Today’s Daily Cup of Joe is another round of catch up notes on Sebastian Aho, Noah Hanifin and Jaccob Slavin.
As much as the die-hard (and oh have we died in a hard way many times over now) fan base needs something to cling to right now, I am not at all a fan of the over the top marketing of Sebastian Aho down the stretch.
Aho is every bit deserving of the accolades and attention, and I think he is on his way to great things. But I am a huge fan of just letting young players work their way into greatness. If that happens instantly, so be it. But if it does not and/or when there are setbacks, the player does not have the weight of extra pressure heaped upon him.
One need look no further than the Canes locker room for players who were anointed into high ceilings ahead of reaching them and then struggled (and in many cases are still struggling) to get there. Elias Lindholm was given an NHL roster slot by Jim Rutherford before he even arrived in Raleigh and was talked up so much as being NHL-ready that the next logical step was to just completely ignore evidence that suggested he was not. It took Lindholm pretty much the entirety of his entry-level contract to grow just to be a serviceable top 9 forward at the NHL level, and it is unclear whether his career trajectory was irreversibly damaged along the way. More recently, Noah Hanifin was drafted as a can’t miss top pairing defenseman. Similarly, he was given an NHL slot that he never really had to earn or justify keeping. Somewhat like Lindholm, Hanifin will complete his entry-level contract next week still very much as a bottom half of the roster player with work to do to reach a high potential ceiling and become more. One could even argue that Justin Faulk was affected in a similar way. Faulk’s initial rise came somewhat quietly without a ton of fanfare. He just played his way up the depth chart until he was playing in the first pairing with Andrej Sekera. Only after he was declared the star and leader of a young group did Faulk’s rise suddenly seem to sputter.
So back to the matter at hand, which is Sebastian Aho — As much as it made for great television and a much-needed feel-good story at the end of another tough year for fans, I am not a fan of the “Showcase” night that the team did for the television broadcast, nor am I a big fan of how heavily the team has been emphasizing him of late. Best guess is that Sebastian Aho is good enough to rise above any pressure or expectations, but it just is not something that I would mess with.
Noah Hanifin is one of two high draft pedigree players who is scheduled to be a restricted free agent this summer. (Elias Lindholm is the other.) Hanifin’s contract situation is an interesting one. On the one hand as a #5 overall pick who jumped straight to the NHL after being selected, he is in the category of players who often garners a huge raise. In addition, Hanifin’s 10 goals and 31 points while not eye-popping represent decent scoring production which would also play into Hanifin’s next contract. But the downside is that when one considers Hanifin in the here and now he is still a third pairing defenseman. If Hanifin was drafted lower and played his way up to where he is, he could easily price out in a $1.2 – $2 million range per year. In fact, Trevor van Riemsdyk who was arguably the Canes best third pairing defenseman this season is coming off of a contract that paid $825,000 per year, and it is seems reasonable that he could be re-signed for a significant raise but still less than $2 million per year. But because of his pedigree, Hanifin figures to be paid handsomely for his still intact potential just like Lindholm was a few years back on his second contract. As such, the numbers being bandied around for Hanifin’s next deal stretch north of $3 million per year. That price could be an absolute bargain if Hanifin puts it all together and rises to the neighborhood of his ceiling. But if Hanifin continues to peak as a capable third pairing defenseman, a $3 million price would be roughly double what depth defensemen on the open market price at. Because of the wide range of evaluations considering actual play and potential, Noah Hanifin’s contract this situation has a wide range of outcomes which will make it interesting to see how the situation plays out.
I have written a couple times about the need for the Hurricanes to get more offensive production from its skating blue line. Front and center in those articles and conversations are Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce who have emerged as capable top pairing players defensively but are arguably light on offensive production. While I do think there is room for growth offensively for both players, I think especially in the case of Slavin that context and ice time paints an interesting picture of his scoring. Slavin has received minimal power play ice time through much of the year, so no surprisingly he has only one power play goal and one power play assist. That means that 28 of his 30 scoring points have come at even strength. That does not sound like anything overly impressive until one starts to compare it to other defensemen, many of whom collect a huge chunk of their scoring with the man advantage.
On the Hurricanes, Slavin’s 28 even strength points are 16 more than Justin Faulk and four more than Noah Hanifin who both are a point ahead in total with 31 points each.
Across the entire league, my quick tally shows Slavin as 22nd in the entire league among defensemen for even strength scoring.
So when one nets it out, there is a strong case to be made for the fact that Jaccob Slavin’s offensive production is actually quite good when considered in the context of his role and ice time.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Does anyone else have an issue with starting to hype Sebastian Aho so heavily at this early juncture of his career? Or am I just too paranoid?
2) Where do you think Noah Hanifin’s next contract lands? How much should his next salary consider potential, and how much should it reflect current role?
3) Is is possible that Jaccob Slavin’s offensive production is just underrated because of his minimal ice time and production on the power play? Do you think he has scoring upside with more power play ice time, or do you think he is being utilized properly as a defenseman whose strength is the defensive side of the puck?