Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2017-18, where LastWordOnHockey.com gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season and offers our insight and analysis. Make sure to stick around until the end of the series, where we’ll offer our full predictions for the standings in each division, and eventually our 2017-18 Stanley Cup pick. You can check out all our articles on our Puck Drop Page. Today the series continues with the 2017-2018 Carolina Hurricanes.
Puck Drop Preview: 2017-2018 Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes had another unsuccesful season in 2016-17. They finished 21st in the league. This was above teams like the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars; but were still left out of the playoffs. They haven’t seen any postseason play for eight years. There was some light in the season, though. They had the highest points in a season (87) since the 2010-11 season when they had 91. It was the second highest since their most recent postseason endeavor.
The team also had a lot of success in their lineup. Sebastian Aho, the 35th overall pick in 2015, made his NHL debut last season. In 82 games, at the age of 19, he had an impressive 49 points. This was second on the team, only trailing Jeff Skinner who was again a light in the bleak Carolina offense. The two weren’t the only producers in the lineup, though. There was a total of seven players who tallied at least 40 points. Among the players was Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask. The two are among the most promising young players in Carolina, and proved their worth once again last season.
While the team missed the playoffs, yet again, they made their mark. They moved up in the league, and their young core showed they have the ability to produce when needed. While they still have a lot of kinks to work out, they have the main pillars to be a succesful team. Last season was a step forward, but the Hurricanes still have a ways to go before they can win another Stanley Cup.
The Carolina Hurricane had an impressive, but overshadowed, off-season as well. To start off the entire league’s off-season, Carolina dealt away a third round pick in exchange for Scott Darling. This was a big win for the team, because their biggest struggle last year was their goaltending. Eddie Lack was singled out by head coach Bill Peters. Lack had played ten games, but had been poor all year. Peters emphasized how his play wasn’t good enough for the NHL, and frankly, he was right. Darling has improved drastically over the past few seasons, though. In tandum with newly hired goalie coach, Mike Bales, Darling could transform into an impressive backup. Cam Ward is the icing on the cake as a consistent starter. If Darling is able to unleash his potential this upcoming season, the team could have found an easy solution to their biggest issue.
The team also signed Justin Williams to a two-year deal worth a total of $9 million. Williams will be a solid addition to the team’s top six. A 50 point scorer last season, he provides a lot of firepower to what has already proved to be a solid group of guys. Williams had a 76 point season in the team’s sole Cup winning season of 2006; and they’re hoping he brings that same firepower over the duration of his contract.
2017-18 Predicted Line Combinations
The Hurricanes top six is what will give the team virtually all of their firepower this upcoming season. While the third line will also produce a decent amount, they won’t match the skill the top two lines provide. The offense is a perfect gel of speedy small players on the top line, strong and talented players on the second line, and a mix of bottom six skill to finish it off. If the team matches the offense they put up last year, they’ll have no problem succeeding.
Haydn Fleury – Trevor van Riemsdyk
The team’s defense will be one that sees a bit of fluctuation. They have a notoriously young defensive core. While the young guys could spark a flame, it’s still less than ideal. Still, if the offense is able to carry the load of the team, the defense will have no problem holding their own.
Their goalies will be another very strong part of their game. Both goaltenders have shown a lot of promise, and could be among the best pairings in the league if they hold true to their potential. With a somewhat weak defense, the goalies will have to be able to hold their own. Though Darling will be Ward’s backup, he will see an abundance of ice time to help spark his development. Having a reliable backup will be a breath of fresh air for the aging Ward too, and the consistent breaks could mean even more success from both goalies.
Players to Watch
While he’s not a young rookie looking to make a splash in the league, Williams could share just as much of the spotlight. Easily the oldest player in the top six, and likely starting his final NHL contract, Williams will surely be looking to finish his career of with a bang. He had an impressive season playing with the experienced Capitals last year, but won’t fill the same role in Carolina. Instead, he’s a veteran coming in to help father a team of skilled but inexperienced players. He’s in a much bigger role with the ‘Canes, and he’s fully expected to embrace it with open arms.
Players on the Rise
Aho wowed the league in his rookie year. Though he was shadowed by Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, Aho was still a dominant force in the league. With how he finished the year, it’s likely he’s far from his peak. He’ll play top line minutes with a good mix of players to support him, and could be the most lethal player in a Hurricanes sweater as a result. The short but speedy forward will continue to wow fans throughout the following season, just like he did last year.
Players on the Decline
Within one off-season, Kruger was moved from the Chicago Blackhawks, to the Las Vegas Golden Knights, to the Carolina Hurricanes. Now that he’s finally done moving, he has an important situation at hand. He’s just over a $3 million cap hit, and has been for a few years. Unfortunately, he hasn’t earned his money yet. Last season, he frequented the press box because he wasn’t able to produce with the time he was given. On a team as deep as the ‘Hawks, he had to fight for his spot. He lost all the fights he was given. Now he likely has a golden opportunity to finally prove his worth. If he’s not able to do it, he’s the most expendable player on the ‘Canes lineup. Similar to last season, he could be replaced midseason if he isn’t meeting the the expectations of his price tag.
2017-18 Carolina Hurricanes Season Prediction
The Hurricanes could easily break their cold streak this season. With a talented offense and two strong goalies between the pipes, they could be a dark horse candidate for a Wild Card spot. The biggest problem they face is the division they’re in. The Metropolitan Division is arguably the toughest division in the league. With teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, it’s not very likely the Hurricanes snag a top three spot. Instead, they’ll likely be fighting for a Wild Card spot all season. If they bring the same level of play they did last season, and combine it with the new additions and improvements they’ve made, they could easily achieve that goal.
via Last Word on Hockey, by Gabriel Foley