If you missed part 1 of my follow up from the recently completed ‘Midterms’ series, you can find it HERE. That part talked briefly about the Hurricanes goalie prospect pool, success at forward in the 2015 draft and Jake Bean.
You can find links to the ‘Midterms’ updates for all of the Hurricanes 17 prospects below the AHL level at the bottom of the final of the last article on Nicolas Roy.
Below are 3 observations on the Hurricanes prospect pool:
1) Great potential to generate both top half of the roster and depth forwards
Most of the attention in terms of prospects goes to the potential stars usually drafted in the early rounds. But with the long NHL season and the volume of injuries, being able to stock an AHL team with capable depth players helps weather the storm when injuries hit and reinforcements are needed. At the forward position, the Hurricanes system looks promising for being able to offer this support a couple years out. Spencer Smallman (5th round)), Steven Lorentz (7th round) and Warren Foegele (3rd round) all have progressed and shown the potential to become 2-way depth forwards with an element of rugged in their games. Behind them, the Hurricanes also have 4 forwards in the NCAA and also Hudson Elynuik in the WHL. And that is in addition to a couple higher-end prospects in Julien Gauthier, Janne Kuokkanen, Aleksi Saarela and Nicolas Roy (who was a steal in the fourth round). It will take 2-3 years, but the Hurricanes organizational depth at the forward has great potential.
If one thinks of the 20ish or younger forwards in tiers:
Higher-end, top of roster/high-scoring potential (4): Julien Gauthier, Nicolas Roy, Janne Kuokkanen, Aleksi Saarela.
More likely depth forwards moving up to AHL level in 2017-18 (3): Warren Foegele, Spencer Smallman, Steven Lorentz.
Still in college or juniors and with work to do (5): Matthew Filipe, Hudson Elynuik, Max Zimmer, Luke Stevens, David Cotton.
That is a pretty deep set of options across a couple levels and time frames.
2) Lack of 2015/2016 draft depth on the blue line
It is no secret that the Hurricanes are stacked with young NHL or near NHL-ready defensemen. The top 4 of Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Noah Hanifin averages barely over 22 years of age. In addition, 1 or both of Haydn Fleury who is having a great first season in the AHL and Roland McKeown may be ready to step into the NHL in 2017-18. It is not out of the question that the Hurricanes opening day roster for 2017-18 includes 6 homegrown players with an average age of 22 years old.
The youth at the NHL level makes it less urgent to have ready help on the way from the prospect pool, but it is still important to keep refilling the pipeline, so players can be replaced as needed.
The Hurricanes do have other prospects in Trevor Carrick, Josh Wesley and Tyler Ganley at the AHL level, but at this stage of their development, I would say that those players are more likely to be AHL/NHL depth rather than NHL regulars. The Canes also have 1 elite prospect in Jake Bean who has the sky for the limit. But in that tier from the 2015 and 2016 draft classes, the Hurricanes have only Bean and sixth-rounder Noah Carroll.
I expect that Ron Francis and his scouting team will add at least a couple defensemen in the 2017 draft to begin restocking the pool on the blue line. Especially with the fairly recent successes of Jaccob Slavin in the fourth round in 2012 and Brett Pesce in the third round in 2013, maybe a couple mid-round picks will be enough to find winners.
If you make a similar depth chart for below AHL defensemen, the list is much sparser:
Higher-end prospects with top half of the roster potential (1): Jake Bean.
Potential depth defenseman still in juniors or college with work to do (1): Noah Carroll.
3) Players from third round or later who I really like
Warren Foegle: He is new NHL energy line player. Skating and ability to close space in a hurry on the forecheck or backchecking in the neutral zone are strengths, and he is not without some scoring ability.
Matthew Filipe: Of the college players in the Canes prospect pool, Filipe is the 1 that stood out most from the 2016-17 reports and other conversations. Like all of the freshman prospects, Filipe had an adjustment phase, but once he adjusted he found a higher gear in terms of production. At 6-2 and 198 pounds with decent skating ability, he projects well.
Nicolas Roy: Roy is the obvious 1 on this list. He was originally projected to be a first round pick but fell after a sub-par 2014-15 season. Francis and his staff did well drafting for value in getting Roy in the fourth round. He has tracked higher than that.
Callum Booth: Booth has progressed in 2 years since since being drafted. He signed his entry-level contract and should join Alex Nedeljkovic in the AHL/ECHL mix next seasons. Nedeljkovic tops the Hurricanes goalie prospect depth chart based on pedigree and play at the junior level/international play, but he had a rocky 2016-17 season at times. With Booth and Nedeljkovic playing at the same level, Booth will have a chance to climb above Nedlejkovic next season.
I also like Spencer Smallman and Steven Lorentz as long-term dark horses to play their way up to the NHL level on a longer 2-3 year time table.