Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2019-20, where Last Word on Hockey gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season and offers our insight and analysis. Make sure to stick around until the end of the series, where we’ll offer our full predictions for the standings in each division, and eventually our 2019-20 Stanley Cup pick. You can check out all our articles on our Puck Drop Page. Today the series continues with the Carolina Hurricanes.
2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes Preview
The Hurricanes had a very strong 2018-19 regular season. While they only finished the season with 99 points and getting into the playoffs in a wild card slot, the Hurricanes played very well all season. Finishing the season second in CF% with 54.67% at 5v5 and first in the NHL in xG+/-, they were generating lots of high-quality chances in their favour. By playing this well, the Hurricanes were able to clinch a playoff berth for the first time this decade.
The playoffs were when it really started to take off for the Hurricanes. Their underlying numbers finally started to catch up to them and the Hurricanes began winning, and at the best time possible. Carolina opened the playoffs by beating the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Washington Capitals, in seven games. They followed that showing by sweeping the New York Islanders to move on to the Eastern Conference Final as one of the final four teams. Making it to the Conference Finals was a testament to the quality of hockey the Hurricanes play and how good of a team they actually were.
Lots of scouts praised the Hurricanes draft. The Hurricanes were given an A grading in the Top Shelf Prospects series and Corey Pronman gave them an A- in his draft grades. Having 12 picks total allowed them to pick lots of players to give them higher chances of getting an NHL quality player out of the picks. With their 12 draft picks, they selected:
2-36: Pyotr Kochetkov
2-44: Jamieson Rees
3-73: Patrik Puistola
3-83: Anttoni Honka
3-90: Domenick Fensore
4-99: Cade Webber
4-121: Tuukka Tieksola
5-152: Kirill Slepets
6-181: Kevin Wall
6-183: Blake Murray
7-216: Massimo Rizzo
Free Agency and Trades
The Hurricanes are excellent at driving play, but last season still lacked the ability to effectively finish their chances and score. Their additions of Erik Haula and Ryan Dzingel benefited the team. They are players that can score and put up points but aren’t the best players at driving play. The new additions will fill their gaps quite well and will fit into their lineup quite nicely based on their play style. The Hurricanes also off-loaded Scott Darling in exchange for goaltender James Reimer, who had a down year last year in Florida and will be looking to find his game again this season.
The Hurricanes made another trade this off-season after getting Haula from the Vegas Golden Knights, and that was to deal Calvin de Haan and Aleksi Saarela to the Chicago Blackhawks for goaltender Anton Forsberg and defenceman Gustav Forsling. While De Haan played lower in the lineup during his stint in Carolina, he is still a top 4 defenceman, and it seemed like a low return for a player of his caliber.
The last big trade the Hurricanes have made this off-season didn’t even affect their active roster. They were able to use their cap space to take on Patrick Marleau and the last year of his deal at $6.25 million against the cap. The Hurricanes were able to add the Toronto Maple Leafs 1st round draft pick in 2020 by taking on the contract.
The Hurricanes come in with a strong top 6. Putting Andrei Svechnikov on the top line would allow him to thrive. He was an incredible player last season as a rookie but spent too much time down in the lineup. Having more minutes and better teammates to play with will allow Svechnikov to play up to his potential. With Staal continuing to play a shutdown game and drives play well, this opens up Dzingel and Niederreiter to put up points for the Hurricanes.
The bottom 6 looks like it will have prospect Martin Necas finally making the lineup. Based on his production in the AHL, Necas has been deemed NHL ready by many. With longtime Hurricane Martinook and newly acquired Haula, the Hurricanes will have a good third line. Martinook coming off a career-high in goals, and Haula looking to bounce back it will allow Necas to play in a sheltered role to start the season. With Necas on the third line, Wallmark will be pushed down to the fourth line, furthering the Hurricanes depth.
The Hurricanes have always had a strong defence core, and this year is no different. While the Hurricanes downgraded after the De Haan trade, this allows a player like Jake Bean to finally step into the lineup, who has been on the cusp for a while now. Being in a sheltered role will be beneficial for Bean since the Hurricanes have such a strong top 4, they have no reason to throw him to the wolves against tougher competition.
Jaccob Slavin is an incredible, young defenceman, who is a staple of the Hurricanes blueline. He has played with both Hamilton and Pesce a lot last season, but putting him with Hamilton and allowing Pesce to play on a different pairing gives the defence more versatility. Pesce has bounced around quite a bit on different pairings and has succeeded in every role he has been given. Playing with a certain partner for most of the season may provide Pesce stability, but it’s not something he necessarily requires.
The Hurricanes brought back Petr Mrazek, who helped them get to the playoffs last season in tandem with Curtis McElhinney. This season, he will be in tandem with newly acquired James Reimer who is looking to bounce back from a rough season in Florida.
Players To Watch
As previously stated, Svechnikov played quite low in the Hurricanes lineup last season. He does a lot of things well for the team and is a constant threat in the offensive zone. This upcoming season, if given more than 14:39 on average a night, Svechnikov could become a game-changer. Very few players have the impact that he does in the offensive zone.
Given better linemates and more ice time each night, Svechnikov should have a breakout year and really emerge as a star for the Hurricanes.
With Reimer getting unloaded for Scott Darling, who was immediately bought out by the Florida Panthers, he will be looking to redeem himself. He will likely be filling McElhinney’s role from last season as the 1B goaltender of the team. Reimer has proven to be capable as a backup goaltender in the past and is looking to fill that role with the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes improved the team at forward and made some very minor changes at the other positions so it could be expected that they will make it to the playoffs again. As long as the goaltending provides similar quality as last season, there should be no reason the Hurricanes do any worse than they did in the 2018-19 season.
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