Buckle your seat belts, everyone, because this is going to be a long one. That’s right! My prospect rankings are back! In this series, I rank all of the prospects that have not played in one pro season based on their potential, recent performance, and any changes in their overall stock. This does not include prospects such as Morgan Geekie and Jake Bean since all three players spent this past season in Charlotte. It does include Jesper Sellgren, Stelio Mattheos, and Jacob Pritchard since all three players were brought in on tryouts after their seasons ended. I’ll be adding Martin Necas in since he is only 20. There are 30 prospects eligible to be ranked that I have counted using CapFriendly’s depth chart feature. We’ll start at number 30 and work our way up!
30. Ville Rasanen
Rasanen was drafted in the seventh round in 2017 and hasn’t done anything notable in two years. He spent his post-draft season bouncing around between U20 hockey and the Finnish second-tier league, where he was unimpressive. His second season in the Hurricanes’ system saw him playing for Lincoln and Chicago in the USHL where he spent most of his time as the extra defenseman. Rasanen is currently under contract with HC Banska Bystrica in Slovakia, and I doubt we’ll ever see him play pro hockey in North America.
29. Luke Stevens
Stevens is entering his senior year at Yale University and has failed to record more than 11 points in a season. The 2015 fifth round pick has seen limited ice time on a decent team and hasn’t been all that impressive. His size and good two-way play were enough to get him drafted in 2015, but I can’t see him earning more than an ECHL deal at this point in his career.
28. Jake Kucharski
Kucharski didn’t see a whole lot of playing time last season after being traded to Omaha in the USHL. The 2018 seventh round pick has shown flashes of really good athleticism and poise in net but hasn’t been able to string together a lot of good starts just yet. Kucharski will have four years at Providence College to develop.
27. Max Zimmer
I saw a lot of good things in Zimmer’s game at the beginning of last season, and then they started to disappear a bit. Zimmer set career highs in every offensive category last season and finished with 18 points in 34 games. He hasn’t shown me enough to warrant an NHL contract just yet, and so I’m not sure if he’ll be able to in his senior year. Still, Wisconsin has a stacked roster so it’s possible that we see Zimmer take a big step forward this year.
26. Massimo Rizzo
I fully expect Massimo Rizzo to rise in these rankings once he returns from injury. Rizzo was the second to last pick in the 2019 NHL draft and has some interesting tools in his game. He’s a good playmaker with a nice set of hands to go along with that. Aside from some injury concerns, there are also concerns that Rizzo doesn’t have high-end offensive upside. He’ll get a chance to play for a good Coquitlam Express team in the BCHL before attending the University of North Dakota in the fall of 2020.
25. Eetu Makiniemi
This one hurts me because I enjoy Makiniemi. The fact that he didn’t see a whole lot of ice time last season coupled with the fact that he’s Ilves’ third goaltender makes it tough for me to remain optimistic about Makiniemi’s future. The good news is that he’s been loaned to KooVee in Mestis, the Finnish second-tier league. It’s a good league and he’ll be playing with Washington Capitals prospect Martin Hugo Has. Makiniemi will be getting more starts this season and will be called up to the Liiga if there are any injuries.
24. Jack Lafontaine
Lafontaine’s career looks to be back on track after a fantastic season with Penticton in the BCHL. It’s been a tough road for Lafontaine, who struggled in his first two NCAA seasons, transferred, and then spent a year in the BCHL while waiting for his transfer to process. The opportunity at the University of Minnesota is perfect for him, especially since the Golden Gophers will be looking for someone to take over as their starting goalie this season. I’m cautiously optimistic with him.
23. Luke Martin
Luke Martin has had two fairly boring seasons at the University of Michigan. He’s been great defensively but doesn’t show a whole lot of promise with the puck on his stick. I’m concerned that there might not be a lot of pro potential but his senior year could change things a bit. I’m on the fence as to whether or not he’ll earn an NHL contract.
22. Jacob Pritchard
Pritchard was just sent down to the Charlotte Checkers on September 24th and will likely spend his whole season with the team. He performed well at the prospects showcase in Nashville, showcasing his speed and offensive skills. He was excellent on the power play for UMass last season and so I’d imagine that that’s where he’ll shine for Charlotte this year as well. At 24 years old, Pritchard is the oldest prospect in these rankings.
21. Cade Webber
Webber’s season with Penticton in the BCHL is off to a good start. The 6’6″ defenseman has three(?) points in six games for the Vees and has been excellent in his own end both at even strength and on the penalty kill. Webber is starting to discover his offensive potential and beginning to use his great skating to his advantage. Webber’s speed is dangerous in transition and I’d like to see him control breakouts a little more often.
20. Kevin Wall
Wall is a player that I’m high on, mostly because he’s a quick goal scorer that’s heading to a good program. Wall is committed to Penn State and is coming off of a good overage season with Chilliwack in the BCHL. Wall scored 31 goals in 49 games and finished the season with 64 points. It wasn’t a dominant season by any means, but it’s enough for scouts to see potential. Penn State is a great program and I think he’ll fit in very well there. He’s also a right shot, which is something the Hurricanes lack.
19. Matt Filipe
The Captain at development camp is heading into his senior season at Northeastern. Last season, Filipe rebounded from a weak sophomore year and was able to play his game. He looked faster, more confident, and more willing to use his strength to create opportunities. Filipe impressed the coaching staff at prospects camp with his improvements and should have a big year with Northeastern. This is another player that will have to have one heck of a season if he wants to earn an NHL contract, but I’m more optimistic about his chances.
18. Blake Murray
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Murray wasn’t on my list of players that I’d consider drafting until around February or so. He was frustrating to watch at times and wasn’t consistent at all. I started to come around once I noticed the player that he could be. He’s a good skater, strong on the puck, and a great goal scorer. He just finds ways to put the puck into the net. All that was holding him back was…himself. Murray was great in flashes at the prospects showcase and has had a productive start to the season with four points in three games.
17. Kirill Slepets
Kirill Slepets has been on fire as of late in the VHL. The Russian second-tier league can be a tough league at times, and Slepets is making the most of his opportunity. Four goals and eight points in seven games puts him in a tie for sixth in league scoring with no player younger than 23 ahead of him. Slepets was a fifth round pick of the Hurricanes in 2020 and has a bright future ahead of him. If the Hurricanes can manage to sign him in a couple of years, they add another quick scoring forward.
16. Lenni Killinen
Lenni Killinen has the potential to be a good third line forward that always seems to be a good Corsi player. The problem is that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy since he was drafted in the fourth round in 2018. Killinen had an impressive World Junior Summer Showcase and is likely a top nine winger for Finland at the World Junior Championships in December. He’s still a few years away from making the jump to North America, but there’s a lot to like about his speed and puck skills. The hockey sense is developing.
15. Luke Henman
Luke Henman wasn’t used to his full potential last season and often spent time on the third line despite out performing some of the top six. Henman is getting the opportunity he deserves this season and has been playing on the power play more often. He’s a quick player that is one of the smartest players on the ice at any time. His offensive skills aren’t high-end but he always knows exactly where to be and where to place his passes. His shot is developing nicely as well. Henman’s strength has been an issue in the past but he looks a lot stronger and less lean than he was at the draft.
14. Domenick Fensore
Fensore is a little ball of fun and I can’t wait to watch him play this season. He utilizes his strengths incredibly well and makes sure to utilize his teammates before relying on individual skill. There’s plenty of individual talent, especially on the offensive side of the puck, but Fensore prefers to be more of a power play quarterback and a breakout guy. Size will be an issue and will hinder him defensively, but he has the work ethic to grow into an NHL defenseman. He has the work ethic that Rod Brind’Amour is looking for and could very well be the Hurricanes’ most exciting prospect to watch.
13. Anttoni Honka
Speaking of offensive defensemen, may I interest you in Anttoni Honka? This was considered a great pick almost immediately by some scouts and a reach by other scouts. Honka was without a doubt the most polarizing prospect in the 2019 draft. There’s no denying that his offensive skills have NHL potential and that he can be a monster on the power play. It’s everything else about his game that worries people. He’s awful defensively, only slightly above average in terms of skating, and struggled in the Liiga last season. Honka has worked to improve some defensive issues but still looks like a lost puppy at times this season. I’d like to see him produce more at even strength. For now, I’m high on Honka because he does have top four upside. I’m cautiously optimistic.
12. Jack Drury
Drury is a good two way forward that still needs to get faster. His offensive skills will start to come into the spotlight once his skating improves, and that’s where I think we’ll start to see Drury’s true value. He’s a low risk, medium reward type of player and very likely to become an NHL player. I’m not sure if he has top six upside, but the fact that he’s so good defensively could mean that he’ll be seen on the third line and in a top penalty killing position. He’s ranked ahead of Honka and Fensore because of his high floor. Fensore has a lower floor set by scouts who are worried about his size. Honka is a purely boom or bust player. Drury seems like a safe pick and a prospect that you’re likely to see in the NHL at some point.
11. Jamieson Rees
Jamieson Rees was considered by some to be a really nice grab for the Hurricanes at 44th overall in 2019. His draft year was plagued by suspensions and injuries, resulting in Rees appearing in 37 games. This is a player with a really interesting skill set. He’s quick, plays at a high pace, has good offensive instincts, makes great passes, and has great hands. He’s also a very physical player and isn’t afraid to get under the skin of his opponents. The problem that I notice is that Rees tends to toe the line between clean and dirty hits a lot of the time. I like the edge that he brings and I think he could be a nice middle six forward at some point. I just need to see him stay out of the box more often.
Update: Jamieson Rees has been suspended six games for a hit in Sarnia’s season opener. This is the type of stuff that worries me about Rees. I love him as a player, but we need to see him make less of these hits.
10. Patrik Puistola
Considered by many in the Twitter scouting community to be the steal of the draft. Puistola is a goal scorer with good hands and two way skills. He’s close to being a one trick pony, but his two way game is really good and one of his most underrated assets. Puistola hasn’t seen consistent ice time with Tappara this season and has been buried on the fourth line, which makes me wonder if he’ll be loaned to another Liiga team soon. I expect him to play for Finland at the World Juniors and make an impact. Puistola has high upside but a considerable amount of risk since his game is fairly unpolished.
9. Tuukka Tieksola
As soon as I heard that the Hurricanes had made this pick, I knew that they had gotten a steal. Tieksola has elite offensive skills and is one of the fastest prospects in the system. His hockey sense is elite, he’s perfected the cross ice pass, and he’s playing in Karpat’s system. He was recently sent down to Karpat’s U20 team, where he has two goals in two games. This is a player that will probably take a little while to adjust to the pace and physicality of the Liiga, but when he does, it’s over for the competition. Tieksola has elite skills and seems like he could be another Teuvo Teravainen. That’s high praise, but he’s capable of being that good. Tieksola is another prospect that I would consider an “appointment viewing” prospect. You’re going to want to watch as much of him as you can, he’s that good.
8. David Cotton
Let me introduce you to one of the biggest prospect narratives of the season. “Will David Cotton Sign?” Has been a question that I’ve been asked ever since he made the decision to return to Boston College for his senior year. The answer to that is: I don’t know. I think Cotton has a future with this organization and will be a top prospect for this team. It seems like he would sign since he was drafted and developed by the team. There’s also the fact that Cotton wanted to return to Boston College in order to become their captain and lead the team to a championship. The Eagles have had some bad teams while Cotton was there, but he still managed to be a leader both on and off the ice. There haven’t been any rumors that Cotton wants to sign with any other teams, which is an encouraging sign. Cotton has the makings of a good power forward and his speed has improved significantly. over the past three years of his collegiate career. There isn’t top six potential in his game, but he’d round out the Canes’ top nine very nicely. Cotton is a player that I’ll be keeping a close eye on this season, particularly when the end of the season comes closer.
7. Jesper Sellgren
Jesper Sellgren came out of nowhere last season after being selected in the sixth round in 2018. The Swedish defenseman was passed over in two previous drafts but was selected by Carolina after a strong season in the Allsvenskan and a good performance at the World Juniors. Sellgren had a great SHL season with Lulea last year and joined the Checkers for their Calder Cup Championship run. Sellgren wasn’t expected to be much of a prospect but managed to take a roster spot away from AHL veteran Dan Renouf. Sellgren will spend this next season in Sweden before joining the Checkers at the end of their season. I think that Sellgren has an NHL future. He’s good in all three zones, skates well, and has decent offensive upside.
6. Stelio Mattheos
If you need a player to cheer for this season, Mattheos is your guy. He’s in camp after a cancer diagnosis prevented him from playing in the Prospects Showcase and part of training camp. It’s hard not to root for Mattheos, who is coming off of a 96-point WHL season on a non-playoff team. He was a big part of Charlotte’s depth during their playoff run and should factor into their top nine as a rookie this year. Mattheos is an exciting prospect who has great two way skills and a nice power move. His upside is high and I think that he’s one of our better prospects coming out of juniors this season. If Mattheos can hit the 30-40 point mark in the AHL, his season is a massive success.
5. Chase Priskie
Priskie was the big prospect signing of the summer when he signed a two year entry level contract with the Hurricanes. The talented defenseman did not sign with the Washington Capitals and instead signed with their division “rival.” Priskie is a right-handed defenseman with great offensive upside and a fantastic shot. He’s a great forward skater and is likely going to see NHL ice time at some point this season. He’s currently week-to-week with an undisclosed lower body injury, so he’ll probably get sent down to Charlotte to recover. There are two prospects on this list that could see NHL ice time as early as this season, and Priskie is one of them.
4. Pyotr Kochetkov
Kochtekov was the highest ranked European goaltender in the draft despite being a double-overage player. The Hurricanes made sure to grab a goalie with the potential to be a franchise cornerstone for years in the second round, which is something that the pipeline lacks. I’m high on Alex Nedeljkovic, but Kochetkov is in a class of his own in the system. He’s had a rocky start to his season, appearing in six KHL games on an injury-riddled team. There have been some really great moments, however, and I see a bright future for Kochetkov. He has another year remaining on his KHL contract, which likely means that we won’t be seeing Kochetkov in North America until 2021. Kochetkov should be able to make the jump from the KHL to the AHL to the NHL very quickly.
3. Dominik Bokk
The Hurricanes made a massive addition to their pipeline in the Justin Faulk trade by acquiring Dominik Bokk. He’s a creative player with high-end offensive upside and NHL size. He was a top three prospect in St. Louis and is also a top three prospect with the Hurricanes. There are concerns about his consistency and skating, but I’ve seen improvements in both aspects. Bokk is currently on loan to Rogle BK in the SHL and will likely make the transition to North America when his season is finished. Bokk is another exciting top prospect in an organization that has been known to draft and develop a whole lot of great prospects in recent years. The key with Bokk is going to be patience. He’s shown flashes of brilliance in the offensive zone and has also gone through a lot of scoring droughts. Bokk will be given all of the opportunities he needs in order to succeed in the pros, so I’m confident that he’ll be a good forward in the NHL.
2. Ryan Suzuki
I didn’t expect Ryan Suzuki to get this long of a look in training camp, but I’m not complaining. He likely won’t make the team but will still walk away with valuable experience, some new training, and most importantly, an NHL contract. Suzuki has surprised me with his high-end offensive skills and his impressive skating abilities. He’s still hesitant to play in the middle of the ice and seems content with playing on the perimeter at times, but I’ve seen the work that the coaching staff has done to get him out of that habit. He has elite playmaking skills and is one of those players that can make teammates better. He’s another prospect that has been compared to Teuvo Teravainen and plays with a similar level of skill. The longer Suzuki is away from the OHL, the better. He needs to work with pro coaches and play against better competition. He’s close to outgrowing the OHL and will need all of the pro experience that he can get. I’m high on Suzuki and think that if he’s given at least three to four years, he could be a star.
1. Martin Necas
Necas looks like a lock for the NHL roster this year, especially after an impressive AHL season with the Charlotte Checkers. He’s fast, elite offensively, and a fun player to watch. Necas’ shot has become an underrated asset and he loves to be in the one timer position from the top of the circles. Necas is the only prospect in the system that is close to a top six role. He’ll likely start on the third line wing this season and stay there until the coaching staff feels comfortable with giving him additional responsibilities. After that, it’ll be the Martin Necas Show in Raleigh. Necas has the highest ceiling out of any of our prospects, with the potential to be a top center for the Hurricanes for a long time. He and Aho will be a dynamic one-two punch at center for the Hurricanes. Necas might take a while to adjust to the NHL this season, so patience will be the key. He’ll see some power play time on the second unit and then slowly work his way up. The future is bright for Necas, and that future isn’t too far away.
The future is bright for the entire Carolina Hurricanes organization. Out of the 30 players listed, between 28-25 of these players have a pro future in some capacity. That’s impressive and speaks to the fantastic job the Hurricanes have done drafting since 2014. This list doesn’t even include Jake Bean, Julien Gauthier, Roland McKeown, Morgan Geekie, Steven Lorentz, Spencer Smallman, Clark Bishop, and more. All of these players could be NHL players at some point. Add 30 junior prospects, the seven AHL prospects that I listed, and nine picks in 2020 and you have a pipeline that’s going to be stocked for a long time. Six of those picks are in the first three rounds, including two first round picks. It’s a great time to be a Hurricanes fan!