With Saturday’s ugly loss (recap with some positive context is HERE) interrupting an otherwise good stretch of hockey for the Hurricanes, I am putting up an extra combination article/coffee shop post on Sunday which is usually a day off. At exactly the midway point of the 2017-18 season, the Carolina Hurricanes are in a playoff spot which is obviously a good thing, so the aim today is a dose of Canes reading that helps push everyone past Saturday’s loss.
If time permits, I might do a deeper dive on mid-season player evaluations and might either intentionally (to fill the gap) or unintentionally (because it will be easier to find time to write them with no games to cover) do them during the bye week that starts on Monday, January 22. But today’s article offers quick hitter grades for the Canes forwards through 41 games and also polls for you to assess my player grades.
Monday’s regular Coffee Shop article will roll out grades in a similar format for the defensemen and goalies.
Carolina Hurricanes 2017-18 mid-season grades
Please remember to click ‘vote’ after each individual poll response.
Sebastian Aho — A. I went back and forth on giving him an A or being a tough grader and giving him an A-. He is on pace for 66 points which is a solid total but not quite in the elite category just outside the top 50 scorers in the league. But considering how dynamic he can be, I will give him the benefit of the tiebreaker and flat A.
Phil Di Giuseppe — B-. Di Giuseppe has grown to become a steady and sound defensive forward capable of playing on the fourth line. As a player with a slightly lesser role (not a penalty kill regular) and virtually nothing for scoring (only a single assist in 15 games played), Di Giuseppe gets positive marks for being a serviceable NHLer but negative marks for not doing much above that.
Josh Jooris — B+. Jooris is somewhat similar to Kruger in that he was brought in to be part of a veteran fourth line group that Peters could trust, especially on the road, to take some tough match ups and hold their own. Jooris has done that reasonably well and also been tough to score on in a shorthanded role. One negative for Jooris as with the rest of the fourth line is lack of scoring, as Jooris is only on pace for 12 points.
Marcus Kruger — B-. Kruger was brought in to be a cornerstone for a fourth line that Peters could use behind Staal’s line in the match up game on the road. For the most part Kruger has filled that role, but the results have been mixed. In an article last week, I noted Kruger as the most scored on forward on the penalty kill. In addition, his lone goal on a weird deflection and 10-point scoring pace is sub-Jay McClement in terms of offensive production.
Elias Lindholm — B. Lindholm is a good hockey player in an understated kind of way, but through half of the 2017-18 season, my evaluation is that he has not consistently reached the level that he played at in the second half of the 2016-17 season. He again looks to provide only depth scoring with 46 points (though his 11 goals have already matched his 2016-17 total which is a significant improvement), and more significantly, he has been a bit short of the Peter Forsberg-like intensity level and physical play that was a trademark of his second half surge in 2016-17.
Brock McGinn — A-. Important to note is that as a depth forward McGinn gets graded on a different scale than the likes of leaders like Staal, Skinner, Aho, etc. For his role, I think McGinn has excelled. When adjusting for total ice time (just over 13 minutes per game) and power play ice time (virtually none), I think McGinns 30-point pace is more than enough. When one also considers his consistent intensity level and physical edge, McGinn has been a very good depth forward through half of the 2017-18 season.
Joakim Nordstrom — B. Nordstrom plays a consistent game, plays more physical than his 189-pound frame would suggest and brings pace and energy every game. He also fills a regular slot on the penalty kill. The negatives on Nordstrom through 41 games are that the penalty kill has been sub-par and that Nordstrom’s 8-point scoring pace is light even for a fourth-liner.
Victor Rask — C+. Rask’s play did take a step up after a few games as a healthy scratch, and even when things are not clicking offensively, he plays sound two-way hockey. So a grade for the second quarter of the season would be higher, but for the season in total thus far and given his volume of ice time, decent line mates and medium helping of power play ice time, his 26-point scoring pace just is not enough.
Derek Ryan — B. Graded as a third line center who leans offense, I think Ryan grades out pretty well for the 2017-18 season. He is one of the more difficult players to grade because I think his grade could vary significantly depending on what standard and role you grade him for. At the end of the day, Ryan needs to produce offensively, and with a 46-point pace, he has done that. At a minimum, Ryan has been a serviceable third-line center which is not a bad baseline. On the higher end, Ryan has had some games and stretches where he has been a going concern as an offensive center.
Jeff Skinner — B-. He gets graded hard as the player expected to be the team’s top scorer. He has not been horrible, but his scoring pace of 26 goals and 56 points is only good and not great. Further, possibly because he has been pressing a bit offensively at times, he has seen some relapses to the ‘iffy’ two-way play from earlier in his career. As measured (imperfectly) by his team worst plus/minus, the Hurricanes are losing in 2017-18 with Skinner’s line on the ice at even strength.
Jordan Staal — B+. Staal continues to do what he does best which is play at a Selke level defensively and do more than his fair share winning/keeping pucks and tilting the ice into the offensive zone. And doing that makes him a positive player almost every night. But playing much of the 2017-18 season with higher-end offensive line mates in Aho and Teravainen, his 46-point scoring pace rates as fair.
Teuvo Teravainen — A. Especially when I consider that my expectations for Teravainen were somewhat lower as compared to Aho entering the season, his equal 66-point pace is impressive. He continues to be streaky and sometimes be too quiet when not on a scoring binge, but one cannot discount his simple scoring production when assigning a grade.
Justin Williams — A-. He gets upgraded because I his leadership and role in gradually effecting a transition to a winning mindset and mentality. His 14-goal pace is off from the 24 goals he had in 2016-17, but his scoring (50 points for 2017-18 versus 48 points for 2016-17) is actually up a tiny bit. All in all, I think he is doing what was hoped which is to provide leadership, be a productive player offensively and add another strong two-way player who can line up against anyone and not be overmatched.
What say you Caniacs?
1) Which grade(s) do you most disagree with?
2) Are there any players who seem incorrectly graded comparably to another?