For “playoff day” at Canes and Coffee, please also check out Jordan Futrell’s update on the Checkers’ playoff chase and Matt Karash’s Canes NHL playoff guide featuring draft pick implications and a roundup of former Hurricanes players in the NHL postseason.
I don’t know about you all, but I’m not at all ready for hockey to be done. Luckily in addition to our surging AHL team, Canes nation still has 10 prospects still active up in Canadian juniors, where the playoffs are in full swing. I was initially going to include the college prospects too, but wouldn’t you know it, not a single Canes college prospect made the NCAA tournament. Not even David Cotton’s Boston College and they are usually disgustingly consistent like that. Still, entirely for the purposes of this article, this is a good thing, because now I can easily format this Hurricanes prospect playoff update into a convenient Top 10 list.
RANDOM SLIGHTLY UNRELATED BREAKING NEWS
There’s the first move. Ron Francis says that David Marcoux’s contract will not be renewed. #Canes
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) April 12, 2017
So let’s not draw this out: Here’s how the Hurricanes’ Canadian juniors prospects are faring with the lights glaring, ranked entirely on my subjective statistical analysis.
1. Steven Lorentz – Peterborough Petes
6 Goals – 4 Assists – 10 Points in 7 games.
Yeah, this wasn’t the first name you expected to see on this list, was it? Well, Lorentz has been the top scorer for a Peterborough team that hasn’t lost yet. They swept Niagara in Round 1 of the OHL playoffs and are well on their way to doing the same to Jeremy Helvig’s Kingston club. He has never been a PPG scorer in his juniors career, but the former Hurricanes 7th rounder is playing his best hockey ever right now.
2. Nicolas Roy – Chicoutimi Saguenéens
5 Goals – 4 Assists – 9 Points in 7 games
Lorentz’ scoring tear was enough to take the top spot, but Roy is playing just as well up in the Q. He scored 2 game-winners in a Round 1 against Victoriaville and has continued driving the offense in Round 2 (currently down 2-1 to Rouyn-Noranda). He was also one of three finalists for the QMJHL MVP award this year. How we got Roy in the 4th round is beyond me, but he is the driver of his juniors team and I would not be surprised to see him drive the Checkers offense next year.
3. Janne Kuokkanen – London Knights
5 Goals – 5 Assists – 10 Points in 10 games
So the winners of last year’s Memorial Cup are having serious trouble scoring this playoff season, but Kuokkanen is hardly the problem. He’s tied for his team lead in playoff goals and points, having helped London survive a 7-game battle with Windsor (They’re down 2-1 to Warren Foegele and Erie’s high octane offense.) Still, Kuokkanen is showing some nice offensive chops in his first season in the OHL
4. Spencer Smallman – Saint John Sea Dogs
5 Goals – 3 Assists – 8 points in 7 games
What Saint John is currently doing to their playoff opponents is criminal. Smallman has 8 points for the team, which is good for just 4th highest on a team averaging 5 goals a game. Coincidentally, they haven’t lost yet. Smallman continues his solid play from the regular season and picked up a nice assist on a Julien Gauthier goal last night. Yay for Hurricanes connections!
5. Callum Booth – Saint John Sea Dogs
7-0, 1.81 GAA, .893 Sv Pct
He has the easiest job of all the Hurricanes prospects. The aforementioned dominance of Saint John routinely has Callum Booth facing about 15 shots per game, about a third of his opponent. He might be getting bored back there, because more of those shots are going in than one would like. Still, he’s getting the job done, and Hurricanes fans should be happy he’s coming in to give Altshuller and Nedeljkovic some competition next season.
6. Warren Foegele – Erie Otters
2 Goals – 4 Assists – 6 Points in 7 games
It’s slightly unfair to rank Foegele this low, simply because he’s focusing entirely on the two-way game that Erie brought him in to play. With a ridiculous top line of Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Taylor Raddysh, they don’t need Foegele to produce a ton offensively. Coincidentally, he’s playing a similar role to where he projects as a pro. Up 2-1 on Kuokkanen’s Knights, Foegele and the Otters have had a strong opening to their playoff run, and Foegele is one of the hardest prospects to evaluate via statistics and news articles alone. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one
7. Jake Bean – Calgary Hitmen
0 Goals – 2 Assists – 2 Points in 4 games
Okay so Bean’s team got swept and he’s in Charlotte not playing now, but he did well just to will that bad Hitmen team to the playoffs and every other prospect below on this list has had major issues, so he takes this spot. He produced a little bit, and he makes a very good article separator between the good and not-so-good.
8. Jeremy Helvig – Kingston Frontenacs
4-6, 2.78 GAA, .895 Sv Pct
Helvig has been the man for Kingston, playing every game for the team during the playoffs, but he hasn’t done much to carry them. His overall numbers actually improved after last night’s loss. In a slightly lower scoring league than Callum Booth’s QMJHL, Helvig has put up worse numbers and is about to get swept Lorentz’ Peterborough team. At just 19, it’s good that he’s getting this experience, but he’ll need a lot more time to develop. Another year of juniors is definitely in the cards for him.
Noah Carroll – Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds
0 Goals – 2 Assists – 2 Points in 9 games
Noah Carroll is still doing Noah Carroll things. With zero offensive game to speak of, there’s not much to evaluate. The ‘Soo’ is tied 2-2 with Owen Sound right now following a 5 game, Round 1 win over Flint. He might be a defensive dynamo up there in Canada, but even Brett Pesce has at least a smidge of offensive game. I don’t know how GMRF is evaluating his prospects, but Carroll’s don’t look good.
Julien Gauthier—Saint John Sea Dogs
(3 Goals – 0 Assists – 3 Points in 7 games)
Easily the most disappointing Hurricanes prospect during the Canadian juniors playoff season, Gauthier has scored just three total goals on a team averaging five a game, though he has scored in the last two. Given the recent reports, along with a cursory glance at the stats, it is clear that Gauthier is not close to ready. Granted, with a 6’4” 225 frame, his bar for ‘ready’ is a lot lower than most prospects, but he really hasn’t shown anything that might point to him becoming the potential star of a steal that I thought he could be going into the season. Still, the kid is only 19. He has more than enough time to turn it all around.
The Hurricanes System: Depth Runneth Over
So there we have it. On the whole, it appears that the Hurricanes farm system depth is living up to its reputation. It will be fascinating to see what Lorentz and Smallman, two prospects who were drafted so low we always forget about them, can do at the next level. Hopefully that chip stays strong and ever present on their shoulder. Also major props to Nicolas Roy and Janne Kuokkanen as their values continue to rise in their pre-AHL year. In the meantime, given these performances, the run of the Checkers and their newfound elite scorer Aleksi Saarela, and the plethora of draft picks we have to play with yet again, it is clear that the pipeline of talent into Raleigh is in no danger of running dry any time soon.