Yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe was an arduous journey through the Hurricanes recent history of goaltending struggles. In an attempt to add a little bit of levity, there was also a companion article detailing the legend of the curse of Arturs Irbe.
After a tough loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, today’s Daily Cup of Joe will again seek a short reprieve by returning to the ‘prospect pool math’ from Monday. Monday’s article detailed the situation for forwards which is fairly crowded and could force some decisions this summer.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe will take a similar look at the AHL and prospect situation for goalies and defensemen.
Carolina Hurricanes defensemen prospects
With Noah Hanifin jumping straight from the draft into the NHL, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce maturing well ahead of schedule and Haydn Fleury also joining the NHL ranks this season, the prospect pool is actually fairly thin. With a young group at the NHL level, that is not a huge issue, but the team will need to restock the positive gradually over time to provide depth when needed.
Current AHL defensemen
The Charlotte Checkers are currently stocked primarily with veteran AHL defensemen. All of Dennis Robertson, Jake Chelios, Brenden Kichton and Philip Samuelsson are 25 years old or more and are AHL veterans not so much NHL prospects at this point. Trevor Carrick is a tweener at 23 years old, and none of Tyler Ganly, Josh Wesley or Keegan Kanzig have really carved out a permanent role at the AHL level.
That leaves Roland McKeown as the only AHL level player under 22 years old who would be considered a medium to higher-end prospect.
On the way for the 2018-19 season
Looking forward to the 2018-19 season, Jake Bean who is already under contract should join the Checkers and Ron Francis and his player development staff will need to make a decision on signing Noah Carroll who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NHL draft. As a late-round pick Carroll will need to earn his contract, but the numbers situation does work in his favor since there should be room for him at either the AHL or NHL level.
Restocking/the next wave
Seemingly aiming to back fill the holes left by players moving up early, the team selected three defensemen in the 2018 NHL draft. Luke Martin (NCAA-University of Michigan), Brendan De Jong (WHL-Portland) and Ville Rasanen (Finland) are out at least two years from moving the AHL level.
Netting it out
When one nets it out, Trevor Carrick represents a tweener with a bunch of professional experience and some NHL experience, and Jake Bean and Roland McKeown are the top players more clearly in the prospect category.
Decisions to be made at the end of the 2017-18 season include whether or not to sign Noah Carroll to an entry-level contract, which veterans to re-sign (from Chelios, Kichton, Robertson, and Samuelsson) and whether or not to give Ganley and Kanzig more time to develop versus cutting them loose.
Carolina Hurricanes goalie prospects
Current AHL/ECHL goalies
With Callum Booth being inked to an entry-level contract and Alex Nedeljkovic maybe not ready to be an AHL #1 by himself at the AHL level in only his second professional season, the Hurricanes signed veteran AHL goalie Jeremy Smith to add a veteran AHLer to the mix.
Nedeljkovic’s .894 save percentage does not jump out as tremendous, but he has won (17-7) and received the slight majority of the starts. Meanwhile, Callum Booth has been playing for the Florida Everblades at the ECHL level. So as of right now, the Hurricanes are full up at the minor league level with three goalies.
On the way for the 2018-19 season
Nedeljkovic’s ability to establish himself as a capable and trustworthy AHL starter is important for charting the course forward into 2018-19 in terms of goalie development for the Hurricanes. As touched on above, a team basically has three minor league goalie slots — two at the AHL level and another at the ECHL level. As such, there really is not enough ice time to get four goalies enough work at the minor league level.
Before June, the Hurricanes will need to make a decision on whether or not to sign Jeremy Helvig to an entry-level contract. Helvig is a 2016 draftee whose rights will expire in June, so Francis will need to decide whether to sign him or let him go. If Nedeljkovic is steady in 2017-18, that would pave the way for the Hurricanes to let Jeremy Smith go and instead have three true prospects (Nedeljkovic, Booth, Helvig) manning the three goalie slights at the minor league level. If instead, Francis feels like he needs to keep an AHL veteran around, it could be hard to find enough ice time for Helvig if he is signed.
The next wave
Past the three goalies likely to play at the NHL level in 2018-19, the Hurricanes have two other goalie prospects on different tracks. 2017 draftee Jack LaFontaine (his Midterm update was posted this week) is in his sophomore season at the University of Michigan. And 2018 draftee Eetu Makiniemi is still developing in his native Finland.
Decisions and watch points during the winter and heading into the offeason
The biggest decisions that I will be watching will be whether Francis signs Noah Carroll and Jeremy Helvig. I am still waiting on updates on each for their “Midterms” articles, but my general impression is that Helvig has done enough to earn a contract. Carroll is a tougher call but benefits from the fact that the prospect pool on the blue line is fairly thin for his age group.
Past that, I will be watching to see which AHL free agents are re-signed. Veterans sometimes come and go, but the true prospect decisions on defense are Tyler Ganley and Keegan Kanzig both of whom could be let go to free up contract space.