NHL Futures Part I: Let’s talk about the Carolina Hurricanes
Don’t look now, but the Carolina Hurricanes have quietly assembled one of the league’s most exciting young cores. If you are new to hockey and want to have some reason to be invested in the upcoming season, the Hurricanes are one of the league’s most watchable teams. They’re young, fast and play for a likeable and underrated coach in Bill Peters.
Right now, Carolina is being offered at 50/1 to win the Stanley Cup, 25/1 to win the Eastern Conference and 14/1 to win the Metropolitan Division.
Last year, the Hurricanes were among the top-10 in the NHL in driving possession, they sported a 51.3 Corsi For% (meaning, they attempted an average of 51.3 percent of the shots towards goal in a game). If you take a quick glance at who else is in the top-10 with the ‘Canes, you’ll notice that most of them are pretty good.
courtesy of FirstLineStats.com
This isn’t the first year that the Hurricanes have been one of the league’s better possession teams. In fact, this is the third year in a row the upstarts from Raleigh have finished with plus-possession number, which is odd considering they haven’t been all that competitive in any of those three campaigns.
And if you’re wondering if their possession numbers are padded due to volume, no they’re not. Not only does Carolina boast top-10 possession numbers, they also average more high-danger scoring chances than they give up.
Up front the Hurricanes are brimming with dynamic, young forwards. Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho, Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask and Jeff Skinner are all 25 or younger and each of them recorded over 40 points and finished with a CF% (Corsi For Percentage) of over 50.
With an exciting young core, not to mention terrific shutdown center Jordan Staal, already in Raleigh, Hurricanes’ GM Ron Francis made a couple of shrewd moves in the offseason to give his roster more depth. The ‘Canes traded Marcus Kruger and signed Justin Williams, the latter of whom won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006, to provide Peters with some scoring punch from their bottom-six.
Williams may be 35, but he’s still an effective possession-driving player who will fit in nicely with Carolina’s current set up. In Kruger, the Hurricanes get a responsible forward who can be a top penalty killer on any team.
On the blue line, things perhaps look even more promising for Carolina. Their top-four of Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin may be unheralded and young (none of them are over the age of 25) but damn are they good. Last year, each member of the Canes defensive core put up at least 20 points and finished with a CF% above 50.0.
So with all this talent both up front and on the blue line, how did things not go better for the ‘Canes?
There’s two main reasons. One of which is completely out of their control. They have the unfortunate perdicament of playing in the Metropolitan Division with the two-time defeding Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals, not to mention the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers — all of whom can count themselves as playoff contenders without being sneezed at.
The other issue was clear as day, the Hurricanes had a goaltending problem. Cam Ward started 61 games for Carolina in 2016-17 and finished 47th out of 50 among qualified goaltenders with an Even Strength Save Percentage of 91.0%.
After years of sticking with Ward, who played the role of hero on the 2006 Cup team, Hurricanes finally addressed their woes in the blue paint by acquiring the unheralded, but solid Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks. Last year Darling, who was playing in the Southern Professional Hockey League five years ago, finished ninth among qualified goalies with a 93.2 even strength save percentage.
The Hurricanes are a dangerous team heading into 2017-18. They already sport a young core that is dripping with talent and have more than a few players that are emerging stars. Should Darling provide stability in the crease, they could end up as a team that goes on a run and doesn’t look back.
Are they likely to win the Stanley Cup? No. But any of those futures listed above are worth second, third and fourth looks.
[Photo: James Guillory, USA Today]