 2018-19 Hurricanes, and there are no guarantees with young goalies. But the potential is still there for more upside in net if Nedeljkovic continues to develop.
Improved special teams play
Special teams were generally a weakness in 2018-19. I do not see that as being just a function of the talent level. I think both the power play and penalty kill are a matter of figuring it out and/or just finding a rhythm. A modest boost, especially for the power play, could provide a nice boost for the team in total.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of these do you see providing the greatest upside for the 2019-20 season?
2) Do you see any other potential areas for upside from within the current roster and broader organization?