TSP: Carolina Hurricanes Prospects

Welcome to the 2014 edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”.  As we go through the Summer of 2014 I will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will go team by team through the NHL bringing you a look at each Teams Top Prospects. I will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here.  Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2014 draft, as there have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed. What I will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2014-15 roster of the NHL team in question. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as my darkhorse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.

The Carolina Hurricanes seemed to tread water in the 2014-15 season.  While there were bright spots, such as the play of Anton Khudobin in stealing the starting goaltending job, an apparent steal in Andrej Sekera arriving from Buffalo, more solid play from young Justin Faulk, the development of Elias Lindholm and Ryan Murphy, and a 33 goal season from Jeff Skinner, overall the team failed to take steps forward from 2012-13.  Eventually it would see general manager Jim Rutherford out the door, and onto Pittsburgh, and head coach Kirk Muller move on to be an assistant in St. Louis.  In their place come franchise legend Ron Francis, taking over control of hockey operations, and former Detroit assistant Bill Peters taking over as head coach.

The Hurricanes finished in 13th place in the East and with that came the 7th overall pick in the NHL Draft.  They used the pick to add Haydn Fleury a big and strong two-way defenceman out of the WHL and also landed 4 more prospects in our top 100 NHL Draft Rankings.

Draft Picks (Reviewed by LWOS): Haydn Fleury, Alex NedeljkovicWarren Foegele,  Lucas Wallmark, Clark Bishop
Graduates: Elias Lindholm, Ryan Murphy, Riley Nash,

Top Carolina Hurricanes Prospects

Top Prospect: Victor Rask, Centre
Born Mar 1 1993 — Leksand, Sweden
Height 6.02 — Weight 194 — Shoots Right
Selected by Carolina Hurricanes round 2 #42 overall 2011 NHL Entry Draft

Victor Rask had a solid season in his first year of pro hockey, putting up 39 points in 76 games for Charlotte in the AHL. It was a little bit surprising and unfortunate that the Canes didn’t give him a game or two at the NHL level, just to get his feet wet as it became clear that Carolina’s season was going nowhere fast.

Rask has an extremely well developed two-way game for his age forward. He is a big and strong centre who can score goals due to his great puck handling skill, and ability to drive the net. He can also score goals from further out due to a very good shot and quick release. With his strong powerful stride, the defence must respect his ability to drive by them wide, and back off. This creates shooting lanes for Rask off the rush, and he can effectively use the defender as a screen when he lets off his shot. Rask also has decent vision and playmaking ability especially when working down low in the offensive zone. He protects the puck extremely well with his good balance, and really works the cycle game. He is unafraid to work in the corners and in front of the net. With the puck on his stick, Rask is a threat to thread the needle and create a scoring chance for his linemates due to his passing ability.

Defensively Rask is a willing backchecker. He is excellent at helping the defence on the rush, by providing back pressure and forcing the onrushing opponents to make plays before they are comfortable. Rask cuts down passing lanes well, and has good hockey sense and anticipation which allow him to intercept passes and get into the transition game. He contains well along the boards and wins puck battles with good frequency. Overall, I think Rask needs a little more time in the AHL, but he could be called up as an injury replacement this year. He can develop into a good 2nd or 3rd line forward for the Hurricanes if given the proper time.

Prospect #2: Brock McGinn, Left Wing
Born Feb 2 1994 — Fergus, ONT
Height 5.11 — Weight 186 [180 cm/84 kg]
Drafted by Carolina Hurricanes, 2nd round, 47th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft

A team leader on the Guelph Storm team that ran away with the OHL Regular Season Title, Dominated in the playoffs on the way to winning the League Title, and made it all the way to the Memorial Cup Final before falling to the Edmonton Oil Kings, their only loss in their four games in the tournament, but one at the most inopportune time. McGinn did get an 8 game suspension in the OHL playoffs but it didn’t slow him down, as he picked up right where he left off as soon as he returned. Overall though McGinn’s 43 goals and 85 points in 58 games showed was a real step forward this year.

The brother of Colorado Avalanche forward Jamie McGinn, and San Jose prospect Tye McGinn.  Brock McGinn will hope to follow in his footsteps to the NHL.  His best best is to become a grinding bottom line player much like his brother.  He plays a very defensively responsible game, killing penalties effectively, and being an agitator, getting in the face of the other team’s top players all over the ice, and in the middle of every scrum.

McGinn is a solid skater who uses his good speed to get in quickly on the forecheck and hit opposing defencemen.  He plays a high energy game, always keeping his feet moving.  His increased goal and point production came from increased confidence and poise this season.  In previous years he was quick to either dish to a teammate or take a shot almost as soon as he got the puck.  This year, he held the puck a little longer and made better passes.  Also instead of blindly banging pucks towards the net from the slot, he became an effective sniper, showing a good wrist shot and quick release further out.

McGinn will likely start the season in Charlotte where he can try to continue to develop his offensive game.  He’s likely at least a year away from full-time NHL duty, but like Rask, he could be used as an emergency call-up.

 

Prospect #3: Brett Pesce, Defence
Born Nov 15 1994 — Tarrytown, NY
Height 6.03 — Weight 174 — Shoots Right
Drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 3rd round, 66th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft.

Pesce is another Canes prospect who showed big offensive improvements this year, going from 6 points as an NCAA freshman with the University of New Hampshiere to 21 points this past season.  Still it is his defensive game that makes him an attractive prospect.

Pesce is very solid in the defensive zone. He’s not one to lay huge hits, but he plays a physical game, rubbing out opponents along the boards, and battling in front of the net and in the corners. He lacks muscle right now, so he isn’t as effective as he will be when he bulks up, but he’s pretty good as is. Pesce maintains very good gap control which keeps him in great position to make those plays. Pesce has a quick stick and is able to steal pucks with a poke check or by anticipating passes well.

The strong defensive game is built around Pesce’s skating. He has great pivots, edgework, and agility, which gives him really good mobility on the ice. He is able to make quick cuts and changes in directions in all 360 degrees. Pesce has good top end speed both forwards and backwards, generated from a long and powerful stride. However his startup is sometimes a bit choppy, and this can rob him of his acceleration at times. He is strong on his skates and has decent balance, but it can be improved if he can add some lower body muscle.

Offensively he improved his vision and passing skills this year. He’s also showed more patience and poise, giving him the ability to make a smart play with the puck. Not only has this added a good first pass out of his own end, its also allowed Pesce to show some ability on the powerplay.  Pesce is still likely a defense first guy, but this could be an encouraging sign if he continues to take leaps forward.  His shot though continues to need some major work.

Pesce will be heading back to New Hampshire for his Junior Season next fall.

Super Sleeper: Sergei Tolchinsky, Left Wing
Born Feb 3 1995 — Moscow, Russia
Height 5.09 — Weight 165 [175 cm/75 kg] — shoots Left
Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Carolina Hurricanes in Summer 2013.

Sergei Tolchinsky had two huge strikes against him leading into the 2013 NHL Draft, and as a result he was not selected.  Those strikes were his dimunitive size (5’9″) and his nationality (The Russian factor).  Still the Canes saw potential and picked him up last summer.  With 31 goals and 91 points this season, it looks like a very good move.

Tolchinsky is a fantastic skater.  He has a tremendous first step, great acceleration, and strong top end speed.  He can beat defenders wide on the rush, by turning on another gear and blowing past them, or he can cut quickly to the inside to go to the net.  Add silky smooth hands and moves, and a strong wrist shot and great release, and you have the recipe for a sniper.  Tolchinsky has also become a great playmaker, as he shows outstanding vision, and the ability to make a pass through the eye of a needle.  He’s not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice, at least in the offensive zone, to make plays.

Defensively, he’s very much a work in progress.  Tolchinsky can float in his own zone, and will often take off and leave early looking for the breakaway pass as soon as his team has the puck.  He really will drive coaches crazy with his play in his own end of the ice, and really needs to work on this.

This season expect to see Tolchinsky back in the OHL.  He plays for a strong Greyhounds team who will be one of the preseason favorites to win the league this season.

 

Compared to the other teams we’ve looked at so far, the Canes system review here looks a little weak, but a big reason for that is the youth on the team.  Consider that Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk, Elias Lindholm, and Ryan Murphy are all 22 or younger but have all played over 50 NHL games and as such they are to be considered graduated for this series, but are still very much a part of the Canes future.  The Canes still do have one stud prospect in Haydn Fleury, but overall a low ranking when we rank all 30 teams prospects shouldn’t be looked at too severely.  Overall though there is depth in the system and some current dark horse prospects like Phil DiGiuseppe, Erik Karlsson, Jaccob Slavin, Warren Foegel, Lucas Wallmark, Danny Biega, or Patrick Carrick where one or two might become NHL players.  The Canes have decent depth in goal with Daniel Altshullier and Alex Nedeljkovic as well.

 

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