I came up only two players short of finishing all 17 players below the AHL level for the “Midterms” series before the 2018 NHL trade deadline took center stage. Remaining are 2017 blue line draftee, Ville Rasanen, and the crown jewel of the prospect pool, Martin Necas. My hope is post those within the next week or so.
In the meantime, you can find the menu of clickable links for the previous 15 entries HERE.
With the 2017-18 season slowly slipping away on the ice, I figured timing was right for an additional round of notes with a positive slant on some of the sub-AHL prospects covered in the series.
The formal interviews that are published on the site offer an eclectic set of viewpoints on the various players, but what is just as interesting for me is the volume of side conversations that yield smaller but oftentimes just as interesting chunks of information on the players. Especially for players who have been in the Hurricanes organization for a full season already, I usually have a couple contacts from my various efforts to gather ‘from the rink’ insight on the players. So the short, informal exchanges on email or Twitter are useful to confirm other insight or add layers of depth to it.
Based on the formal interviews and the side conversations, here is a quick list of positives for the 15 players covered thus far…
Luke Martin – Defenseman – University of Michigan – 2017 draftee
He is having a really strong 2017-18 campaign at the University of Michigan. His statistics are not overly impressive, and they likely never will be for a player whose core skill set is that of a solid defensive defenseman. From a couple of accounts, Michigan started slowly and was largely a train wreck defensively. Even during the early struggles, Martin was solid which boost his standing. The team righted the ship, and Martin was also a part of that. As a sophomore, he has stepped up to a higher level in his second year of college hockey just as one would hope for a developing player hopefully charting a course toward the NHL.
Jeremy Helvig – Goalie – Kingston Frontenacs – 2016 draftee
As an overage player, one would rightfully hope that Helvig would have a solid 2017-18 season in the OHL while trying to earn an NHL contract. He has done that and better. Everyone I talk to raves about Helvig and his potential. With Alex Nedeljkovic and Callum Booth a step ahead of him in the AHL, and Eetu Makiniemi and Jack LaFontaine tracking behind him in Europe and NCAA hockey respectively, one might figure that Helvig is a decision point for receiving a contract. I think it is a sure thing unless by odd chance he refuses to sign to instead re-enter the draft. I would not be surprised to see him signed in March before the OHL playoffs even start. When talking to people who watch him play regularly, words like “mature,” “steady,” and “consistent” are common. Helvig is a player who has grown to become a proven veteran at the Canadian juniors level. He must navigate a big step up to the professional level, but his arrival will make for strong competition at the AHL level starting with the 2018-19 season.
Morgan Geekie – Forward – Tri-City Americans – 2017 draftee
Matching my initial impression of Geekie from prospect camp last summer, what jumps out about him is how well-rounded his game is offensively. He is not a one trick pony with a bunch of gaps in his game. He has the hands to score off the rush. He can distribute the puck. He is comfortable playing close to the net and finishing there. He has a decent balance of playmaking and finishing ability. Given his 90 points in 72 games in 2016-17, the news should not be surprising, but it is still encouraging. The challenge for Geekie will be continuing to improve his speed and acceleration. After a strong week at prospect camp in drills, he disappeared a bit in the scrimmage when the back and forth pace picked up and left him a step or two behind at times.
Early thoughts on the Hurricanes three pending contract decisions
The Hurricanes have three players drafted in 2016 whose draft rights expire during the upcoming offseason. As such, the Hurricanes must sign these players to entry-level contracts or otherwise lose them. The aforementioned Jeremy Helvig along with Hudson Elynuik and Noah Carroll are the three players in question. As noted above, I would be surprised if Helvig is not signed. The same goes for Hudson Elynuik. Elynuik is a player with NHL size and pedigree and those his development has been step-wise, the Hurricanes will certainly want to invest three years and an entry-level contract in Elynuik to see how he progresses at the professional level. Noah Carroll is the player who is the biggest question mark. As a sixth-round pick, he is the kind of player that sometimes does not advance to the next level. In addition, I have received mixed reviews on Carroll’s potential as an NHL player. Nonetheless, my expectation by a reasonable margin is that Carroll too will receive an entry-level contract partly because of favorable math that sees the Hurricanes currently light on younger blue line prospects with all of Slavin, Pesce, Hanifin and Fleury working up to the NHL level quickly and leaving holes to be filled. In addition, Carroll has had a reasonably solid 2017-18 season on a Sault Ste. Marie team that has been very good.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of the 15 players profiled so far jump out as being ahead of schedule development-wise?
2) Which of the lower draft picks do you see as potential diamonds in the rough?