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Carolina Hurricanes 2016-17 Season Preview: Canes Prospect Corner

What to watch for this season in junior and college hockey.

David Cotton (right) is one of the players we’ll be keeping tabs on this season in college hockey.
Jamie Kellner

Preseason is in full swing, and prospects are settling in to where they will spend the 2016-17 season. It’s been an exciting past few drafts with GM Ron Francis re-stocking the Hurricanes prospect cupboard for the future. In three short years, the Hurricanes have shot up organizational prospect rankings and currently sit with one of the best prospect groups in terms of upside and depth across the league. Let’s take a deeper look into what to expect from some of the team’s potential breakout and under-the-radar prospects at the Junior and Collegiate level this season.

Ontario Hockey League

Noah Carroll (D) - Guelph Storm - 2016, Sixth Round - 164th Overall
Jeremy Helvig (G) - Kingston Frontenacs - 2016, Fifth Round - 134th Overall
Janne Kuokkanen (F) - London Knights - 2016, Second Round - 43rd Overall
Steven Lorentz (F) - Peterborough Petes - 2015, Seventh Round - 186th Overall

Breakout Performer: Janne Kuokkanen - London Knights

The trend of drafting exciting, high-upside, Finnish forwards in the second round continued for the second season in a row at the 2016 NHL Draft. Kuokkanen was a joy to watch at development camp and in Traverse City, showcasing the seamless offensive ability that projects him as an NHL-level prospect. Did I mention he was one of the youngest players in his draft year?

His decision to play for London this year is a great one for the Hurricanes, because it gets the young forward in closer proximity to the front office, and on the North American ice surface. London is one of the most “NHL-like” junior clubs in the CHL, churning out NHL-ready prospects year after year. Kuokkanen will likely play both center and wing for the Knights this season, and should get ample time at both even strength and with the man advantage on the teams quest to a Memorial Cup.

Under the Radar Player to Watch: Noah Carroll - Guelph Storm

Carroll was the Hurricanes final pick of the 2016 NHL Draft and only the second defenseman out of the Canes’ nine players selected. Carroll’s numbers from last season are not going to turn any heads with just 14 points and a -48 rating, but a deeper look into those numbers is needed to tell the whole story. Guelph was the worst team in the OHL last season, winning just 13 of 68 games and finishing the season with an OHL-low 156 goals scored and a -141 goal differential.

The young defenseman filled in admirably in Traverse City when Haydn Fleury was injured, playing alongside Roland McKeown and helping to finish off the tournament with an undefeated record. As he continues to develop, Carroll should be able to improve in the defensive and neutral zones and projects as a modern shut-down type defender who uses his skating and positioning to win one-on-one battles. Carroll’s numbers should continue to improve this season as he shoulders more of the load on the Storm blue line.

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Callum Booth (G) - Quebec Remparts - 2015, Fourth Round - 93rd Overall
Julien Gauthier (F) - Val d’Or Foreurs - 2016, First Round - 21st Overall
Nicolas Roy (F) - Chicoutimi Sagueneens - 2015, Fourth Round - 96th Overall

Breakout Performer: Julien Gauthier - Val d’Or Foreurs

Fellow prospect Nicolas Roy had his breakout season following his draft year, and the same could be seen from Gauthier this fall. There are many who feel that Gauthier could have been kept around for a NHL trial before being sent back to his junior club, but another year in junior is a better developmental path for the winger.

Canes fans and brass saw flashes from Gauthier both in camp and in preseason, and it’s quite scary to think what kind of force the youngster could be once he develops consistency in his game. Gauthier’s physical side is already NHL ready, along with his shot, so his development should be quicker then some other highly drafted prospects that have to gain strength before making the jump to the NHL.

Under the Radar Player to Watch: Callum Booth - Quebec Remparts

So much emphasis has been placed on fellow prospect Alex Nedeljkovic’s development, that Booth has flown under the radar since being drafted in 2015. At 6’4”, Booth is a big-bodied goaltender that has played 80 games for the Remparts over the last two seasons.

Like many young goaltenders, Booth has struggled with consistency during his stint in junior hockey, but has shown flashes of NHL potential. Emphasis will be placed on Booth’s continued development this season as he continues to grow into an viable professional prospect. In his first game back with the Remparts last Friday, the Montreal native posted a 34-save shutout against Victoriaville, and will look to use that as momentum towards a breakout season in 2016-17.

Western Hockey League

Jake Bean (D) - Calgary Hitmen - 2016, First Round, 13th Overall
Hudson Elynuik (F) - Spokane Chiefs - 2016, Third Round, 74th Overall

Breakout Performer: Jake Bean - Calgary Hitmen

Look for Bean this year to prove himself as one of the best all-around defensemen in WHL, and not just an offensive point producer. With many of the top defenders in the league from 2015-16 moving on to professional hockey, Bean has the opportunity to take over the mantle as the WHL’s top blueliner. The Calgary native will likely be in the mix for Canada’s 2017 World Junior Championship roster as he was just one of five 1998 birth-year players invited to development camp.

Much like Noah Hanifin, Bean has the unique ability to create space for himself when there is seemingly no space to be had. His ability to hold the puck at the blue line is already elite, and allows him to be incredibly effective at finding angles both for shots and passes on the power play. The defensive side of his game will continue to evolve, and when it does, look out. With his ability to rush the puck and enter the zone, he will be a future stalwart in Bill Peters’ system.

Under the Radar Player to Watch: Hudson Elynuik - Spokane Chiefs

With only two WHL players, this was an easy decision, but Elynuik should continue to develop at a steep curve this season. He has the physical tools at 6’5” and nearly 200 pounds to be a force down the middle if he can put everything together in the future. He’s a long way from putting on a Hurricanes sweater, but in terms of raw upside, there is a lot to be excited about.

In the past, Elynuik has not been deployed in favorable scoring roles, something that is likely to change this season. His previous season-high point total of 44 should be easily surpassed in 2016-17 with added offensive responsibility. In his first game back in Spokane after returning from Hurricanes training camp, Elynuik tallied a goal and three assists in what was his first four-point game of his career.

College Hockey

David Cotton (F) - Boston College - 2015, Sixth Round, 169th Overall
Matt Filipe (F) - Northeastern - 2016, Third Round, 67th Overall
Jack LaFontaine (G) - Michigan - 2016, Third Round, 75th Overall
Collin Olson (G) - Western Michigan - 2012, Sixth Round, 159th Overall
Luke Stevens (F) - Yale University - 2015, Fifth Round, 126th Overall
Max Zimmer (F) - Wisconsin - 2016, Fourth Round 104th Overall

Breakout Performer: Matt Filipe - Northeastern

Filipe is a strong winger with speed to burn who should fit in well in Northeastern’s system. It’s uncommon that mid-round drafted freshmen force their way into starring roles immediately at the college level, but Filipe will be given the opportunity to start his college career in the team’s bottom six and work for more favorable ice time.

At prospect camp, Filipe showcased his speed in open ice, with the ability to hold off defenders and get to the net in one-on-one situations. He will likely be a high-volume shooter at the college level who will help generate offense on the rush and via the forecheck each time he is on the ice. Playing at Northeastern, the Massachusetts native will have multiple seasons to develop a two-way game that will translate to the Hurricanes down the road.

Under the Radar Player to Watch: David Cotton - Boston College

Cotton has taken the road less traveled from prep school, to one USHL season, to his freshman year at BC as a 19 year-old. In his one USHL season in 2015-16, Cotton played 48 games and put up a modest 30 points for the Waterloo Blackhawks.

At Boston College, Cotton will be thrust into the fire as one of 13 incoming freshmen on a team that drastically needs depth following graduations and players signing entry-level contracts. The lanky forward will likely find his way into the Eagles bottom six, where he will look to round out his offensive game. Cotton has good defensive instincts, but has not yet found his offensive niche. He has an NHL frame, and should continue to develop into a more well-rounded prospect as he gets stronger and finds more consistency in his game.

Be on the lookout for updates throughout the season on the Hurricanes prospect group.