Part 2 makes a few predictions and considers targets for a few of the Canes top players.
Aho has already established himself as a point per game player. He is already a great player and really does not to improve from their to be a bona fide centerpiece for a legitimate first scoring line.
…BUT…There is another level yet within reach for Aho who is still only 23 years old. The true top tier for NHL scores is about 20-25 points higher at or slightly above 100 points or a full 82-game season. (That translates to 70 points in 56 games.)
I think for Aho to find that next level would require Svechnikov to find his next level and for Svechnikov to spend the majority of the 2020-21 season on the same line and power play unit as Svechnikov. My expectation is that the two will spend a good amount of time apart at least at even strength and that Aho will have to wait another year to play a 100-point pace.
Prediction: If he can avoid or minimize the slow starts that have plagued him a bit in the past, I predict that Aho finishes with 60 points.
In my opinion, he was the team’s best offensive player through the first half of the 2019-20 season, and his ability to hang with the team’s top scorers despite being a defenseman showed it. That extra offense, especially the goal scoring, is incredibly valuable, as it is basically like adding another scoring forward to the lineup but without taking up a favorable forward lineup slot or up front power play ice time.
I expect Hamilton will continue producing offensively, but I think in 2020-21 he comes back to Earth a bit.
Prediction: Hamilton will have another strong year alongside Jaccob Slavin, but I think his offensive production slows moderately to a full-season pace for 15 goals and 55 points.
I am on record as believing that Svechnikov’s offensive ceiling is as high as or possibly even higher than Sebastian Aho’s. The question is how close he can get to that ceiling and how soon it happens. Svechnikov’s 24 goals and 61 points in 68 games in 2019-20 represented an impressive step forward. If he tracks like Aho, his next step would probably be at or slightly above a point per game. If instead he just skips a step, could he arrive at the 100-point level and give Aho the support he needs to get there too? Much of this could depend on if/how much they play together at even strength in 2020-21.
Prediction: Because I think he will spend a significant amount away from Aho as Brind’Amour tries to get a second scoring line going, I think Svechnikov, like Aho, will have to wait another year to climb into the top tier of scorers. I think he plays half of the season or more away from Aho and takes another step up to just above a point per game.
My hope is to get back to season predictions for a bigger group of players in the next few days.
In 2020-21, I think the Hurricanes will take a step up in the regular season finishing safely in the top 3 in the division and not requiring a late-season rush just to make the playoffs. By virtue of their offensive fire power, I think the Lightning will ride their greater margin of safety to the division title, but I think the Hurricanes will be competitive head to head and split the season series.
I similarly think the Hurricanes will win a first-round playoff series to set up a post-season battle with the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. At a minimum, I think the Hurricanes use that series to show that they are among the group of teams good enough to win the Stanley Cup.
Things to watch
1) Does Brind’Amour stack the top line at some point and let them run? Teravainen/Aho/Svechnikov has the potential to boost at least Aho and Svechnikov into the top 10 in the NHL.
2) Can Vincent Trocheck settle in, find chemistry and become the catalyst for a second scoring line? I am on record as believing his play in the second line center slot is one of the most important things for the entire team taking another step forward in 2020-21.
3) Will the kids get extended auditions, and how will they do? Alex Nedeljkovic and Jake Bean have checked the box for mastering the AHL and need a chance to see what they can do at the NHL level. Morgan Geekie showed upside early and competence later such that he too could offer upside. Will some combination of injuries, COVID and Brind’Amour give them a reasonable audition?
4) Can Jordan Staal rebound a bit and settle into a positive even if slightly reduced role? He started slow in 2019-20 and had a lesser season in total. My hope is that Brind’Amour surrounds him with help (Jesper Fast?) to focus on his core as a great defensive center.
5) The goalies. The team returns a duo that was good enough or better in 2019-20. Can Mrazek, Reimer and Nedeljkovic again give the Canes good enough goaltending to be competitive every night?
What say you Canes fans?
1) What are your predictions for the Canes top offensive players?
2) What do you predict for team results for the 2020-21 NHL season?
3) What is your watch list as the season progresses?