After going nine years without a playoff appearance, the Carolina Hurricanes made a bunch of noise in the 2019 postseason.
Often viewed as one of the biggest underachieving teams in recent years, the Hurricanes 5v5 dominance finally translated into regular-season success. The Hurricanes won 46 games, which was the second-most in franchise history and went on to beat the Washington Capitals in seven games, sweeping the New York Islanders before being swept by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals.
This offseason they made a couple of minor changes, refining the edges of their roster. Carolina will lose their captain, Justin Williams, who announced on Monday that he has decided to “step away from the game.” Williams joins Micheal Ferland, who left for the Vancouver Canucks in free agency as the Hurricanes key departures. To replace them, the Hurricanes acquired Erik Haula from the Vegas Golden Knights and signed Ryan Dzingel to a two-year deal worth $6.75 million ($3.375M AAV).
Led by a deep group of forwards, the Hurricanes ranked second in CorsiFor% (54.8), third in ScoringChancesFor% (54.2) and fourth in HighDangerChancesFor% (54.7). Adding Andrei Svechnikov in the draft and Nino Niederreiter in a mid-season trade bolstered a group that already dominated puck-possession in 2018. This year, rookies Martin Necas and Julien Gauthier will look to make the jump to the NHL and provide them with even more fire-power.
- — Aho’s career trajectory was building towards a 30-goal, 50-assist season and that is what he turned in in 2019. Aho is cemented as the Hurricanes’ top center and will continue to play huge minutes. Aho is a creative playmaker surrounded by talented wingers which will allow him to build off of his 83-point campaign. If Carolina can improve their 20th ranked power-play, Aho could push for 90 points in year-4.
- — Niederreiter was the perfect player for the Hurricanes. He consistently produced some of the most polished underlying numbers in the NHL but it never translated into eye-popping numbers. Following his trade to Carolina, Niederreiter scored 14 goals with 16 assists (30 points) in 36 games—that’s a 32-goal, 36-assist per 82-game pace which would destroy his previous career-high of 57 points. A full year with Carolina, likely on a line with Aho (whom he played 89.2 percent of his 5v5 ice-time with last season) should lead to Niederreiter finally reaching that 30-30 potential.
- — During his three years in Carolina, Teravainen has missed just one game and has improved his point total each season. He has scored 20-plus goals in back-to-back seasons and is 27th in assists (96) during those campaigns. The 24-year-old is just entering his prime and is one of the better playmakers on the wing. Playing with players like Aho, Niederreiter and Svechnikov makes Teravainen a candidate for 20 goals and 50 assists again in 2020.
- — Entering his second season, Svechnikov is one of the bigger breakout candidates. The 6-foot-2, 195 lbs. 19-year-old scored 20 goals with 17 assist (37 points) in 82 games last season despite playing just 14:39 TOI/gm. At the very least, Svechnikov should be featured in the top-6, but could easily end up with Aho and Niederreiter on the top-line. His shot-volume is great, he just needs more playing time and will be around 225 shots and 28 goals. Additionally, his assist total was limited by a 7.2 on-ice SH% but a move to a line with more talented linemates will quickly fit that issue.
- — Dzingel had a breakout campaign going in Ottawa. He was on pace for 32 goals and 64 points before a trade to Columbus and a smaller role derailed his season. Still, he finished with career bests across the board and stiffens the Hurricanes left-wing depth behind Niederreiter. Dzingel’s role won’t be as big as it was in Ottawa or as minute as it was in Columbus. Look for Dzingel to settle in around 15/16 minutes per game and finish with 20-plus goals and 20-plus assists with limited upside.
- — After a string of good health, Staal missed 32 games in 2019. The big two-way centre doesn’t produce great point totals but he plays huge minutes and is a near-lock for 45 points and 150-plus hits. If you’re in a league that counts faceoffs, Staal is one of the best.
- — Haula broke out in 2018 but missed all but 17 games in 2019 after being stretchered off of the ice with a lower-body injury in November. The Hurricanes depth will limit Haula’s role and thus his overall production. After scoring 29 goals with a 16.6 SH% in 2018, Haula is probably more of a 15-goal, 25-assist player in 2020.
- — Necas was the No.12 overall pick in 2017 and he was excellent in his first season in North America. The 20-year-old was third among Charlotte Checkers (AHL) with 52 points (16G / 36A) in 64 games. Necas is known for his superb skating and playmaking abilities which will help boost the Hurricanes’ bottom-6. He doesn’t have a lot of value in standard leagues but is a good stash in keeper or dynasty leagues.
The Hurricanes have one of the best bluelines in hockey, grading out with the No.5 top-pair and No.2 second-pairing according to Corsica Player Ratings. Their blueline is also one of the youngest in the NHL, with an average age of 25 years, 3 months for their seven defensemen.
- — Dougie Hamilton was their key addition last offseason but they decreased his role. Hamilton’s PP usage went from 2:40 to 1:52 and his even-strength ice-time from 18:22 to 17:33/gm. Ultimately, Justin Faulk served as the quarterback for their first unit and Hamilton’s numbers took a hit. Still, with everything working against him, Hamilton ranked third among defensemen in shots (259) and second in goals (18). He has scored double-digit goals in five straight seasons, ranking fifth over that span with 70 goals. There are few defensemen with the goal-scoring upside of Hamilton and any bump in playing time (especially on the power-play) would make Hamilton one of the best fantasy options on the blueline.
- — Faulk trend the extra playing time into 11 goals and 24 assists in 82 games. That has to be considered a disappointment, but it was the fourth time in five seasons that Faulk has scored double-digit goals. The Hurricanes power-play ranked 20th in the NHL and Faulk’s PPA plummeted from 16 to four. Faulk is a great source of goals but he is 49th among defensemen in assists (88) over the last four years, so his upside is somewhat limited.
- — Jacob Slavin finally got some recognition in 2020 but is still one of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL as he heads into his fifth season. Slavin has recorded 30-plus points and 130-plus hits in three straight seasons but there is very little to suggest that there is untapped offensive potential. Slavin already leads the Hurricanes in ice-time, shoots 5.3 percent and is the owner of a stable 8.2 on-ice SH%. He’s a great NHL defenseman but won’t provide too much in fantasy circles.
The Hurricanes went into last season with a pretty questionable goalie tandem (Petr Mrazek/Curtis McElhinney) but the duo was tied for seventh in Goals Against/gm (2.70). Carolina’s goaltenders are aided by the team in front of them. They dominate puck possession and allowed the third-fewest Shots Against/gm (28.6). Mrazek is back as Carolina’s No.1 netminder and James Reimer was acquired from the Florida Panthers to serve as his backup.
- — Mrazek got his career back on-track in Carolina, posting a 2.39 GAA and. 914 SV% in 40 regular-season starts and played very well in the postseason as well. Mrazek may not be capable of starting 60 games for the Hurricanes, but he is perfectly suited for 55/45 splits and can be leaned on in the playoffs. Because his starts will likely be capped, Mrazek is a low-end No.2/high-end No.3 fantasy netminder.
- — Reimer’s numbers got worse each year he was in Florida, culminating in a 3.09 GAA and .900 SV% in 2019. Reimer will benefit from the move to Carolina and should start more than the average backup. The 31-year-old will be perfect for the occasional spot-start when the matchup dictates but nothing more while Mrazek is healthy.
Projected Scoring Leaders
|S. Aho (32)||S. Aho (48)||S. Aho (80)||N. Niederreiter (10)||T. Teravainen (23)|
|N. Niederreiter (31)||T. Teravainen (46)||T. Teravainen (65)||T. Teravainen (7)||S. Aho (22)|
|A. Svechnikov (26)||N. Niederreiter (32)||N. Niederreiter (63)||S. Aho (6)||N. Niederreiter (17)|
Hurricanes in the DFO Top 300
- 28 — Sebastian Aho (C/LW)
- 86 — Nino Niederreiter (LW/RW)
- 107 — Teuvo Teravainen (LW/RW)
- 117 — Dougie Hamilton (D)
- 147 — Petr Mrazek (G)
- 148 — Andrei Svechnikov (LW/RW)
- 168 — Justin Faulk (D)
- 219 — Ryan Dzingel (C/LW/RW)
- 225 — James Reimer (G)
- 226 — Jordan Staal (C)
|3||CAROLINA HURRICANES||41-30-11||93 PTS|