Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2020-21, where Last Word on Hockey 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 2020-21 Stanley Cup pick. Today the series continues with the 2020-21 Carolina Hurricanes.
2020-21 Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes had themselves another competitive season under the watch of head coach Rod Brind’Amour. When the season paused they were fourth in the Metropolitan Division. In 69 games played they posted a record of 38-25-5. The team was well on their way to another 90+ point season, as well as another playoff appearance. In the Eastern Conference bubble, they made quick work of the New York Rangers, taking their qualifying series in a three-game sweep. The success was short-lived as they were beaten by the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs, sending them home early.
The team, once again, found success from their young roster. Sebastian Aho, the team’s 2015 second-round pick, was well on his way to his first 40-goal season. Teuvo Teravainen was on pace for another 50-assist and 70-point season. 2018 second overall pick Andrei Svechnikov established himself as an elite talent in the league and was on pace to double his rookie point total. On the blue line, the team had one of, if not the best, top defence pairings in the league with not one but two Norris calibre players in Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton. With a deep cast of players to complement their star power, the Canes roster was one to be afraid of.
Carolina’s general manager Don Waddell didn’t make too many moves this offseason, as was expected. The team lost some rental blueliners in Sami Vatanen and Joel Edmundson to free agency, but this doesn’t change the depth of their defence too much. Another defenceman, Trevor van Riemsdyk, signed a contract for the Washington Capitals after being with the team for three seasons. They signed former Ranger Jesper Fast to a three-year deal worth $2 million a season. The team also signed Joakim Ryan to a two-way contract, as well as re-signed RFA forward Warren Foegele.
The biggest loss this offseason was the retirement of forward Justin Williams. He had joined the team midway through the season, putting up eight goals and 11 points across 20 games played.
Andrei Svechnikov – Sebastian Aho – Teuvo Teravainen
Carolina’s top six is a pretty sound two lines. The offensive trio of Svechnikov, Aho, and Teravainen is a line to put rival teams to bed. Svechnikov found his scoring touch last season and could easily hit 30 goals this season by himself. Add in the passing machine that Teravainen is and the two-way, scoring threat that Aho has shaped himself to be and this line has no flaws.
Shift down to the second line and there’s just as dynamic of a line with half the firepower. Necas had himself a decent rookie season, putting up 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points on the season. He’s got the makes to be a great goal-scoring winger if he continues to progress the way he is. With a 20 goal pace last season, there’s plenty of room for him to break that and more this season. Trocheck is looking to establish himself as the team’s second-line centre in his first full season with the team. He’s only three seasons removed from his 75 point campaign in the 2017-18 season. With that point potential, he has himself a lot to prove if he wants to be seen as one of the leagues, and the team’s, top offensive threats again. Looking at the left side of Trocheck, Foegele just signed a one-year extension with the team. He had himself a career year last season, notching 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points. Having the chance to play consistent top-six minutes should be good for him.
The forward group runs deep. It might not have the offensive potency that the top six has, but their ability to shutdown makes up for it. The team’s Game 7 saviour in 2019, McGinn, has the scoring ability to put 30 up in a season. Recently he’s been used in more of a third-line checking winger role, however. He’s a strong, fast winger with a slight scoring touch that transforms any line into a bruiser-type line. Shifting to the middle is 14-year veteran Jordan Staal. He’s a strong player at the dot who binds the bottom six together with his play and leadership ability. Jesper Fast might be the most dynamic on this line, having the speed of a scoring winger and the defensive discipline to make him well rounded. He will likely see top-six minutes but will start the year on the third line.
Going down to the fourth line and there’s plenty to be had. Jordan Martinook is a locker room leader with a physical side to his game that makes him the valued asset that he is. Looking to his wings there are two guys who desperately need a turn-around. When El Niño joined the team midway through the 2018-19 season, he was an instant upgrade to the team’s top-six. He had 30 points in that 36 game stretch and was projected to perform about the same this past season. That was not the case. He had a career-low in all stat categories and proved to be a bit of a liability. He should be able to turn it around this season with a more sheltered role that he will take on this year. Opposite to him is Dzingel. He let down significantly for someone who once put up 56 points two seasons ago. There isn’t much to hate about his style of play, but being on the fourth line to start the season will allow him to find his game in a no-pressure scenario.
Jaccob Slavin – Dougie Hamilton
The Canes’ top pair is a top-five top pairing in the league. Two Norris calibre players on one line. Both can quarterback a power-play unit, stop a rush, and create offence, and still get back to stop an odd-man rush. There aren’t two guys you would want over them to make up a top pairing in today’s game. Slavin has been playing top pairing minutes since his rookie season, but somehow he proves himself more as his career progresses. Hamilton, on the other hand, was on track to win the Norris Trophy last season before being injured midway through the season. Now that he’s back and fully healthy, he has unfinished business to complete this season in his hunt for the Norris Trophy.
Skjei, like Trocheck, has plenty to prove. He was traded for a first-round pick at the deadline and only had seven games before the pause. With the top four responsibilities he will be getting this season, he will prove to be another threat for the team at defence. His partner, Fleury, will be getting his first shot at playing full time in the league as a defensive defenceman. Being an anchor to a responsible guy like Skjei will prove to be beneficial to the young player.
The defence, like their forward group, runs deep. Jake Gardiner is, by no means, a bottom pairing defender. He just happens to play on a really deep blue line. The same goes for Pesce. Pesce will have to be the anchor between the two, as Gardiner serves as another offensive threat. Playing in the bottom pair is a bit of a foreign task for the 26-year-old American born defender. He is coming off of an injury so starting on the bottom pair is more of a transition role for him. With a defence group this deep, however, the latter two pairings will be switching around quite a bit.
Both of these guys are great goalies for Carolina, considering their past performance between the pipes. Mrazek got more starts than Reimer did last season, however, it would make the team a little more stable if both guys were to split the starting job. Reimer put up a 2.66 goals-against-average and a .914 save percentage in 25 games last season. Mrazek, the starter, posted a .906 save percentage and a 2.69 goals-against-average in 40 games between the pipes. Mrazek is already playing half the season at the point of the pause, if Reimer is able to keep up his play the way he did for the 25 games, that’s a solid tandem. Both guys are stable options in their contract years with the team and a lot to prove if they want more money this offseason.
Players to Watch
Svechnikov is interring his third season in the league, and he’s looking to make it a big one. He practically doubled his rookie season totals last year and is set to perform similarly or better this year. He’s got the playoff experience and games under his belt to understand how to maneuver around the league. Add in the bonus of playing a much different and, arguably, weaker division due to the COVID realignment, he is on track to light it up this year. H might not be a breakout player, but he will be exciting to watch, as always, this season.
Jake Bean hasn’t seen significant minutes in the NHL quite yet. That doesn’t mean he won’t get his chances this season. Although, as stated before, the blue line is a deep group, he has proven that he can play good hockey and has no reason to not play sometime in the big leagues this year. Pay attention to when he does show up to his ability to shut down players with ease. It’s a testament to the Canes’ development ability and Bean’s development as a whole, too.
Prediction for 2020-21 Carolina Hurricanes
It’s year three under Brind’Amour and it’s his best chance yet to earn himself and his team the Stanley Cup. With a weaker division due to the realignment, there is no reason the team should not rank high in the standings come the playoffs. This season especially, it’s Stanley Cup or bust for these Bunch of Jerks, and they’re poised to make themselves known as contenders early this season.
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