Predicting the Statistical Leaders for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2014-15

Mark Jones@@CanesReportSenior Analyst IAugust 26, 2014

Predicting the Statistical Leaders for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2014-15

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    With the beginning of training camp just a few weeks away, expectations for each Carolina Hurricanes player will soon be set for the upcoming 2014-15 campaign.

    The 'Canes are fielding a cast of impact players identical to last year, but the team's front office evidently hopes that more team chemistry, better luck and Bill Peters' coaching style can improve the productivity of all.

    Jeff Skinner will attempt to live up to Peters' 40-goal challenge, Alexander Semin will seek to justify his $7 million cap hit and Eric Staal will fight to maintain his captaincy role. Elias Lindholm will try for a sophomore breakout campaign, Jordan Staal will hope to prove himself of a top-six role and Nathan Gerbe will attempt to top last year's career high in goals and points.

    Which player will lead the 'Canes in each major, standard statistical category? Projections for each lie in the coming slides.

Goals: Jeff Skinner

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    Jeff Skinner set a career high and ranked 11th in the NHL with 33 goals a year ago, taking advantage of his deadly wrist shot and finesse skating ability to lead the Hurricanes in lit lamps by a wide margin.

    Although Alexander Semin could threaten his team scoring title this season (more on that in slide No. 4), Skinner looks like a strong bet to repeat.

    No. 53 totaled seven goals in his final 11 games of 2013-14 and, at only 22, is probably far from his prime. Moreover, improved performance from teammates like Semin, Eric Staal and natural scorer Jiri Tlusty could actually help Skinner find more open space.

    The former seventh overall pick needs just three more goals to hit 100 for his career, but he should be able to accumulate 10 times that much—30 or more—if his health holds up in 2014-15.

    Projection: 33 goals, 29 assists, 62 points

Assists: Eric Staal

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    Despite posting his lowest full-season point total since 2004, Eric Staal still led all 'Canes forwards by 15 in the assists department in 2013-14—a glaring indicator of just how poorly used the unit was by Kirk Muller.

    It's goal scoring that will likely determine the success of the upcoming critical campaign for Staal's career, but maintaining his role as the key playmaker of the offense will also prove important.

    No. 12's assists accumulation has been remarkably consistent, ranging between 35 and 46 over the last nine consecutive years. He'll certainly have to stay in that range—and likely in the upper half of it—to avoid another bout of suffocating trade rumors next spring.

    Projection: 28 goals, 41 assists, 69 points

Points: Alexander Semin

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    If Alexander Semin is ever to shed the "lazy" reputation he brought with him from Washington to Raleigh in 2012—one that has been far from warranted in the time since, yet continues to be tossed around by mainstream media—it will be from finally pointing up the tangible box-score numbers to match his on-ice effect.

    2014-15 could be the year for him to do it.

    Semin's shooting percentage (a statistic that tends to regress strongly towards the player's career mean over time) has plummeted inexplicably and unfortunately: 9.7 percent in two years with Carolina compared to 14.1 percent in seven years with Washington.

    If No. 28 can continue his strong shots-on-goal rate of last season (3.23 per game), and his shooting percentage regresses to his career average of 13.1 percent, a full 82-game campaign from Semin should mathematically yield him about 35 goals.

    Such improvement in the scoring category, along with continuation of the underrated passing ability that helped him rank 17th in the NHL in assists in 2012-13, could set Semin deservedly along a path towards the Hurricanes' point-scoring crown.

    Projection: 32 goals, 38 assists, 70 points

Plus/Minus: Andrej Sekera

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    Andrej Sekera, easily the MVP of the Hurricanes defense last season and one of the better acquisitions of Jim Rutherford's entire general manager tenure, will seek to record the best plus/minus rating on for the second straight year.

    Despite playing on a variety of poor Buffalo and Carolina teams, Sekera is plus-16 over the last four seasons combined. At plus-four, he was among only five 'Canes who played more than half of the 2013-14 season to be in the positives.

    Sekera and still-young Justin Faulk will be relied upon again to carry much of the load on the Hurricanes defense, which still lacks a reliable second pairing as training camp looms.

    No. 4 will need to shine yet again in 2014-15.

    Projection: 10 goals, 24 assists, 34 points, plus-7