Despite missing the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, the Hurricanes enter the 2017-18 season with postseason aspirations.
In order to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2008-09, the Hurricanes need to score more goals and give up less. Simple right? At the very least the Hurricanes front office made an attempt to shore up their goaltending woes, by acquiring Scott Darling from Chicago and moving Eddie Lack to Calgary. The Hurricanes were 18th in goals against last year, but added a goaltender who is tied for sixth in SV% (.922) over the last three years. Darling was been excellent as the Blackhawks’ backup and now gets a chance to showcase that he has what it takes to be a No.1 in the NHL. Veteran Cam Ward remains in Carolina where he will see roughly 30 games as their new No.2—Ward is 52nd in SV% (.908) over that same three-year span.
The blueline is what has people excited about the Hurricanes heading in the fall. They are paced by 25-year-old Justin Faulk, who is sixth among NHL defensemen in goals (48) over the last three seasons. Faulk will likely spend most of his time paired with Noah Hanifin, who is built like a two-way defenseman prototype. Hanifin has ideal size (6-foot-3 | 206 lbs.) and has elite skating and puck-moving ability, making him a breakout candidate in his third NHL season. The second pairing consists of Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, who each own good size, shutdown ability and some offensive upside. Neither Slavin or Pesce will see enough power-play time to be huge fantasy producers, but carry No.5/depth defenseman potential. Carolina also added Trevor van Riemsdyk after he was picked by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft and the 26-year-old brings some offensive upside to their third pairing and second power-play unit.
The depth doesn’t stop there as the Hurricanes have spent first round picks on defensemen in recent years. In 2014, they picked Haydn Fleury at No.7 overall and the year after they picked Jake Bean at No.13. Fleury will likely start the year with Charlotte (AHL), where he picked up 26 points (7G / 19A) in 69 games last year. Bean is set to turn pro after three years with the Calgary Hitmen (WHL)—the 19-year-old had 45 points (8G / 37A) in 43 games a season ago.
Up front, the Hurricanes have a talented group of young forwards and have paired that with some quality veterans. After battling injuries early in his career, Jeff Skinner has only missed eight games over the last three seasons and is 20th in the NHL in goals (83) over that stretch. Skinner is once again the front runner to lead the team in goals, but second-year winger Sebastian Aho could take a huge step forward and lead the Hurricanes in points. Aho is an outstanding playmaker, but scored 24 goals in his rookie year, so he could have goals in the mid-20’s with 40-plus assists if he avoids the sophomore slump. Victor Rask, Teuvo Teravainen and Elias Lindholm are three members of their top-6 and each possess strong playmaking ability and 20-goal, 30-plus assist upside in 2017-18. In terms of the veterans, Justin Williams rejoined the Hurricanes on a two-year deal this summer and joins Jordan Staal and Lee Stempniak as part of the leadership group.
Despite playing in one of the most difficult divisions in the NHL, the Hurricanes should be able to battle for a playoff spot. On the other side of the Eastern Conference, the Atlantic Division is weak, so the Hurricanes could back into the playoffs as the No.2 Wildcard team from the Metropolitan.
- Carolina Hurricanes
Fantasy Rankings (Top 350)
- Justin Faulk-#45 (#7 D)
- Sebastian Ah-#72 (#13 LW)
- Jeff Skinner-#88 (#15 LW)
- Scott Darling-#94 (#18 G)
- Elias Lindholm-#137 (#27 RW)
- Victor Rask-#141 (#39 C)
- Teuvo Teravainen-#197 (#36 RW)
- Noah Hanifin-#226 (#53 D)
- Jordan Staal-#258 (#59 C)
- Jaccob Slavin-#267 (#66 D)
- Justin Williams-#275 (#51 RW)
- Cam Ward-#296 (#43 G)
- Lee Stempniak-#346 (#65 RW)
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