Yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe had mid-season report cards for the Carolina Hurricanes goalies and defensemen. You can find that HERE if you missed it.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe continues with the first of two groups of forwards.
Important to note is that players are graded based on their expected role. So players expected to play on the top two lines like Aho, Staal and Teravainen are held to a higher standard than depth forwards like Martinook and Wallmark.
Sebastian Aho A
Aho entered the 2018-19 season looking to successfully transition to the center position and also take another step forward offensively. Through half of the season, he has excelled in both regards. He is on target for 90 points which would be a significant step up from the 65 that he tallied last season. And his transition to the center position has largely been a non-event. By no means has he been perfect defensively in the new role, but by no means has he looked to be in over his head. As a top 30 scorer in the entire league, Aho maybe has one more small step up to join the truly elite if he has not already.
Teuvo Teravainen B+
I find Teravainen as one of the most difficult Canes to grade at the midway point of the season. He is on target for 20 goals and 68 points. The goals would be down three and the points up four from his 2017-18 season. His plus 14, five power play goals (tied) and three shorthanded points (tied) all lead the team. And one of the most underrated developments with Teravainen has been his growth as a consistent two-way player over the past couple years. So to put it simply, he is good. Yet, if graded as a true top line scoring line forward, he leaves me wanting a bit more. I view his play in 2018-19 as much more of a complementary player who meshes well with Aho but does not really drive scoring on his own. I also think his production could benefit if he played with the mentality of a goal scorer who greedily (in a good way) looked to shoot more and played like a player who wanted to push to 35 goals.
Micheal Ferland B
Ferland’s 2018-19 season thus far is largely a story of before and after his injury. Before being sidelined with a concussion, he was a mainstay on the top line and had eleven goals and four assists in 24 games for an impressive 38-goal pace. Since returning from injury, Brind’Amour bumped him off of Aho’s line and his offensive production has yet to return. His one goal and three assists in 10 games is depth scoring at best. So does he get an A or A- for being a capable scoring power forward on Aho’s line? Or does he get a B- or C+ for depth scoring on a lower line since returning from injury. The answer lies somewhere in between. As a player who is productive as a receive/finish shooter, is capable of scoring around the crease and is effective without playing with the puck on his stic much, he seems to be a perfect complementary player for the Aho/Teravainen combination. The burning question right now is whether he will make it back to that line and if he can resume his high 30s scoring pace if he does.
Jordan Staal C+
The grade is harsh, but I think fair. Be it because of line mates or possibly just a slow start, Staal has yet to establish himself in his bread and butter shutdown role for the 2018-19 season. His minus 11 in only 29 games is a step down from his usual ability to eat up a bunch of hard minutes and match ups and be at or close to even in terms of goal differential. In addition, his scoring has actually dipped from a modest level in 2017-18. Through the 29 games that he played before being injured, Staal had only five goals and six assists for a 31-point pace over 82 games. When he returns, Staal ideally needs to both recoup his ability to lead a shutdown line and also boost his scoring to at least provide decent depth scoring given his volume of minutes.
Justin Williams B-
Williams is another difficult player to grade. There are both pros and cons to his first half play. His propensity to score when the team really needs a goal deserves high marks. His 18-goal and 46-point pace at the midway point would be similar to the 2017-18 season. And he deserves credit for stepping into a formal leadership role as the captain. But along the way Williams’ gradually declining mobility has manifested itself in a few negative ways. His lack of acceleration has resulted in a few too many turnovers in bad places exiting the defensive zone, and he has also collected a few too many ill-timed penalties. His minus 15 is the lowest on the team. I realize that there are limitations to +/-, but used as a comparative metric within the roster that simply means that at even strength the Hurricanes are losing by the most when Williams is on the ice.
Andrei Svechnikov B-
The time for giving out high marks based on potential is before the NHL draft and while players are developing at lower levels. I am not grading Svechnikov on potential but rather on actual performance through 41 games, and in that regard he gets a modest grade as might be reasonably expected from and 18-year old. Svechnikov did not take the fast track to being an elite NHL scoring forward like Canes fans had hoped, but at the same time he has not looked to be in over his head playing against NHL competition. His 38-point pace is higher-end depth scoring but not more, and as might be expected of an 18-year old rookie, he has his moments where he lapses in judgment and/or intensity level. His 18 minor penalties are also tops on the team. So graded as a top 6ish forward, Svechnikov’s first half season was more learning and developing than excelling. But despite his ups and downs, Svechnikov has shown enough flashes that the incredibly high upside that made him the first forward taken in the 2018 NHL Draft is still intact, and the bigger question for Svechnikov’s rookie season is not his first half grade but rather what his second half grade is now that he has had time to acclimate.
What say you Canes fans?
Do you agree or disagree with my grades for Aho, Teravainen, Ferland, Staal, Williams and Svechnikov? How would you assess each’s first half of the 2018-19 season?