Every Monday, we take a look around at what’s happening with the Carolina Hurricanes’ prospects in junior and college hockey.
Jake Bean Injury Update
Carolina’s top pick in this year’s draft has been ruled out for 4-6 weeks with a broken finger, courtesy of a slash by Medicine Hat forward Chad Butcher. Butcher was suspended three games for the incident. Last week, the Canes’ Michael Smith tweeted out an image of Bean on the bench at Carolina’s practice in Calgary wearing a non-contact jersey.
The young defenseman has only been in the lineup for three Calgary Hitmen games due to Canes training camp and his most recent injury, but has points in two of those three games. The Hitmen are 3-4-1 on the young season, and have scored a Western Hockey League-low 16 goals.
Janne Kuokkanen’s Big Day
Kuokkanen had a breakout performance in the London Knights’ 7-2 victory over Hamilton on the weekend. The young forward was named the game’s first star with two goals, including the game winner, and an assist.
In nine games this season, Kuokkanen has five goals and four assists and is averaging nearly three shots on goal per game. His usage has slightly changed from the beginning of the year, as he started the season playing center, but more recently has been featured on the wing. London got a recent boost, as Vancouver returned top prospect Olli Juolevi to the club. The Knights are poised to make a strong push towards the Memorial Cup this season after getting off to a 7-2-1 start in Ontario Hockey League play.
Canes Prospect Goaltenders Shouldering the Load
Callum Booth, Jeremy Helvig and Jack LaFontaine all have played prominent roles in their teams’ early season successes.
Booth has featured in 10 games so far this season, and is on pace for a career low goals against average (2.53 GAA) and a career high save percentage (0.921 SV%). The 6’3” netminder has allowed two or fewer goals in seven of his 10 starts, and has made saves on seven of eight attempts in games that have been decided via the shootout.
Helvig has been a stalwart thus far for the Kingston Frontenacs, playing in nine of ten games since being returned to the OHL. The 2016 fifth-round pick (134th overall) currently ranks fifth in the OHL in both goals against average (2.55 GAA) and save percentage (.916 SV%), and leads the league with two shutouts. Although Kingston is not going to be the juggernaut this year that they were last season, Helvig is the clear-cut number one goaltender, and his play could help lead them towards a return to the OHL playoffs.
The Michigan Wolverines are picking up where they left off last season, starting the season 3-1-1. However, this season they seem to be relying more on goaltending and defense than the Big Ten Conference-leading 107 goals they scored in just 20 games a year ago. Freshman goaltender Jack LaFontaine has played a role in two of Michigan’s five contests this year, allowing just four total goals and making 70 saves while playing to a 1-0-1 record. The Wolverines seem to be rotating between their three goaltenders early this year with LaFontaine getting two starts, fellow freshman Hayden Lavigne also starting twice, and senior Zach Nagelvoort featuring in one game. It will be an interesting storyline to see who takes the reins as the team’s number one goaltender moving forward.
Roy and Gauthier Update
Both Nicolas Roy and Julien Gauthier have gotten off to modest (by their standards, at least) starts to their QMJHL seasons since being returned to junior hockey following Hurricanes training camp.
Roy has played in nine games and has recorded 10 points with three goals and seven assists. The Chicoutimi Sagueneens captain is well off his scoring pace from a year ago where he led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 48 goals. However, a closer look shows the full story, and it should correct itself throughout the season. Last season, Roy averaged nearly four shots a game, and sported an astronomical 19.1% shooting percentage. This season, although the shot rates are similar (3.88 shots per game), Roy’s shooting percentage is only 8.6%. He has never had a shooting percentage below 10.1% in any QMJHL season, so the goals should start pouring in sooner rather than later.
You can practically copy and paste the paragraph above when talking about Gauthier’s start to his QMJHL season. The winger has played in seven games for the Val-d’Or Foreurs, totaling three goals and five assists. Interestingly enough, all eight of his points have come in his last four games after starting the season without a point in his first three contests. Like Roy, Gauthier’s shooting percentage tells the story, and a progression towards his average is coming. Gauthier’s shot-per-game rates have actually jumped so far this season from 3.85 shots-per-game a year ago to 4.86 this season. However, his shooting percentage has dipped from 19.7% last season to 8.8% this year.
No need to panic, as goals are coming from both of the Canes prospect forwards, and when they do, they will come in bunches.