Over the past few years, the Carolina Hurricanes have become a prospect pool darling for those who rate prospects and the NHL draft. The Hurricanes have young forwards Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas already at the NHL level. Sebastian Aho is still young in his own right. And the team has its next batch of forwards from the past couple well-rated drafts on the way. Based on that, one might assume that the Hurricanes are deep at forward. While that could well prove to be true out a couple years, the team is actually pretty light on NHL-ready forward depth right now.
The 2019-20 exodus
Morgan Geekie pushed up to the NHL level and stuck, but at the same time the team mostly cleared out the group of players on the brink of the NHL during the 2020-21. Nicolas Roy was dealt before the season started. Fringe NHLers Phil Di Giuseppe and Greg McKegg left via free agency as did veteran AHLers Patrick Brown, Tomas Jurco and Andrew Poturalski. Then midway through the 2019-20 season, the Hurricanes dealt away more potential depth in Julien Gauthier, Janne Kuokkanen, Eetu Luostarinen and Lucas Wallmark. Some turnover especially with the older AHLers whose ceiling is that of deep NHL depth is the norm, but in losing so many players, the Hurricanes are actually a bit short on ready depth until the next wave of prospects develops over the next couple years.
What is left?
This situation is why adding Jesper Fast or someone else was actually more of a need than a nice to have. With Fast added and Justin Williams’ retirement, the Hurricanes only have 13 NHL forwards right now counting Morgan Geekie as having officially made a permanent jump to the NHL. Behind that, the team has only five forwards signed for the AHL level right now and only Clark Bishop with any NHL experience at all. The Hurricanes. Steven Lorentz and Spencer Smallman could also be ready to be deep depth at the NHL level, but David Cotton will just be starting his professional career and Stelio Mattheos has faced non-hockey health related setbacks. Because of the uncertainty right now for the upcoming season, the Hurricanes let the small group of a veteran AHL forwards that they had walk to free agency. One would figure the Hurricanes to add a couple more fringe AHL/NHL players on two-way contracts when the season gets closer.
The COVID-19 wild card
The COVID-19 is a crazy wild card. On the one hand, what exactly will happen with the AHL season is an unknown. On the other hand, the somewhat controlled but still impactful effects of COVID-19 on MLB and the NFL could very well be a sign of what is to come for the NHL, but the key difference for the NHL is lack of slack. Baseball has reserves that generally do not play such that you can field a lineup minus some number of players. Somewhat similarly the NFL has reserves and players that fill different roles, so it can be possible to still play minus a few players. But in the NHL, a team maybe could try to get by with five defenseman or maybe something like 10 forwards, so there is not the slack of players that maybe would not play much anyway. Assuming COVID-19 is still in play when the NHL resumes, it could be important for teams to have a deep bench of another 8-10 competent players ready on call. Ironically, this sort of goes against the Hurricanes changing AHL affiliates presumably to get a bit more help with player costs. Players on AHL-only contracts would not generally be available to the Hurricanes, so the team might actually need to ink a couple more higher-end players to two-way deals.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What do you make of the team mostly clearing out the wave of forward prospects just on the cusp of the NHL level?
2) With COVID-19 still in play, what do you figure the chances are that deep depth well past the #13 or #14 forward in the organization could play a significant role in 2020-21 results?
3) What are your thoughts on Steven Lorentz and Spencer Smallman being ready to provide competent depth for the NHL level?
The organizations weakest point is how it has treated its farm system in the last year. It’s quite embarrassing to be honest.
First the majority of the Checkers roster was traded, either for free or for overpriced veterans on expensive contracts.
Then the Checkers team, a local Carolina team who won the cup and was on its way to the playoffs again when Covid struck, was ditched in favor of Chicago Wolves, a team that goes through owners like I go through Flying Burrito Outer Banks tacos on a Tuesday.
It’s this disregard for the farm system and the support cast that could be the hallmark of TD’s downfall and could send the Canes into a tailspin territory for a few years. I most surely hope this won’t happen, and I’m not saying it’s definitely going to, but this situation legit worries me.
Lawrence got rave reviews with the Checkers, but is he the next Vogele or the Zach Boychuk/Jared Stall/Cliff Pu, only an NHL audition will tell, I honestly have no idea.
I don’t know Breez, I see where you are coming from but I’m not sure I see it that way. Of course I may be drinking the coolaide, but while I liked the idea of having the team in Charlotte, what they were saying about it taking away up to 15 practice days and most of the games are far away instead of bus rides… I can see that logic. I love Wally and hate he got traded, but the other forwards had been here enough for them to get a good read on them. We need to wait and see how they do elsewhere before we know if they were embarrassing or not. We will see!
I’m thinking that the braintrust is saving money by limiting the expenses of “Ahl and below”, because the Covid may prevent any minor league games completely, or cut them drastically!
Other teams may follow suit, and the teams may decide to Jetson many able prospects…? Eventually it will become a buyers market for prepared teams flush with cash, MAYBE? !!
I like that way of interpreting the situation, much prefer it to mine in fact.
Yes, the AHL is a very uncertain prospect this year, even more so than the NHL, so it makes sense for teams to wait it out until we have some clarity.
1. LIke Breezy, I was surprised at the way we traded our AHL depth away – and what we got in return. Players like Gauthier and Kuokkanen quality depth at the AHL level who could prove to be valuable on NHL ice. Roy and Wallmark have demonstrated they are NHL players. Brown was the type of player who probably hit his ceiling but provided extraordinary leadership to the younger players.
We don’t have anything now – and with the AHL in some doubt keeping costs low will probably limit who we acquire (the Wolves organization will pick up the AHL talent to fill out the roster).
When are Suzuki available for the AHL? Does Bokk make the move to N.A.?
2. I think this question is predicated on what the AHL will look like this season. Will there even be a season? Also, this isn’t like outdoor sports *(baseball, football); if an NHL player tests positive he has already been in close quarters with him teammates. I see the team being affected as opposed to swapping out individual players.
3. Lorentz – maybe. I don’t think Smallman – having seen a lot of his games – is an NHLer.
I am definitely concerned about depth at F – and point to the large movement out of quality young AHLers over the past 15 months.
I am like breezy as well. We traded away so much, Gauthier, Kuokkanen, Roy and Walmark. I know we were in a big bind loosing 2 top D, and the management big time wanted to get back to the playoffs for a second year. It was a pretty expensive price.
I really did not like those trade deadline acquisitions but the brain trust has a much better feel then I do. I hope they work out as the handful of games left questions for me.
1) a mess-up.
2) We are thin. There is a good change Lorentz or Smallman have to come up due to injuries.
3) Don’t know. I think there is a good chance we still add a borderline two way F (or two). There will be capable guys looking for contracts in this Covid environment.