It's no secret that the Carolina Hurricanes are having a very disappointing season so far, and it appears that this year could turn into a rebuilding one for the 'Canes organization.
However, the seasonal slump has provided the Hurricanes management—as well as their fans—a larger glimpse of what is to come of a Carolina team that has the bulk of its players at extreme ends of the age range.
This season has slowly but steadily sorted out older, over-their-prime players such as Scott Walker, Niclas Wallin, Aaron Ward, Stephane Yelle, and, of course, the captain, Rod Brind'Amour. Sure, it will hurt to see experienced producers like Ray Whitney and Matt Cullen begin their decline, but rebuilding years are designed for shaving off the older players.
Fortunately, though, the Hurricanes have a good, successful group of youngsters, not only down in their minor league team, the AHL's Albany River Rats, but also in a steady trickle of young injury-replacement success stories on the top level.
So today's "Canes Report" is taking a turn toward the younger side of things and reviewing 12 forwards and defensemen, all 24 years old or younger, that just might very well be the future of the Hurricanes franchise in the upcoming decade. This slideshow will be the first edition of a weeklong "Canes Report" series analyzing the Hurricanes current roster and farm system, which will move on to "Possible Trade Bait Players" next after this.
In a year of struggles for the Carolina Hurricanes, 20-year-old center Brandon Sutter, the latest NHL star in a longtime great hockey family, has been a shining bright spot.
The speedy, energetic youngster was recalled early in the season after a slew of injuries hit the top team, and he has posted 11 goals and eight assists with just two penalties in minutes in 38 games played. Sutter has gotten the Hurricanes rolling in several slumping places during games, and he has also done very well with his defensive support.
If Sutter can stay on this track, he's the next Eric Staal of the team. In fact, he's actually already on the same line as Staal at times...and he still has plenty more years to grow.
Despite the Hurricanes losing in a tough game against Atlanta 5-3 last Saturday, Drayson Bowman was the spotlight of the night. Playing in his first NHL game, Bowman failed to show up anywhere on the score sheet, but he did earn valuable experience for his bright future with the Hurricanes.
So far, this 20-year-old has posted 15 points in 26 games for Albany after being drafted highly in the NHL draft, and he has retained his position as one of the 'Canes top minor league prospects.
After a shaky and strange early career in Toronto, Jiri Tlusty was traded to Carolina as a prospect with strings attached...he had potential, but he had not played very well at the NHL level with the Leafs and also had a disturbing incident. However, it didn't take Tlusty long to get settled with his new team, as he picked up a goal on his first shift with Carolina.
After settling his immigration issues, Tlusty has now picked up five career points and an even +/- rating in his 11 games as a starter. Before his trade to Carolina, Tlustly also picked up eight goals and seven assists with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
Mike Angelidis might be on the older side of this group at age 24, but his contributions at the AHL level have pulled him right onto the edges of the prospect radar. At 6'1'', 210 pounds, not only does Angelidis have the size, but he also has plenty of grit and a scoring touch as well—13 points in 29 games.
He may not be the brightest-looking young up-and-coming star for the 'Canes, but his durability and balance has earned Angelidis some well-earned attention.
After becoming the Hurricanes' top draft pick in 2009, Zach Boychuk has not disappointed. Boychuk has 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 34 games with the Albany River Rats, as well as an assist and outstanding reports of a great work ethic in nine games at the NHL level.
Boychuk may not have been a huge standout with the Hurricanes so far, but he has tremendous potential to become a top-line player within three or four years.
Jerome Samson may still not be at the very top of Carolina's prospect list, but he has come out of nowhere to launch himself onto the top of the AHL scene, which even earned him a recent five-game stint with the 'Canes.
After posting 13 goals and 17 assists in just 38 games for Albany, Samson advanced to Carolina and earned an NHL assist in his first shift, much like Jiri Tlusty. He also proved to be quick on the fore-check and along the boards, something that Carolina has been struggling mightily with this season.
Without even a glance from the Hurricanes management at the beginning of the season, Stefan Chaput, the 6', 21-year-old center out of Montreal, has quietly moved up the score sheet with the Albany River Rats.
In 40 games, Chaput has 21 points and just 10 penalties in minutes and has earned regard as a consistent and gritty forward.
Chris Terry is neither a hotshot name nor a hotshot player, but he has had a successful and balanced career moving up through the ranks of junior and now minor league hockey. And now, finally, he's showing what he can do at a high level, just one step below the NHL.
In 40 games played, Chris Terry has posted nine goals and nine assists with Albany. He also was a top player and captain in junior hockey with the Plymouth Whalers last season.
Brett Carson is already 24, but his play during his latest 15-game NHL stint shows that his experience over some of the other players discussed here is not a downside. In 19 games, Carson has four points and is at -1, impressive for a team with zero players with a positive +/-.
"(Carson) just gets better each game," says Hurricanes reporter Tripp Tracy, and he's certainly right. Brett Carson looks like he just might be one of the top two defensemen in a few years for Carolina.
Jamie McBain is by far the most watched defensive prospect at the moment for Carolina, and although he's yet to record a second of NHL ice time this season, he's been extremely tough and gritty for a 21-year-old with Albany. McBain has also joined in a bit with the offense, posting four goals and 11 assists in his 39 games played this season.
In the future, watch for McBain to emerge as a top four defenseman within three years or less.
If you do a Google search of "Michal Jordan," it's very unlikely that you'll come up with news stories about the 19-year-old farm system defensemen rather than stories of all-time NBA great Michael Jordan. But that doesn't mean that Michal Jordan is someone to be overlooked.
Even as a teenager, Jordan has been greatly successful with the Plymouth Whalers and also in the World Junior Championships, and he could be a huge prospect to watch for once he (probably) enters onto the AHL stage next season.
With Cam Ward still relatively young at age 25, it's unlikely the Hurricanes will be looking toward a prospect goaltender to replace him anytime soon. However, though, with the likely departure after the season of 36-year-old Hurricanes backup Manny Legace, Mike Murphy could be the one that will be ready to step up to the NHL level.
Despite being slightly overshadowed by 23-year-old Justin Peters, Murphy has posted a .925 save percentage and a respectable 2.54 goals against average in 15 games played, including one shutout and eight wins. If the Hurricanes are in need of a backup, Peters and Murphy are available, so watch for at least one AHL goalie to make the jump heading into the autumn 2010 NHL season.