Today it was announced that the Carolina Hurricanes had signed 2015 seventh-round draft pick Steven Lorentz to a pretty standard 3-year entry-level contract. After the signing of Callum Booth awhile back and then Warren Foegele and Spencer Smallman on the same day, there had been a buzz around Steven Lorentz and whether the team would end up offering a contract.
It is just my hunch, but I do not think it was ever in question. My best guess is that he had done enough in the two years since being drafted and especially in the 2016-17 season to earn a contract and that the delay was just some combination of administrative and/or negotiating the deal.
Lorentz has actually been featured quite a bit on Canes and Coffee in recent weeks:
Just yesterday, my timely post with 5 predictions for the Hurricanes offseason had a Lorentz signing #1. (The article includes a bit of detail as to why.)
Steven Lorentz’s ‘Midterms’ update on February 11 and a couple side conversations at that time are what started me on the path to figuring he had done the work to progress to the AHL level.
Steven Lorentz scouting report and development path
Based on his style of play, current skill set and progression over the past two years since being drafted, Steven Lorentz projects to be a third or fourth line depth forward with size, a physical edge and enough skill and scoring ability to fill such a role in today’s NHL that increasingly has no room if you cannot find the net occasionally. He is the kind of power forward that that the Hurricanes need more of.
Lorentz actually started slowly in 2016-17 maybe trying to do too much as an older player and team leader. Had you asked people who tracked him in November, he likely was not on track to earn an NHL contract. But he settled in, got better as the season wore on and led the way as his team surged. While not overwhelming for NHL prospect type players, his 61 points in 66 games in the 2016-17 regular were enough to show that he could contribute offensively and importantly one measure of improvement year over year.
Lorentz’s work list to eventually reach the NHL level is a common one for many young power forwards. Everyone I talked to said that his skating and speed had improved since being drafted, but there is still another level or two that must be attained to play at NHL speed. Even though he is already 6-4 and 201 pounds, he still has another level in terms of maturing physically not so much in terms of adding a bunch more weight, but in terms of becoming a little bit stronger and also learning how to use his size to his advantage.
Unless he shocks everyone at the NHL training camp next fall, the next step for Lorentz is at least a full season at the AHL level continuing to improve physically and working to transition what he could do well against younger players to the higher level of competition at the AHL level.
Carolina Hurricanes prospect notes
The progression of Lorentz to the AHL level is another positive in a 2015 draft year that is shaping up to be a very good one for the Hurricanes. Sebastian Aho is on the brink (if not already there) of being an offensive leader and star. Noah Hanifin’s progress has been more step-wise, but he finished the 2016-17 season strong and projects to be a top 4 defenseman with upside from there. Callum Booth, Spencer Smallman and Nicolas Roy have already been signed and would rate higher than their middle-round selections in any redraft.
Lorentz is also part of the significant progress being made to build system depth at the forward position. The blue line rose up quickly with Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce maturing way ahead of schedule and the selection of Noah Hanifin. The forward group was significantly behind but is suddenly catching up. If none of them surprise and make the NHL roster, the AHL will see an influx of 6 forwards (Julien Gauthier, Nicolas Roy, Aleksi Saarela, Spencer Smallman, Warren Foegele, Steven Lorentz) with an interesting combination of size, high-end scoring potential and depth forward options. When you combine that with four forward prospects developing in the NCAA ranks and Janne Kuokkanen and Hudson Elynuik in Canadian juniors again for the 2017-18 season, the forward part of rebuilding the system depth has taken a big step forward this year.