NHL: Around the League in 30 Days, Day Seven– Carolina Hurricanes

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NHL: Around the League in 30 Days, Day Seven– Carolina Hurricanes
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Paul Maurice will look to guide the Carolina Hurricanes to another playoff berth this season.

Day 7: Carolina Hurricanes  

2010 Record: 35-37-10 (80 Points) finished 3rd in the Southeast Division

 

Roster Changes

2010-2011 Notable (Re)-Arrivals: Anton Babchuk (AHL), Joe Corvo (WSH)

2010-2011 Notable Departures: Ray Whitney (PHO), Rod Brind’Amour (Retired), Brian Pothier (Geneve-Servette HC, SUI), Manny Legace (FA)

 

Hurricanes Report Card

Forwards: The Hurricanes forwards leave a lot to be desired, and from an outsiders point of view, it appears they really only have one set line of forwards. Eric Staal, playing center and he’s flanked by Tuomu Ruuto on the right side along with Erik Cole on his left, make up the only line that could really strike fear into the opponents eyes anytime they’re on the ice.

The loss of veterans Ray Whitney and Rod Brind’Amour will hurt this team more than many realize as the 2010 Carolina Hurricanes are a very young team.  At the very least, the calming veteran presence of both Brind Amour and Whitney helped shoulder the load of responsibility on current captain Eric Staal’s shoulders.

Staal, while still playing on a good line, will take some time to adjust to not having Ray Whitney on his left side. In a sense, it’s almost as if Batman lost Robin and now has a new sidekick. He now has to hope his linemates can stay healthy and remain productive throughout the season.

With Whitney now in Phoenix with the Coyotes, the Hurricanes will look to youngsters Brandon Sutter, Jussi Jokinen, Jiri Tlusty and rookie Zach Boychuk to help shoulder some of the scoring loss from the departures of Whitney and Brind’Amour

Top Fantasy Forwards in 2010-11: C Eric Staal (30G/39A/69Pts/+3), RW Tuomu Ruutu (24G/30A/54Pts/+1), C Brandon Sutter (25G/26A/51Pts/-6) LW Zach Boychuk (16G/20A/36Pts/-11)

Overall Grade:  D 

Defence: The Hurricanes defence comes into the 2010-11 with two very important new additions. Former Hurricanes Anton Babchuk returns to the NHL after a brief hiatus in the KHL and Joe Corvo coming back after a trade deadline deal that saw him leave for Washington. Babchuk, who’s blessed with an absolute rocket from the point, will see first line powerplay duties along with number one defenceman Joni Pitkanen.

Veterans Joe Corvo and Tim Gleason give the Canes a formidable top four pairing, offering a mix of physicality and offensive prowess.

Rookie Jamie McBain heads into the 2010-11 season as a relative unknown, but hopefully not for long. He will battle for ice time with journeyman Jay Harrison and Brett Carson for minutes on the Hurricanes last defensive pairing.

Top Fantasy Defenders in 2010-11: Joni Pitkanen (10G/41A/41Pts/-9), Anton Babchuk (15G/20A/35Pts/-5), Joe Corvo (8G/21A/29Pts/-10)

Overall Grade: C+

Goaltending:  The goaltender is just about the only set-in-stone part of the Hurricanes' roster. Cam Ward, barring injury, should see major minutes this season and will look to improve upon an up and down season last year marked by inconsistency and injuries.

 Ward should see a truckload of shots and if healthy, should stop nearly all of them. He will be backed up by Justin Peters, who takes over for veteran goalie Manny Legace, who did an admirable job in filling in for the injured Ward last season.

Top Fantasy Goaltender in 2010-11: Cam Ward (28 W/30L/9OTL 2.63 GAA, .910 SV%)

Overall Grade: A-

Top 5 Prospect Watch (via hockeysfuture.com)

1. D Jamie McBain

Age: 22

Drafted: Second Round (63rd overall) by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 NHL Entry Draft

Current Team: Albany River Rats (AHL)

Key Attributes: McBain is an offensive defenseman with decent size. He has good puck handling skills and a good sense of where the puck needs to be. Though not particularly physical, he defends well for an offense-first player and is positionally sound and responsible in all areas of the rink. Plays a disciplined game and rarely takes penalties due to being out of position

2. C Jeff Skinner

Age: 18

Drafted: First Round (Seventh Overall) by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Current Team:  Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

Key Attributes: The Hurricanes were thrilled to get Skinner with the seventh pick in the 2010 draft and there is some talk that he may stick with the team out of training camp because of his impressive goal scoring abilities and his intense work ethic.

While Carolina struggled to score goals last year, and Skinner does do that, it’s more likely he will return to junior hockey for one final season with Kitchener. Skinner seemed to get better as the season went on last year and is just learning the complexities of the game. He could be a special-type player as his game continues to develop.

3. LW Zach Boychuk

Age:  21

Drafted: First round (14th overall), by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Current Team: Albany River Rats (AHL)

Key Attributes: Boychuk is a fast and offensively gifted forward. He plays with courage and toughness, and competed throughout most of the WHL playoffs with a broken wrist in 2007-08. A bit lighter and smaller than ideal NHL forwards, he is highly-skilled and uses hockey smarts to overcome his limitations. However, he's still learning the nuances of pro hockey and is prone to lapses in the neutral and defensive zones.

4. C Zac Dalpe

Age21

Drafted:  Second round (45th overall) by Carolina Hurricanes in 2008 NHL Entry Draft

Previous Team: Ohio State Buckeyes (NCAA) and Albany River Rats (AHL)

Key Attributes: Dalpe is an Offensive forward who thrives on scoring goals. He is especially lethal on the power play, where his accurate shot and offensive instincts allow him to create. He is still a bit raw but made a seemless transition from college hockey to the AHL in 2009-10.

5. D Brian Dumoulin

Age: 19

Drafted: Second Round (51st overall) by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2009 NHL Entry Draft

Current Team: Boston College (NCAA)

Key Attributes: An offensive, play making defenseman, Dumoulin plays with the poise of a much more experienced player despite a relatively limited background of high school hockey in Maine, and one year of junior hockey in the EJHL. Despite his height (6’3″) he skates with the fluidity of a much smaller player and is reliable in his defensive zone

 

Fantasy Outlook

Analysts’ Fantasy Stud: G Cam Ward

If healthy, Ward should do a great job backstopping the Hurricanes and single-handedly winning them hockey games. He should see the bulk of minutes and the bulk of shots. If the Hurricanes do anything this year of note, it will be because of Ward’s work and not Eric Staal’s

Analysts’ Player to Avoid: C Eric Staal

This may seem like a stretch, but I think Staal will struggle next year. Playing with a new set of linemates in Erik Cole and Tuomu Ruutu, Staal will likely need to adjust to them. Also, they a pretty injury prone duo, so it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Staal will see a wide variety of linemates from Cole and Ruutu, to the likes of Jussi Jokinen, Jiri Tlusty and Zach Boychuk.

Analysts’ Sleeper Special: C Brandon Sutter

Last season was a breakout year from Sutter and I expect much of the same this year. With the loss of Rod Brind’Amour, the bulk of the major minutes at center will go to Sutter along with Eric Staal. Sutter should see some time on both the penalty kill and powerplay. Not blessed with amazing offensive skills, he still remains an option on offence and should see a spike in his offensive totals from last season.

Expectations and Predictions

The Hurricanes really did not add much to their roster if you think about it from years past. They essentially brought back two former players and lost two of their franchise legends in Ray Whitney and Rod Brind’Amour. Blessed with a stud of a goaltender and a solid bunch of defenseman, the big question going into next season will be what kind of support can Eric Staal expect offensively from his teammates.

If he receives plenty of support, look for the Hurricanes to squeak into the playoffs under the tutelage of head coach Paul Maurice; but if things go as expected and the offence struggles, look for the Hurricanes to lose a good chunk of close games and miss the playoffs once again this season.

Prediction: 13th in the East.

Overall Team Grade: C

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