As of Monday, The Athletic is down to #10 in counting backwards ranking the NHL’s top farm systems. The Hurricanes figure to finish somewhere in the top 5 and would not be an outlandish pick for #1.
The NHL roster is similarly young.
Though the 2018-19 season is a wild card in many ways including the expected youthful roster, the potential to finish the work that Ron Francis started in terms of building a deep system capable of not just reaching the playoffs but also then becoming a regular entrant is clearly there.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a quick look at the youthfulness of both the AHL and expected NHL roster for the 2018-19 season.
The Charlotte Checkers roster
With another wave of drafted prospects including Morgan Geekie, Jeremy Helvig and Jake Bean joining the prospect pool, the team was going to be younger already. Then add in free agent signees Michael Fora and Saku Maenalanen and Cliff Pu who was obtained in the Jeff Skinner trade and the organization added seven prospects with an average age of 21 to the AHL mix.
Another way to make a quick and objective split between AHL veterans and prospects at the AHL level is to tally players not on entry-level contracts. Right now, the organization currently has 19 prospects still on entry-level contracts who play at the AHL level. And that does not even include Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas and Haydn Fleury who figure to play at the NHL level.
I do not have time to do an official tally right now, but the percentage of the AHL roster filled by players on entry-level contracts figures to be a recent high, and the average age of the Checkers should decrease for the 2018-19 season.
The Carolina Hurricanes roster
The same story is true at the NHL level. My best guess for the NHL roster right now would include Sebastian Aho, Haydn Fleury, Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, and possibly Warren Foegele on the opening day roster and still on their entry-level contracts. That would make five players on entry-level contracts on the opening day roster.
But a broader look at the roster even more shows just how young the team could be. By age group, a potential roster breaks out like this:
18-22 years old (5): Sebastian Aho, Haydn Fleury, Andrei Svechnikov, Warren Foegele.
23-26 years old (12): Teuvo Teravainen, Brock McGinn, Micheal Ferland, Jordan Martinook, Victor Rask, Phil Di Giuseppe, Valentin Zykov, Dougie Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Justin Faulk, Petr Mrazek.
27-30 years old (4): Jordan Staal, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Calvin de Haan, Scott Darling.
Over 30 (1): Justin Williams.
Regardless of who exactly makes the opening day roster, the Hurricanes will be incredibly young at the NHL level. Even the veterans are primarily in their mid-20s, and the group could very well have as many players 24 and younger as it does 25 and older.
Both sides of the coin
The positive with the team and the organization being so young is that the window for potential success (playoffs!) is just beginning to open and will remain open for some time once the team arrives.
But the negative is that the 2018-19 projected roster looks like a team that is rebuilding, on the brink of emerging but with no short-term guarantees. When fans start leaning optimistically about rookies, they often mistake “could be ready to play at the NHL level but still with a learning curve” versus “are actually ready to play again players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, Claude Giroux and others and drive wins.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Honest answer…What do you put the odds at that the young Hurricanes group is ready to take the league by storm in 2018-19 versus having a product season learning curve-wise on the path to a brighter future that starts in 2019-20 or later?
2) Who has a guess for where the Hurricanes prospect pool lands in The Athletic rankings?