Continuing a run of informal season preview type articles, today’s Daily Cup of Joe names a key player (cheating a little) at each position for the Canes success during the 2021-22 NHL season.
Defense – Whoever plays next to Jaccob Slavin
On defense, the single biggest challenge will be filling the hole left by Dougie Hamilton’s departure. Be it Ethan Bear, be it Tony DeAngelo or be it someone off the radar, finding a steady #4 defenseman could will be critical. In adding a group of veteran defensemen, the Hurricanes should be okay for depth, but that is not the same as having an airtight top 4 that can log most of the tough minutes against other teams’ best lines. If someone can mesh with Slavin and form a legitimate top 4 pairing, the Hurricanes will continue to have a blue line that is better than NHL average and a strength. If instead, no one rises up to fill that slot well, the Hurricanes will sink to the NHL median trying to make the blue line work even if maybe player short.
Most likely candidate: Ethan Bear
First alternate: Tony DeAngelo
Forward – One or two of the young wings becoming top of the NHL caliber
I keep beating the drum that says the next step up for the Hurricanes needs to come from continued growth of the team’s young stars. Though balance will be important too, I think the key to improvement or the Canes at forward will be one or multiple of the Canes young wings reaching the top level. Sebastian Aho is bona fide first line center, and the team goes three deep at the position. Teuvo Teravainen is a great all-around wing who can mesh on any line and in any role. But as of yet, the Canes do not have a wing who has become a true top-tier scorer. No doubt Andrei Svechnikov has shown signs and seems to be on the track. Martin Necas is maybe a step behind having playing one less full NHL season but also has that high ceiling. And newly-added Jesperi Kotkaniemi has a similarly high draft pedigree though has not been a productive at the NHL level yet. One or even better multiple of these players finding a higher level that pushes to a point per game or better scoring pace that leans a little heavy on goal scoring could boost the Canes scoring the the next level. Svechnikov would be the mostly likely candidate, but Necas and Kotkaniemi could also rise up.
Most like candidate: Andrei Svechnikov
First alternates: Martin Necas then Jesperi Kotkaniemi
Goalie – A new #1
In today’s NHL, both NHL roster goalies generally play a meaningful role in a team’s regular season success. But more so than having two goalies playing lights out, it is very important that one of the two new netminders settle in fairly quickly. I think people underestimate the challenge of transitioning to a new team and situation as a goalie. There is a different level of pressure for a goalie and the adjustment process in joining a new team can be much more hit or miss. No one likely remembers it now because of the end result, but Scott Darling’s signing was nearly unanimously approved by the fan base to the point where reservations and/or acknowledged risks were near zero. Eddie Lack maybe did not come with as completely unanimous approval, but he too seemed like a goalie on the rise when he arrived in Raleigh, but he never really settled in. As proven veterans, both Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta have a good chance to adjust quickly, but assuming that as a sure thing ignores Canes history and fails to understand the uncertainty of a new goalie settling in. Better would be both, but the Hurricanes need at least one of the two new goalies to settle in and be steady (not necessarily spectacular) early on.
Most likely candidate: Frederik Andersen
First alternate: Antti Raanta
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you think the Canes have a capable (not saying as good, but just capable) top 4 replacement for Dougie Hamilton on the roster?
2) Which, if any, of the burgeoning young stars at wing will find that higher gear in 2021-22?
3) Is it safe this time to assume that one or both of the new netminders will quickly navigate the transition to a new team and be competent or better in net right out of the gate?