Here we are only three games into the Hurricanes 2020-21 season and COVID has struck. With a few players officially in COVID protocol and Tuesday’s game canceled, the path forward is uncertain. Anything I have to say about whether the team will play Thursday and the chance that this becomes a longer layoff would just be guessing, so I will instead go a different direction for today’s Daily Cup of Joe.
Without preseason games and training camps, the start of the season was the first real read on where former Canes stood in their new organizations. Aside from checking in on the bigger name former Hurricanes, one thing that jumps out at me is how many recent prospects are filling depth roles, especially at the center position, for other teams. Here is a quick rundown.
After being traded for Erik Haula before the start of the 2019-20, Roy has settled in nicely as a cap-friendly depth center. He split the 2019-20 season between the NHL and AHL but played well in the playoffs and has started the 2020-21 season at the NHL level in a regular role. His offensive production has been modest thus far potentially limiting his ceiling, but Roy seems to be establishing himself as a bottom 6 center.
After a short stint in Florida after being part of the Vincent Trocheck trade, Wallmark has moved on to Chicago. Reusing a page from the playbook that got him into the NHL when Victor Rask was injured, Wallmark has bumped up to third line center with Jonathan Toews out. With Chicago having some gaps in the lineup right now, Wallmark should receive a decent amount of NHL ice time to establish himself as a regular NHLer.
Also part of the trade for Vincent Trocheck, Eetu Luostarinen is still with the Florida Panthers and has at least temporarily seized the third line center slot. He collected his first NHL in the Panthers season-opener with a big two-point night. He is early in the process but least so far has made a nice jump from being a fringe AHL/NHL player to centering a third line at the NHL level.
After a couple short auditions at the NHL level with the Hurricanes Kuokkanen was dealt to New Jersey as part of the Sami Vatanen trade. He is currently playing wing for the Devils in the bottom half of their lineup.
After playing primarily as a third line center with the Hurricanes, Rask landed in a similar role with the Minnesota Wild after being traded for Nino Niederreiter. Though with the departure of Mikko Koivu and Eric Staal, Rask actually started the 2020-21 season centering the Wild’s first line.
After taking a ciruitous route through Europe and a couple different minor leagues, Derek Ryan became a great story of determination when he made it to the NHL level with the Hurricanes where he was a third line center. Since joining the Calgary Flames, he has played in a third line center role and more recently as a fourth line center.
He is from a much earlier prospect class and has been gone awhile now, but Riley Nash is another former Canes prospect who is filling a depth center slot at the NHL level. After leaving the Hurricanes, he initially had a productive couple years with the Boston Bruins before signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He is an established NHL depth center at this point in his career.
Sutter is another who departed a long time ago, way back in the Jordan Staal trade with the Penguins. More recently he is playing wing, but he has spent much of his career as a third or fourth line depth center.
Finally, long-time captain and Hurricanes hero Eric Staal spent the vast majority of his career as the Hurricanes first line center before winding up in Minnesota where he was primarily a second line center. He was traded to the Sabres where he is again a second line center, so not technically a bottom 6 center like the others, but still worth mentioning.
Lindholm spent the vast majority of his time with the Hurricanes at right wing and then started there with the Calgary Flames on the team’s top line. But after two productive seasons at right wing, he is getting a look at center this season and is off to a good start through a couple games.
If one includes Sebastian Aho and Morgan Geekie, that makes 12 Carolina Hurricanes center prospects (only Riley Nash was drafted by another team) at the NHL level. With only 124 center slots NHL-wide, that 10 percent is much more than a fair share.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Did I miss any?
2) Of the younger group (Roy, Wallmark, Kuokkanen, Luostarinen), do you think any will grow to a level that the team regrets letting them go?