Through 46 games, the Carolina Hurricanes have 56 points. That is good enough for the first wild card position and is a pace for 100 points at the end of the season. Unlike 2018-19 when the Hurricanes dug an early hole and need to make up for it in the second half to challenge for the playoffs, the 2019-20 Hurricanes likely just need to keep place to return to the playoffs.
But despite being in pretty good position, the Carolina Hurricanes actually have a number of players with more to give. That is the subject of today’s Daily Cup of Joe.
To be clear, Martin Necas is having a fine rookie season. After having trouble acclimating to the NHL initially in 2018-19, his second try has been successful. Even with missing a few games due to injury, Necas is on target for a solid mid-40s for points. And shifting to wing with a bit less responsibility in terms of sorting things out defensively has enabled him to just leverage his skating ability to try to make things happen. So if he continues at his current pace, I would consider 2019-20 a successful rookie season for Necas. That said, I think he is one of the players who could have more to give in the second half. He looks increasingly comfortable with the puck on his stick which could see him on the brink of a break out as a playmaker/scoring chance generator. He has also scored a few pretty goals lately. Could he be on the brink of finding an even higher gear after building a foundation in the first half of the season?
His season has been interesting. He arrived labeled as a player who leaned shoot over pass as an established goal scorer and who was maybe below average defensively. What has most impressed about Dzingel thus far has been his heady playmaking ability. His 18 assists are fourth on the team, and a high percentage of them were the type where the assist not the goal was really the play. Meanwhile, he has only eight goals which makes for a 14-goal pace over 82 games as compared to 26 goals in 2018-19 and 22 goals in 2017-18. As noted, his general level of play has been fine, but he could definitely have more to give in terms of goal scoring in the second half of the season.
Some might consider Sebastian Aho an odd player to include on this list. He is on target for 40 plus goals and his 70ish-point pace is only a tiny bit off from the 83 points he scored in 2019-20. If he continues at his current pace, his offensive contributions would be comparable to 2018-19. But I still think Aho could have a higher gear that maybe is not so much even measured on the score sheet. During the 2018-19 season, Aho had stretches where he just seemed to dominate play for stretches. In 2019-20, he has had games like that, but I really do not think he has reached that level for an extended period of time. Could peak Sebastian Aho for at least a few weeks straight still be yet to come?
After playing a key role in triggering the ignition switch for the Canes second half surge in 2018-19, Niederreiter has struggled to find the net in 2019-20. His play of late has been better, and he has been seemingly snake bit. But in a results business, his six goals in 46 games is light especially considering he has played a decent chunk of the season with Aho. He is pressing right now in a good way and was rewarded last week. For Niederreiter, is it just a matter of the dam finally breaking at which point a bunch of goals follow quickly?
Jordan Staal’s bread and butter is not scoring. But with a heavy helping of ice time including on the power play and a good offensive player like Andrei Svechnikov on his line, Staal needs to chip in offensively too. Right now, Staal in pace for only 30 points in 82 games. In 2018-19, he scored 28 points in only 50 games. By no means is it reasonable to expect Staal’s name to be at the top of the list for scoring, but just rebounding to his 2018-19 pace would be a nice uptick.
There is no candy-coating the fact that Jake Gardiner’s transition to a new team in the Hurricanes was a struggle. His minus 20 is glaring considering that no other Canes defensemen is a minus. But with the small sample size noted, Gardiner has been elevated to the top 4 alongside Brett Pesce and has been quiet in a good way in that role for a few games. He has featured heavily in a couple articles recently that tag him as the key to the Canes blue line down the stretch. Can Gardiner settle in and find the higher gear that was initially expected of him?
At the top level of record, Petr Mrazek’s 17-11-2 record is good, and he has had a decent number of solid efforts. But Mrazek has yet to find the every-game rhythm that allowed him to lead the way up the standings last Spring. The first half of Mrazek’s 2018-19 campaign was similarly up and down, so is it possible that he is just getting ready to find a higher gear just like last season?
What jumps out first from completing this exercise is that despite being in good position in the standings, the Hurricanes have a whopping seven players, basically a third of the roster, who could seemingly have upside for the rest of the season. One might expect that if the team was struggling, but in this case it suggests that an already good team could still have significant upside.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What do you think of my list of seven players who could do more for the remainder of the season?
2) Which of these players do you think are most likely to find that higher gear?