We have finished previewing the forwards on the Hurricanes’ roster, so now it’s time to look at the defensemen and goaltenders! Due to the impending storm I am going to go ahead and throw defensemen and goaltenders into the same article. As a reminder, I’ll separate each position into three categories; The locks, the players on the bubble, and the longshots. Training camp is almost underway, so let’s get into it! In case you missed it, you can see my Center preview here. You can find my Left Wingers preview here, and you can find my Right Wingers preview here!
– Jaccob Slavin
Slavin is the most underrated defenseman in the entire NHL, and he looks to be half of one of the best defensive pairings in the league next season with Dougie Hamilton. I don’t know how Slavin has gone from a fourth-round pick to the player he is today, but this team is lucky to have him. Slavin can be trusted in any situation, and he’s a pretty reliable player and he can play heavy minutes. I could talk all day long about how good this man is, both on and off the ice, but we’ll save that for another day.
2017-2018 stats: 8 goals, 22 assists, 30 points
2018-2019 projections: Like I mentioned earlier, Slavin will probably slot next to Dougie Hamilton on the first defensive pairing. I think that playing next to a player like Hamilton will put Slavin in a good position to put up more points, and I expect him to be north of 35 points this season. Have I mentioned how lucky the ‘Canes are to have Jaccob Slavin?
– Calvin de Haan
The Hurricanes signed de Haan this summer, and I really like this addition. He has concerns around his ability to stay healthy, and he only suited up for 33 games for the Islanders last season. de Haan is an offense-first defenseman, but he’s also a guy you can trust for the most part in both ends of the ice. I think that de Haan is going to be an excellent fit next to Brett Pesce, and that could become a very, very good second pairing. It already seems as if de Haan has become a fan favorite.
2017-2018 stats: 1 goal, 11 assists, 12 points (33 games)
2018-2019 projections: de Haan was on pace for about 36 points last season, and I expect him to hover around 30 points this year in Carolina. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be an important part of the blue line.
On the bubble:
– Haydn Fleury
Fleury had a very rough start to his NHL career. He just looked flat out lost. But, as a rookie, he improved over the course of the season. He actually looked pretty good by the end of the season. Fleury is in a tough position. You would think, that as a left-handed defenseman, that he would be locked into that bottom pairing spot on the third defensive pairing. But, with the team’s apparent willingness to roll into the season with the current defensive group, Fleury might not have a spot. If someone like Justin Faulk is traded, it opens the door for Fleury to return to that bottom pairing next to TVR. For now, it seems as if Fleury is more likely to head back to Charlotte and play in the NHL until a spot opens up for him.
2017-2018 stats: 0 goals, 8 assists, 8 points
2018-2019 projections: I think Fleury is going to see NHL time this season, but I’m not sure when. If the team feels as if Faulk or TVR just don’t fit well playing on their off-side, then it’s possible that the Canes decide to trade someone, which opens up a spot for Fleury. Either way, Fleury needs to have a very good year wherever he is, because the young talent emerging in the Hurricanes’ organization is going to pass him by if he continues to struggle.
– Trevor Carrick
I am 100% expecting Carrick to be the Canes’ 7th defenseman. Carrick should have made the team out of camp last season, but the Hurricanes surprisingly decided to risk losing him on waivers. Luckily, he cleared and was sent to the AHL. Carrick plays an all-around solid game, and I think he’s the perfect type of player to have around as an extra skater. Plus, I’d rather have Carrick sitting in the press box than I would someone like Roland McKeown.
– Jake Bean
Bean’s all-around game is progressing, but he’s still at least a year away from being ready to be a full time NHL player. He will spend his first professional season this year in the AHL with Charlotte, and it’s unlikely that he sees much action in the NHL unless the team gets hit hard by injuries. I like Bean, and I think that eventually he is going to force the Canes to decide between him and Fleury. He still needs to work on his defense a bit and needs to get stronger, but Bean has a bright future.
– Michal Cajkovsky
The ‘Canes announced that Cajkovsky would be attending training camp on a professional tryout agreement. Cajkovsky is a huge defender, standing at 6 foot 4, and the former Washington Capitals prospect has spent time playing for the South Carolina Stingrays before. I don’t know anything about his game, and to be completely honest I don’t think he has much of a chance to make the team. Having another body around is camp is always nice. But, I do think that if he impresses enough, he could stick around for the beginning of the year as an extra defenseman. Two seasons ago, the Hurricanes signed Jakub Nakladal late in the offseason and claimed Klas Dahlbeck on waivers, and both defenders cracked the opening night roster. It’s certainly not out of the question, but we’ll need to learn more about Cajkovsky’s game before we make a true prediction.
– Dougie Hamilton
The Hurricanes won the trade and you won’t convince me otherwise. Yes, Hanifin has tremendous potential, but Hamilton is a far superior defenseman right now, which shows that the team doesn’t want to wait any longer to win. Hamilton will add offense to the blue line, and he’ll also be a solid defender in his own end for the most part. Hamilton is arguably a top 10 or 15 defender in the NHL, and he should be expected to do big things next to Jaccob Slavin.
2017-2018 stats: 17 goals, 27 assists, 44 points
2018-2019 projections: I expect Hamilton to again be north of 15 goals, and he should play a key role with the ‘Canes, both at even strength and even more so on the powerplay. I’m very excited to see Hamilton playing for the home team at PNC Arena, and you should be too.
– Brett Pesce
Sometimes, I feel like Canes fans forget how good Brett Pesce is. He is a valuable part to this defense. Pesce is coming off of a shoulder injury, and luckily, due to the depth on the Hurricanes’ defense, the team won’t have to rely on Pesce so heavily. I expect that when healthy, Pesce can handle any workload and any task you hand him. He’s never going to be a guy that blows you away on the stat sheet, but he will continue to be a solid, steady force on the Hurricanes’ defense for years to come.
2017-2018 stats: 3 goals, 16 assists, 19 points
2018-2019 projections: Pesce missed some time last year, but I don’t expect much more than 20 points this year. Hamilton and Faulk will likely take up most of the powerplay time, and Pesce has never been a guy who puts up a whole bunch of points at even strength, which is completely fine. Pesce should have a key role in the top four.
– Trevor van Riemsdyk
TVR was, in my opinion, the most consistent Canes defenseman last season. He never jumps out at you, which is usually not a bad thing for a defenseman. TVR is a very solid and reliable guy in both ends. He’s never going to be a guy to but up points, but you’ll always be able to rely on him in any situation. Extending TVR assures his spot in the lineup, but that may be a different question in a year if Adam Fox makes the jump to the NHL.
2017-2018 stats: 3 goals, 13 assists, 16 points
2018-2019 projections: TVR will be a bottom pairing defender who moves up in the lineup as injuries hit or others struggle. Expect consistency, although if he ends up playing on the left side as a right-handed guy, I could see him struggling early on.
– Justin Faulk
Faulk had a very disappointing 2017-2018 season. He wasn’t the same offensively, and he was extremely unreliable and lazy defensively. Faulk still has the skillset to be one of the top offensive defensemen in the NHL, but it’s worth wondering how long he gets to prove that again with the Hurricanes. The team seems committed to going into the season with Faulk on the roster. That means that Faulk will likely start the season with limited even strength ice time, but he should still play a major role on the powerplay. Faulk is a candidate to be traded at the trade deadline, but for now he is a huge bounceback candidate in Carolina. I really wanted to put Faulk into the “on the bubble” category, but here we are.
2017-2018 stats: 8 goals, 23 assists, 31 points
2018-2019 projections: I expect Faulk to bounce back a bit no matter where he is playing. His presumed valuable role on the powerplay should help his point total out despite less even strength ice time. Faulk will likely be north of 10 goals again, and around 30 points is a fair bet.
– Roland McKeown
McKeown would probably be ready to get a true taste of the NHL, but unfortunately, due to the depth on the NHL roster, he’s not going to get a chance. The team probably doesn’t want McKeown sitting in the press box, so he’s a good bet to play key minutes in the AHL for Charlotte. He’s quiet, steady, and doesn’t stand out that much. Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing in most cases. I think that McKeown will eventually find his way into another organization. I just think he likely doesn’t end up as more than a bottom pairing defenseman, and the Hurricanes currently have a plethora of options for those roles.
Goaltenders: (NOTE: There is no question as to who the two NHL goalies will be, so I’m just going to list those two since there isn’t a scenario in which someone else makes the jump)
– Scott Darling
Darling definitely had a very rough first season as a Hurricane and first year as a full-time starter in the NHL. He came into training camp out of shape last year, and he was just getting settled into the Raleigh area. This summer, Darling looks to be in great shape, and he lived in and trained in Raleigh all summer. Darling also played for Team USA this summer, so he’s at least seen some action. Darling is committed to improving his game and the team gave him a vote of confidence by bringing him back. He’s been through a lot of adversity in his career, and he can sure as hell handle this. I expect a bounceback, but I’m still skeptical on whether or not it’ll be enough to lead the team into the playoffs.
2017-2018 stats: 13-21-7 record, 3.18 GAA, .888 SV%
2018-2019 projections: It’s hard to predict stats for a goaltender. I think that Darling will be better, but who knows how much better that will be. Ideally, he finds his groove and the Canes can rely on him for 45-50+ starts.
– Petr Mrazek
Mrazek, like Darling, had a disappointing 2017-2018 season and is looking to redeem himself. Mrazek lost the starting job in Detroit before being dealt to Philadelphia last year. He plays an aggressive game as a goalie, and I’ll be interested to see how that fits in with the Hurricanes. With the state of the Canes’ defense, Mrazek might be able to turn himself around.
2017-2018 stats: 14-13-6 record, 3.03 GAA, .902 SV%
2018-2019 projections: If the team can rely on Darling to start, they will. But, since Mrazek has prior experience as a NHL starting goalie, it will be easy for the Canes to turn to him should Darling struggle. Ideally, he gets around 30-35 starts, but I could see a scenario in which he receives more than half of the starts for Carolina.
All-around, the Hurricanes look to have an elite defensive core. That is undoubtedly the strength of this team. As always, the team’s success is going to come down to it’s goaltending. I think that both Mrazek and Darling will bounce back, but I’m not willing to say that it will be good enough to end this nine year playoff drought.