Breaking Down Carolina Hurricanes' Top NHL-Ready Forward Prospects
The Carolina Hurricanes stand on the verge of a significant youth invasion within their forward corps.
General manager Jim Rutherford's use of four first- and second-round draft picks on forwards over the past three three years has given the franchise an elite cast of high-scoring, high-value youngsters.
There's 2013 fifth overall choice Elias Lindholm. There's 2012 second-round duo Phil Di Giuseppe and Brock McGinn. There's 2011 42nd selection Victor Rask. There's development camp standout Sergey Tolchinsky.
Simply put, there's a flashy, talented and undeniably success-fated group of forward prospects lying just below the surface around Raleigh.
Moreover, several could find themselves with an NHL gig quite soon—for Lindholm, Rask and McGinn, at least, perhaps as soon as the start of the 2013-14 season next month.
What skills and abilities could each player bring to the 'Canes this coming campaign? A breakdown of their respective potential impacts falls below.
2012-13 Stat Line: 48 GP, 11 G, 30 P (SEL, Brynas)
The Hurricanes' top draft choice of 2013 has earned nothing but overflowing praise in the past two months. It's all but assured he'll play in the NHL from day one of 2013-14 on.
Lindholm's versatility is top class, and he's as well-rounded as an 18-year-old with no NHL experience ever could be. Scouts have raved about his two-way responsibility, stemming from his A-grade awareness, poise and ultimate dedication to the team as a whole.
"He is a highly-skilled puck handler with great instincts at both ends," writes Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus. "He makes many plays due to his coordination, vision, and game processing quickness. Lindholm skates well, plays a gritty game, and helps on defense."
Consider the still-image screenshots of his highlight reel in the Sweden vs. Switzerland match of the 2013 World Junior Championships. Here leading a counterattack along the left boards, Lindholm (red) has both the vision to pick out the ideal pass target across the rink (blue) and the puck-handling skills to find him with a beautiful saucer pass (evading the black-boxed Swiss defenseman):
That impressive offensive play can't hold a candle to the aggressive puck-pursuit tutorial Lindholm puts on below, though. No. 19 blocks the shooting lane of Switzerland's No. 12, then converges on No. 8 along the boards, strips him of the puck and dumps it out for a line change:
If Lindholm is able to translate those kinds of spectacular plays to the NHL, he's guaranteed to be one of Carolina's best two-way forwards this season.
2012-13 Stat Line: 37 GP, 14 G, 41 P (WHL, Calgary)
Rask's 2012-13 stat line doesn't show the full extent of his season at all.
In addition to scoring at over a point-per-game pace in the regular season (and another 16 points in 17 postseason games) with the Calgary Hitmen, the 2011 second-rounder also recorded 13 appearances for the Swedish U20 team (eight points) and 10 appearances with the AHL's Charlotte Checkers (five points).
"Rask is a great puck possession forward who has good, if not great, puck skills and offensive awareness," reports Pronman. "He is a top of the line playmaker and is very dangerous from the sideboards. Rask has average size but protects the puck effectively."
The center has all the tools to succeed professionally—his tall 6'1" frame stands up well to physicality, yet he also possesses an ample amount of creativity and shiftiness on attack.
In the clip below from a U18 game between Sweden and Slovakia, Rask (red) controls a bouncing rebound off the Slovakian goaltender and demonstrates his fantastic lateral lane-changing ability with a quick move around a Slovakian defenseman. The play was converted into a goal just moments later.
Rask might be better off by starting the first few months of 2013-14 in the AHL, but he's just steps away from potential NHL stardom, nonetheless.
2012-13 Stat Line: 68 GP, 28 G, 54 P (OHL, Guelph)
McGinn, the No. 47 choice in the 2012 draft, broke out with a huge final junior-league season in 2012 and blew away the 'Canes coaches with his performance in July's development camp.
"He plays hard and feisty, and you need those kind of players in your organization," raved a clearly impressed Kirk Muller to the News & Observer. "He's a hockey player. He gets it."
Which forward prospect will make the biggest impact with the 'Canes in 2013-14?
With one older brother (Jamie) already well-established in the NHL and another (Tye) ranked among the Flyers' top prospects, Brock certainly knows what it takes to succeed in the big leagues.
His aggression and toughness are miles ahead of his meager 5'11", 186-pound body, and McGinn's defensive commitment and consistency are elite for his age.
Meanwhile, his accurate shooting and puck-moving abilities drastically came to the forefront this past season. Consider this beautiful highlight reel deke and breakaway goal from a Windsor-Guelph game last year:
Consider McGinn a dark horse to watch closely in this month's training camp battle for an NHL roster spot.
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