The Hurricanes had 23 of their own prospects attend development camp in June. Some had been drafted, while others were signed or traded for. This has led me to wonder just how good some of these players are. How would they be ranked if you had to rank all of them? Who is the best of the best, and who doesn’t have a whole lot going for them? This will be a series of articles that will be updated at the end of every month. Players will move up and down the rankings based on how well they perform during the season. College players may not move a whole lot for the first two months since their seasons don’t begin until October. Keep in mind that the only prospects being ranked here are those that did not play in the ECHL, AHL, or NHL last season. So Necas and Svechnikov will be in the ranking since the two of them have a whopping one game of NHL experience between the two of them. Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.
23. Ville Rasanen
I’m going to be honest here: I have no idea why Rasanen was drafted. He was a seventh round pick, which usually means that you can’t expect a whole lot from him. Still, Rasanen doesn’t show me a whole lot to get excited about. He’s a smart player that can make good decisions, but when the time comes to execute, he falls short of expectations. His play in the offensive zone is average, as is his play in the defensive zone. He’s the weirdest skater I’ve ever seen. There’s not a wow factor with him, so he’s ranked at 22.
22. Jake Kucharski
He’s ranked at 21 but has a decent chance to move up once his season starts. Kucharski had a rough season with Des Moines last year but the Canes saw something they liked. He’s a tall goalie heading into his second full season in the USHL. He’s 6’4, which is always something you’re looking for in a goalie. If he can learn to use his tall frame to his advantage, he could end up being a decent pick. It’ll take time, but he could work his way into the top 20.
21. Jack Lafontaine
Lafontaine frustrates me a lot. He’s a goalie with great mechanics and athleticism, he just fails to stop the puck in the NCAA. He came into last season with the starting job and then quickly lost it to Hayden Lavigne. Lafontaine left Michigan for this season to play for the Penticton Vees in the BCHL. It’s definitely a step or two down from what he’s been playing against, but this could be what he needs to gain some confidence. His rebound control was atrocious last season. It’s been a struggle for him ever since he got to Michigan.
20. Luke Stevens
That’s right, Stevens is a Carolina Hurricanes prospect. He’s a prospect that has fallen under the radar ever since the Hurricanes drafted him and it’s not hard to see why. He’s a player that is 6’5 and fairly strong, but is a bit lacking when it comes to speed. He went from five points in seventeen games as a freshman to eleven points in thirty games as a sophomore, so there is some progress there. He won’t produce a whole lot and it’s not likely that he actually makes it beyond the ECHL.
19. Max Zimmer
There’s a lot to like about Zimmer. He’s a very quick player that is faster than a lot of his competition. His issue is that he plays at too quick of a pace and forgets to think sometimes. He’s worked hard since his freshman year to be an impact player and it’s finally starting to pay off. He was playing on the first line towards the end of last season, and with Wisconsin’s team losing a few key players to the NHL or graduating, Zimmer could see a boost in both ice time and production. Expect him to move up a few spots.
18. Matt Filipe
It really hurts having three of the Hurricanes’ nine picks in 2016 in the bottom six. It’s unfortunate as well since Filipe came into last season with a ton of hype. He finished his freshman season with 21 points in 38 games and was heating up towards the end of the season. Filipe carried that momentum into his sophomore year, scoring in bunches during the preseason and the first few games. After the first twelve games or so, Filipe came to a screeching halt. He was held off of the scoresheet entirely for the rest of the season and was even scratched for quite a few games. He looked lost on the ice and was coughing the puck up left and right. If he can get it together this season he should shoot up the rankings.
17. Brendan De Jong
De Jong is a great defender that has made a lot of progress since the Canes drafted him in 2017. He’s worked hard on his skating and is no longer a traffic cone in the defensive zone. He’ll rely more on his skating instead of his reach, which allows for him to stay with the attacking forward. De Jong’s offensive production may not be that great, but it’ll be interesting to see what the Canes decide to do with him this season. I don’t think he’ll get a contract unless he shows a lot of progress this season.
16. Jesper Sellgren
Sellgren is a player that I like but need to see more of. He’s never played in an SHL game, so I’ll need to see what he can do in that league before making any judgments about him. I think that he has bottom pairing potential in the NHL. From what I’ve seen of him, he can move the puck well and play responsibly in his own end. That’s important for a young defenseman.
15. Michael Fora
There’s a small run of defensemen in this ranking. Fora is a player that has done well overseas and in tournaments, especially on the defensive side of the puck. He’s excellent in the defensive zone, but I’m more intrigued by his ability to join the rush. He’ll be playing for Charlotte this season, where he’ll likely be getting top four minutes. His NHL ceiling isn’t too high, but he’s not a bad prospect. He’s 22 but also a right shot which bumps the value up a little.
14. Luke Henman
Henman is one of those players where you watch him and are blown away by his hockey sense. The kid can make passes so quickly and accurately it’s almost inhuman. His passing is great and his shot is getting better with every game. Henman is constantly improving which is great to see. He’ll have to add at least 30 pounds before transitioning to the NHL, however. He’s only 150 pounds which knocks him down a few spots. Once he gets stronger he could be a fun prospect to watch.
13. Eetu Luostarinen
Eetu is a player that I liked last year. He’s a jack of all trades, master of none type of player. I like how strong he is and I think that his offensive game has taken enormous strides in the past year. Still, he’s not overly dynamic. At best, Luostarinen is a bottom six center. There’s potential there, but the fact is that he’s not that terribly exciting of a prospect. I think he’s got a better shot at making the NHL than some might think.
12. Lenni Killinen
Watch out for this kid. He’s a player that struggles with consistency, but when he finds it, watch out. He could be a lights out player in the Finnish men’s league once he figures out how to play a consistent game from shift to shift. We’ve already seen how good he can be in a U20 league, now he just needs to prove himself in the men’s league. There’s the possibility that he gets sent down to U20 again, but I think he’s earned a spot on Assat’s pro team. Killinen has a high ceiling.
11. David Cotton
I’m not as high on Cotton as some are, but I still think that he has potential. I think that he’s a player whose skating has come a long way since he was drafted, but I’m not convinced that he’ll be a great NHL player. I think you’re looking at a guy that might be able to contribute in your top nine. He’s great in the offensive zone and can be serviceable in the defensive zone, which is all you can ask for in a forward. If he chooses to sign with the Hurricanes after this season, he’ll likely get a year in Charlotte. The Hurricanes have a logjam at center, so it’s not likely that he’ll see NHL time for at least two more years. Cotton should be a key player for Boston College this season and sign a contract after this season.
10. Jeremy Helvig
Helvig is a big goalie that is heading into his first professional season. I’m higher on Helvig than I am with some of the other prospects in the Canes’ system, which is why I have him in the top ten. He’s an athletic goalie that uses his size to his advantage. It’s hard to get a puck past Helvig. In the past, he was guilty of drifting out of position and scrambling to get back. It’s not as much of a problem now. Helvig carried the Kingston Frontenacs in both the 2016-17 season and the 2017-18 seasons. I’m excited to watch him turn pro this season.
9. Jack Drury
Drury is one of those players that coaches love. He’s a hard working player that always strives to learn from his mistakes. He’s a gifted passer, a good shooter, and a hard worker in his own end. Playing for Harvard this season will be a good test for him. He was a top scorer in the USHL, now he just needs to work against a higher level of competition. Drury shouldn’t move too far next month since he’s not playing in any games other than the possible exhibition game.
8. Cliff Pu
I like watching Cliff Pu play. He’s a guy that can wow you with his speed and make plays happen. He’s one of those players that is good offensively and can dazzle you with a nice shot or a great assist. He has NHL upside but is still fairly weak physically and just average defensively. He’s come a long way since Buffalo drafted him, however. Pu will be heading into his first professional season this year and will play for the Charlotte Checkers. He has enough of a skill set to be a good middle six forward if he’s developed right. This season will be a good test to see where he’s at in his development.
7. Luke Martin
Martin is the type of defenseman that is on the quiet side. He has little offensive upside, especially when you look at his shot. He’s capable of moving the puck in the offensive zone. That’s about it when it comes to offensive prowess. The real key to his game is his defense. He’s both defensively and physically ready for the NHL. Martin reminds me a lot of Brett Pesce. He’s got a great attitude on and off the ice, good physical skills, and a great presence in the defensive zone. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him earn a contract once this season is done. He’s worked hard on his skating and his offense, two things that he needed work on.
6. Morgan Geekie
Geekie is a player that Canes fans should be excited for. He’s not the best skater, but he makes up for it in terms of offense. Geekie has a great shot and is a great passer. He was utilized in a playmaking role with Tri-City, but the Checkers could use him in a scoring role as well. Geekie will start his professional career this season with the Charlotte Checkers and should make an impact right away. His skating and defense will need to improve if he’s to make it to the NHL, but he has plenty of time for that.
5. Stelio Mattheos
Mattheos does a lot of things right. He’s a player with great two way skills that is starting to take huge strides offensively. He’s used at center or the right wing and can excel at both. Mattheos is a really fun prospect to watch. His speed is phenomenal and he uses it to create offense at any given opportunity. He thinks the game well and should have a great season. He reminds me a little bit of Warren Foegele, just not as strong.
4. Jake Bean
I’m still optimistic about Bean, although he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations yet. He’s great offensively and has worked hard on defense ever since the Canes drafted him. His first AHL season will be a big test for him. He’s got what it takes to be a top four defenseman in this league. Bean thinks the game well and sees the ice better than most defensemen his age. If he can learn how to be serviceable defensively, he’ll be fine in the NHL.
3. Adam Fox
Fox was a player that I was high on in 2016 and my opinion of him has just gotten better since then. He’s a decent skater that still manages to dominate the NCAA offensively. I’ve seen only a few players play as well as he does. Fox is, in my opinion, the smartest defenseman in his age group. His vision is off the charts. He’ll make passes that no other defenseman can. Fox has been an impact player for the USA teams at the World Junior Championships for two years now. His shot is above average but it’s never his first choice. Fox always looks for the pass, and he’s damn good at it. Calgary traded him because they were worried that he wouldn’t sign. From how the Canes have been raving about Fox, it seems like they’re not terribly worried. He seems excited to go to a team that wanted him.
2. Martin Necas
Face it, folks. The Necas hype train is here. He’s a great player that has phenomenal offensive skills. He makes passes that few others can, has good hands, and a good shot to top it all of. Necas is an elite thinker, which helps him to read the game better than most forwards can. He’s got a lot of talent and will likely be a top six center in just a year or two. He’s still maturing both physically and defensively, but that’s not stopping him from making the team this year. The amount of progress that Necas has made in those areas is astounding. It’s still unlikely that he’ll ever be an elite forward, but it’s very likely that he’ll be a very good forward. The Canes got a really good player in Necas.
1. Andrei Svechnikov
He’s the only prospect that the Canes have that’s got a legitimate shot at being an elite player in the NHL. Svechnikov seems to do everything right. Whether it’s scoring goals, making passes, outmuscling opponents, playing defense, or seeing the ice, Svechnikov does it all at an elite level. He’s got the size, strength, and skills to be a 50 point scorer this season. I love the way he plays, and there’s few that can do what he can do at his age. He’s a good skater that can use a little bit of conditioning. With how great of a player he is now, the idea that he can improve should make your mouth water a bit. He’s by far the best prospect that the Canes have drafted in years.