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Breaking down the best players to wear every jersey number for Carolina

With the upcoming NHL season still a big question mark, we stopped to have some fun and take a look at who the best player to wear each jersey number for the Carolina Hurricanes is.

NHL: OCT 16 Hurrucanes at Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We don’t have too much of an idea about what the upcoming NHL season will look like yet, so let’s take a break from looking ahead to that and do something fun.

Jersey numbers in every sport are a sacred thing, something that most players cherish. Throughout the span of a franchise, jersey numbers are reused and made famous by different players, so let’s take a look at every jersey number in Hurricanes’ history and the best players to wear each one.

For starters, there are 21 jersey numbers that have never been worn by a Carolina Hurricane (dating back to the franchise’s move from Hartford). Some were worn by Whalers, others were not, but here are those 21 numbers that have never grazed the back of a Carolina jersey: 0, 9, 50, 66, 68, 69, 75, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 87, 89, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98 and 99.

One of those numbers, 9, was retired by the Hartford Whalers in honor of Gordie Howe. The Whalers also honored John McKenzie’s 19, but it has been worn a few times by Hurricanes (most recently Dougie Hamilton).

Seventeen more numbers have only been worn by one person in Carolina history. Ironically, both of the Hurricanes’ unconventional goalies, equipment manager turned goalie Jorge Alves (40) and game-winning EBUG David Ayres (90), are the only players in Carolina history to wear the numbers they wore.

Here’s that full list, with the player who wore the jersey number:

2 — Glen Wesley

Edmonton Oilers v Carolina Hurricanes: Game 5 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

40 — Jorge Alves

Carolina Hurricanes v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

54 — Brett Pesce

60 — Justin Peters

64 — Clark Bishop

65 — Ron Hainsey

67 — Jerome Samson

72 — Nicolas Blanchard

74 — Jaccob Slavin

Boston Bruins v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Four Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

76 — Brady Skjei

78 — Steven Lorentz (hasn’t actually played for the Hurricanes during the regular season in 78, but has been listed as 78)

79 — Michael Ferland

80 — Kevin Weekes

88 — Martin Necas

90 — David Ayres

Carolina Hurricanes v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

91 — Martin Frk

92 — Jeff O’Neill

Of that group, Glen Wesley’s 2 has been retired by the Hurricanes.

The next group of players is the biggest one, the players who are pretty clearly the best in Hurricanes’ history to wear their jersey number.

For a lot of these players, it’s a case of their only competition having just a handful of games played for the Hurricanes. For others, it’s a dominant player whose career numbers are so far beyond any other player in franchise history of that number (see 10, 12, 17, 86).

And for others on this list, it’s just the matter of being the best of three or four players that all were part-time contributors that played just partial seasons for the Canes. Here’s that full list of the best of those jersey numbers, ones where there is a clear-cut top player or no players that really stood out (with some honorable mentions):

1 — Arturs Irbe

Carolina Panthers v Washington Capitals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

3 — Steve Chiasson (HM Jeff Daniels)

7 — Niclas Wallin

8 — Matt Cullen

10 — Ron Francis

Ron Francis looks to pass the puck

12 — Eric Staal

Tampa Bay Lightning v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

13 — Ray Whitney (HM Bates Battaglia, Warren Foegele)

15 — Tuomo Ruutu

17 — Rod Brind’Amour

Rod Brind’’Amour waits for the face off

18 — Jay McClement (HM Ryan Dzingel)

19 — Dougie Hamilton

20 — Sebastian Aho (HM Riley Nash)

Edmonton Oilers v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

21 — Nino Niederreiter (HM Lee Stempniak)

23 — Martin Gelinas (HM Brock McGinn)

24 — Sami Kapanen

25 — Joni Pitkanen (HM Shane Willis)

26 — Erik Cole

27 — Justin Faulk

28 — Alexander Semin

29 — Martin Gerber

30 — Cam Ward

Carolina Hurricanes v Atlanta Thrashers Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

31 — Anton Khudobin (HM Eddie Lack)

32 — Kris Versteeg

33 — Anton Babchuk (HM Derek Ryan)

34 — Petr Mrazek

35 — Curtis McElhinney (HM Justin Peters)

36 — Jussi Jokinen

37 — Andrei Svechnikov

NHL: OCT 29 Flames at Hurricanes Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

38 — Tim Conboy

39 — Patrick Dwyer

41 — Andrew Alberts

42 — Joakim Nordstrom

43 — Morgan Geekie

44 — Jay Harrison

45 — David Tanabe

46 — Mike Zigomanis

47 — James Reimer

48 — Jordan Martinook

49 — Victor Rask

51 — Jake Gardiner (HM Jeff Hamilton)

52 — Damian Surma

53 — Jeff Skinner

NHL: NOV 06 Devils at Hurricanes Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

55 — Danny Markov

56 — Erik Haula

57 — Trevor van Riemsdyk

58 — Chris Terry

59 — Chad Larose

61 — Cory Stillman

62 — Jaroslav Svoboda

63 — Josef Vasicek

Edmonton Oilers v Carolina Hurricanes: Game 5 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

70 — Oleg Tverdovsky

71 — Lucas Wallmark

73 — Brett Bellemore

77 — Joe Corvo

86 — Teuvo Teravainen

New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

Of this group, Ron Francis’ 10 and Rod Brind’Amour’s 17 are retired by the Hurricanes.

Now comes the fun group, seven numbers in Canes’ history that require some deeper looks into who the top player to adorn them are.

Number 4

Carolina Hurricanes v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Seven different players have worn 4 for the Hurricanes, but it is a pair of defensemen that stick out. Aaron Ward wore 4 all five years he played for the Canes, from 2001-06 and then again in 2009-10. Haydn Fleury has worn 4 since he debuted for the Hurricanes in 2017, and the former first-round pick has played the best hockey of his career as of late.

Carolina Hurricanes v Boston Bruins - Game One Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

Ward played in 336 games for the Hurricanes, scoring 16 goals, dishing out 51 assists and averaging nearly 19 minutes of time on ice. Fleury has played 132 games and counting, with four goals and 19 assists. He also had two goals in eight games this year in the playoffs, while Ward had 5 points in the 2006 playoffs that ended with a Stanley Cup, including the first goal of game seven of the cup final.

Fleury’s ceiling is high and he’s coming into his own as an NHL defenseman, but this one’s got to go to Ward.

Number 5

Carolina Hurricanes v Washington Capitals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Seven players have worn 5 for the Hurricanes, and it’s a trio of defensemen that have a case for being the best.

Marek Malik, an original Carolina Hurricane, wore 5 from 1998-2003, Frantisek Kaberle had the sweater from 2005-2009, while most recently Noah Hanifin wore 5 from 2015-18.

The Czechoslovakian-born Malik played 262 games for the Hurricanes (as well as 55 for the Whalers), scoring 16 goals to go along with 54 assists. Kaberle was of course a member of the Canes’ Stanley Cup-winning team, playing 214 games for Carolina over four years. He had nine goals and 73 assists during that time, and scored the game-winning goal in game seven of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

Edmonton Oilers v Carolina Hurricanes: Game 5 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Hanifin, who was Carolina’s first-round pick back in 2015, debuted that year and played 239 games during his three years with the Hurricanes. Hanifin had 18 goals and 65 assists during that time, proving his value as a two-way defender.

Carolina Hurricanes v Minnesota Wild Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images

With all due respect to the Hurricanes’ original number 5, this comes down to Kaberle and Hanifin, but the Stanley-Cup winner will get the nod here.

Number 6

Edmonton Oilers v Carolina Hurricanes: Game 5 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Another number filled with impactful Hurricanes’ defenseman, number 6 has featured a few stalwarts on the blue line for Carolina.

Bret Hedican and Tim Gleason headline the group which also features, more recently, Klas Dahlbeck and Joel Edmundson. Hedican wore 6 for all six years of his time with the Hurricanes, a six-year span that featured 369 games, 101 points and Stanley Cup.

Gleason wore three different sweaters for Carolina, but he spent his most time in 6. He wore the single-digit number from 2008-15, playing 409 of his 546 games with the Hurricanes in 6. He had nine goals and 73 assists wearing 6 for the Canes.

Anaheim Ducks v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

While Gleason did some good things for the Canes and was part of a fun 2008-09 team, this one clearly goes to Hedican, one of the staples of the early years of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Number 11

Carolina Hurricanes v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images

This is a fun one.

During his first tenure with the Carolina Hurricanes, from 2003-09, Justin Williams wore 11 for the Canes. Recently, captain Jordan Staal has adorned the 11, from 2012 on.

Williams played 265 games for Carolina in 11, scoring 81 goals with 120 assists. In the 2005-06 playoffs, Williams had seven goals, 11 assists, which of course included one very important goal.

During his eight years with the Hurricanes, Staal has played 530 games and has 105 goals and 184 assists. Staal has also won over 55 percent of his face offs with the Hurricanes.

Carolina Hurricanes v Washington Capitals - Game Seven Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Williams had his more productive seasons in Carolina wearing 11, but Staal has now put together eight incredibly solid years that have culminated in Staal earning the captaincy (which Williams also has held, though in a different jersey number).

From a pure productivity standpoint this would go to Williams, but Staal’s long-term tenure in 11 maybe earns him an edge. Either way, it’s somewhat of a toss up.

Number 14

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A lot of different players have worn 14 for the Hurricanes, headlined by a familiar face in Williams. Along with Williams’ second tenure with the Canes, Kevyn Adams, Sergei Samsonov and Nathan Gerbe have been impactful for Carolina in 14.

Starting with Williams, he has played 184 games with 115 points wearing 14 for the Hurricanes. All three of those years of course came at the very end of his career, and one of those years featured Williams with the C on his chest.

Gerbe wore 14 for all three years of his Hurricanes’ career, a span that featured 66 points. Adams wore 14 for four of his five years with Carolina, playing 267 games and scoring 67 points during that time. Samsonov was in 14 for his four years with the Hurricanes, which featured 249 games and 135 points.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Phil Ellsworth/NHLI via Getty Images

Among those three, Samsonov was the most productive, but Williams has earned the honor of Carolina’s best 14 with his late-career production and leadership.

Number 16

Carolina Hurricanes v Atlanta Thrashers Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

A trio of forwards wore 16 for the Hurricanes from 2006-18, as Andrew Ladd, Brandon Sutter and Elias Lindholm held the jersey number during that time.

Ladd was the 2005-06 Canes’ 16, as he played 137 games and scored 50 points wearing the sweater. Sutter started his NHL career wearing 16 for the Canes. Over the first four years of his career, Sutter played in 286 games and 107 points.

Carolina Hurricanes v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Lindholm, the Hurricanes’ first-round pick from 2013, debuted in 16 in 2013 and wore it for the Canes until just before his final season with Carolina. Lindholm was a bright spot on some Canes teams that struggled to win games, putting up 144 points in 293 games for the Hurricanes in 16.

NHL: MAR 19 Hurricanes at Flyers

Lindholm had some really bright moments for the Hurricanes, at times showing some elite skills as a passer. For that, Lindholm gets the honor of the Canes’ best 16.

Number 22

Sean Hill Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images

Three of the best defensemen in Hurricanes’ history have worn 22, as Sean Hill, Mike Commodore and Brett Pesce have all had the sweater for Carolina.

Hill was the Canes’ first 22, wearing it from the team’s inception until 2004. Hill played in 369 career games for Carolina, scoring 38 goals to go along with 119 assists. In 23 playoff games with the Hurricanes, Hill had eight points.

Commodore was the 22 of the Stanley Cup team in 2006, the first year of his two and a half with Carolina. During that span, Commodore played in 195 games and had 54 points. In the 2006 playoffs, Commodore played in nearly 20 minutes per game and had four points.

Atlanta Thrashers v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

Pesce is the Hurricanes’ current 22, a budding star on the blue line for Carolina. After wearing 54 in his first season as a Cane, Pesce switched to 22 and has worn it for the past four years. He’s played 281 games with 86 points wearing 22 for Carolina.

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This is a tight one, but for now the edge probably goes to Hill. Pesce has a good chance to pass Hill as Carolina’s best 22 in the next couple years, but he’s not there yet.