Canes Prospects: A Season in Review

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 23: Martin Necas poses for photos after being selected 12th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Our prospects had great seasons, and it’s been a blast getting to watch all of them grow. Noah Carroll is the only unsigned prospect still playing in the playoffs, so I thought I’d recap the seasons of our prospects that aren’t playing in the playoffs right now. Which prospects were the most fun to watch? Which were a little disappointing? Are there any players who we may have forgotten about? All of these will be answered below!

The Fun Prospects

It’s clear that some of our prospects were a ton of fun to watch this year. Martin Necas headlined those prospects, starting the season off with a strong Traverse City tournament. He and Nick Schilkey had an impressive tournament, and fans started to realize Necas’ potential as an NHL player. He followed up that performance with a good training camp, and made his NHL debut on October 17 against Edmonton. Following that game, the Hurricanes sent Necas back to Brno in the Czech Extraliga, where he had a career year. In Champions Hockey League play, Necas had one goal and one assist in two games. Necas had a good start with Brno, but what stood out was his play at the World Juniors. He looked faster, stronger, and better defensively. Necas was tied for the lead in points for the whole tournament, with three goals and eight assists in seven games. Scouts were raving about how great he was, and rightfully so. Necas saw the ice on an elite level, and always made precision passes. His decision making was superb, and he was a big part of the Czech team that made it to the bronze medal game. After the World Juniors, Necas returned to Brno to finish the season. He established career highs in goals and points this season, scoring 9 goals and adding 8 assists for a total of 17 points in 24 games. Necas and Brno then went to the playoffs, and won the league championship without breaking a sweat. Necas had four goals and five assists in fourteen games, including the goal that won Brno the championship. He’s now at the IIHF World Championships, and will contend for a roster spot next season.

Who else was exciting? Necas was the obvious answer, but a prospect that I always enjoyed following was Stelio Mattheos. He was a bit of a surprise for me, especially since I didn’t really see much of him at prospects camp. I never noticed him do anything great, I just noticed that he was pretty solid all around. He was a jack of all trades, but a master of none, and I wasn’t really that excited about him. Then Traverse City came, and he had a few good shifts in the defensive zone. I saw bits of his game that reminded me of Warren Foegele, and began to like him a little more. All of a sudden, he heads to the WHL and begins lighting it up. Mattheos followed up a 61 point draft year with a 90 point season, which is impressive for any forward. He spent most of last season as the second line center behind Nolan Patrick, and never really got the chance to shine. This season, he showcased his training and his speed, scoring goals with quick bursts of speed from the blue line. Mattheos’ 43 goals came as a surprise to a lot of Canes fans, and people started getting excited about him. He looked unstoppable before the Wheat Kings traded Kale Clague and Tanner Kaspick. After that, Mattheos’ production dropped significantly. He wasn’t playing with dynamic players. Instead, he was playing with younger players, particularly 2018 draft prospect Luka Burzan. Once Mattheos adjusted to his new teammates, he began to score again. The Wheat Kings were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, with Mattheos scoring six goals and adding six assists in eleven playoff games. He’s going to be a big part of Brandon’s success next season, and should be fun to keep track of.

Morgan Geekie was another player that was fun to watch this season. He may not have produced as much this season as he did last season, (84 points in 68 games as opposed to 90 in 72) but he was incredibly exciting to watch. Geekie managed to have a tremendous season while Tri-City struggled with injuries to some of their top players. He scored 30 goals and had 54 assists, making for another great season. Geekie got faster this season, and was a huge part of Tri-City’s success during the playoffs. Geekie had 27 points in 14 playoff games, including 17 goals. He was used on the power play for most of this season, and was a huge part of the power play’s success in the playoffs. He signed an ATO with the Checkers, and will join the team in Charlotte for games three, four, and, if necessary, game five. Geekie signed his three year entry level contract on Thursday, essentially guaranteeing that he’ll start his professional career next season. He’s got the offensive talent and the work ethic to become a great prospect, and I’m excited to see how he’ll transition to the AHL.

David Cotton was another player that was really fun to watch. Boston College was a very young team this year, and they struggled out of the gate. Cotton struggled to find his way onto the score sheet, but had an explosion of offense later in the season. He finished with 28 points in 37 games, which was higher than the point total of 24 he had in his freshman season. Cotton played a really fast paced game with the Eagles this season, and seemed to take control whenever he was on the ice. He’s turning into a late round gem, especially now that he’s gotten much faster. Cotton could be a good prospect to have in the future, but he’ll need another year of college before he’s ready to turn pro. He’s done well in college, but you’d rather have him tear it up for one more season before signing him.

Lastly, we have Jeremy Helvig. Kingston called him “The Franchise,” and the nickname is justified. This season, he set franchise records in all-time wins and shutouts. After an average Traverse City tournament, Helvig went back to the Frontenacs to be their saving grace this season. (See what I did there?) Helvig played in 56 games this season, posting a 31-16-3 record while sporting a 2.68 goals against average and a save percentage of .916. Helvig’s numbers were phenomenal, and he did a fantastic job this season to carry Kingston to the playoffs. Kingston had a young team once again, and their defense was really inexperienced. The playoffs were a little rough at times for Helvig, but he had a respectable .909 save percentage in 16 games. Helvig bailed his team out a lot, and definitely deserved an NHL contract. He also signed an ATO with the Checkers, and will practice with the team for the rest of the season. He’ll likely start the next season in the ECHL since Charlotte will have Nedeljkovic and Booth.

The Average Joes

This doesn’t mean that these prospects are average. These guys had good seasons, it was just expected from them. Just want to say this before I see tweets like “Jake Bean is only average, he’s just Ryan Murphy 2.0.”

Jake Bean had a 48 point campaign in 57 games this season. The World Juniors took him out of a few games for Calgary, and he was traded to Tri-City shortly after the tournament came to a close. After seeing how bad Calgary was this season, it wasn’t a surprise seeing Bean dealt to a team that was in playoff contention. He was producing at over a point per game pace with the Hitmen, with 27 points in 25 games. At the World Juniors, Bean had three assists in seven games, and walked away with a gold medal. He had a bit of a slow start with the Americans, but ended up with 21 points in 32 games with the Ams when all was said and done. He finished with 12 goals and 36 assists on the year, which is respectable. He may have under-performed to some, but it’s just how management wanted him to develop. They wanted him to focus on defense and making the right play, not just shooting from anywhere on the ice. He’s worked on that, and has become a much better player because of it. Still, his performance this season wasn’t too special. I liked watching him in the playoffs, where he had seventeen assists and one goal in fourteen games. He’s on an amateur tryout with the Checkers, and will practice with the team. It’s unlikely that he will play in any playoff games, but the training and practices will help him prepare for next season in the AHL.

Hudson Elynuik had a good season, but he’s here because it’s rumored that he will not sign with the Hurricanes. He had 86 points for Spokane this season, and seven points in seven playoff games. He’s a good prospect that could become a solid bottom six forward, but it’s not a huge loss for us if he decides to re-enter the draft.

Eetu Luostarinen had a good season with KalPa in the Finnish Liiga. He was a little surprising of a prospect since he was a second round pick, but his season wasn’t amazing. He scored a hat trick and added an assist in less than ten minutes, which was his highlight of the season. He managed to have 20 points in 55 games on one of the Liiga’s lowest scoring teams, and had three points in six playoff games. After KalPa was eliminated from their playoffs, they loaned Luostarinen to their U20 team so that he could get more playing time. He was a huge part of the championship series, with three points in three games. Luostarinen helped KalPa U20 win the championship, which is a huge feat. He’s going to come into next season even better, but don’t expect him to wow you just yet. It’s likely that he won’t be NHL ready for at least another two or three years.

Luke Martin had a good season with the University of Michigan, and even got to play in the Frozen Four. He showed that he could be a reliable shutdown defenseman on a young team. He looked really confident in the games that I was able to watch, and I’m excited to see him develop even more. Still, I put him in this category because he didn’t do a whole lot of exciting things this season. He had just eight points in forty games this season, which is slightly better than the seven in thirty five that he had the season before. Martin showed tons of improvement in skating and positioning this season, so I’m pretty excited to see more of him in the future.

Eetu Makiniemi had a good season on a really bad team. He’s here because I haven’t seen anything from him since training camp outside of his stats. He had a 3.03 GAA this season on a team that couldn’t play defense. His save percentage was an impressive .916, and he sometimes faced over 40 shots a game.

Brendan De Jong had a career year with the Winterhawks with 25 points in 68 games. The shutdown defenseman was a huge part of Portland’s success this season, and was able to improve in quite a few areas. It wasn’t a phenomenal season, but De Jong was able to work on his speed and his positioning, two things that he needed a lot of work on. De Jong also worked on his discipline this season and took fewer penalties. He’ll spend next season with the Winterhawks, which will give the Canes enough time to decide whether or not to give him a contract. His playoff performance was a bit concerning, as he only scored one goal in twelve games. He didn’t factor in on any other goals.

And finally, we have Max Zimmer. He had a really tough beginning to his season where he struggled to stay in the lineup. He was a healthy scratch a lot of the time, and failed to get on the score sheet. Towards the halfway point of the season, Zimmer was able to get more playing time. He started on the fourth line, then worked his way up to playing on Wisconsin’s first line. While he didn’t make it on the scoresheet that often, (just seven points in twenty five games) he developed really well. He adjusted to the pace of the NCAA, and now plays at a similar pace to his teammates. He’s smarter with the puck, and should take a huge step forward next season.

The “Oh I forgot about him” Players

Ville Rasanen was one of those guys who we all kind of forgot about this season. The seventh round pick this past season had an underwhelming season for Jukurit U20 with 6 assists in 28 games. Rasanen was loaned to RoKi in the Finnish B-League after his U20 season was completed, where he had a goal and two assists in nine games. Rasanen was called up to Jukurit in the Liiga for the last few games of the season, where he was a -2 in four games. Rasanen played on some of Finland’s worst teams, so it’s hard to tell if his seasons were bad because of how he played or because of how his teammates played. It could be both. He’s nothing special as of right now, but could definitely grow into a decent player if he’s given time.

Luke Stevens had a better sophomore season than his freshman season, but that’s not saying too much. He had 11 points in 30 games this season on an underwhelming Yale team. It’s not looking great for Stevens as far as NHL potential is concerned. He’s still a little slow, and can’t seem to do very much at the collegiate level. Still, he showed improvement this season, which is all you can hope for. I tend to forget about him a lot of the time, especially since we never really heard from him this season.

The Duds

Jack Lafontaine had a really disappointing season. He struggled a lot in net, and ended up losing the starting job to Hayden Lavigne. Lafontaine has good mechanics, but can’t seem to stop pucks at this level. He had a .889 save percentage this season, which is much lower than the .911 he posted the season prior. After losing his starting job, Lafontaine appeared in just one other game, relieving Lavigne during a game where Michigan was getting thrashed. He’ll need to improve tremendously if the Hurricanes want to even consider signing him. A 3.51 goals against will not do you many favors, nor will a sub .900 save percentage.

Lastly, we have Matt Filipe. He started off the season hot, scoring at over a point per game pace. A lot of fans, myself included, were excited about him. After the first ten games or so, Filipe fell off the map entirely. He was held off of the score sheet for most of the season, and was even a healthy scratch for a lot of the latter half of the season. Filipe had 13 points in 31 games for Northeastern this season, and a lot of Huskies fans soured on Filipe. He became a liability on the ice, and would ice the puck or turn it over whenever he encountered an opposing player. It was a disappointing season for him, especially after a 21 point season last year. It’s likely a sophomore slump, but he’ll need to work hard this off-season in order to regain the trust of his coach and teammates.

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