Waiting for any news on the next NHL season has felt a lot like waiting at the DMV when you really just need to update your license. It’s such an inconvenience, but like you really need it. As such, finding ways to pass the time feels more and more necessary as the pondering continues.
So, I present to you my latest endeavor: The Carolina Hurricanes: Rookie Mode.
A full starting roster composed of players based solely on their rookie season performances.
- Only Hurricanes players
- Have to have played their rookie year in Carolina
I will be loosely using the NHL’s rookie standards, being that a player must not have played more than 25 NHL games in any prior season, nor in six or more NHL games in each of any two preceding seasons. All rookies must also be below the age of 26.
Name: Rookie Season (Games Played; Goals; Assists) | P=Playoff Stats | (Games Played; Wins; Save Percentage; Goals Against Average)
Shane Willis: 2000-01 (73 games; 20G; 24A)
Willis was one of the bases of thoughts for this article, being essentially a one-and-done player in the NHL, but that one being such a tremendous year. Whether it was the Scott Stevens hit that year in the playoffs or the Bryan Marchment elbow the next year, Willis’ career began to fall away quickly after that rookie performance. Luckily he is still involved with the team, being the Hurricanes manager of youth and amateur hockey as well as being an analyst on Fox Sports Carolina.
Jeff Skinner: 2010-11 (82 games; 30G; 33P)
Arguably “the” best Hurricanes rookie campaign, Skinner’s 30-goal, 63-point season was a shining spot around the beginning of the dark ages of Canes history. Skinner was also one of only four players for Carolina to win an individual league award and his Calder trophy was one of only the six total awards (Cam Ward - Conn Smythe; Rod Brind’Amour - Selke (x2); Ron Francis - King Clancy / Lady Byng). Skinner served as the face of the franchise when there was a desperate need for an infusion of youth, although unfortunately, it wouldn’t quite work out on the ice down the road.
Sebastian Aho: 2016-17 (82 games; 24G; 25A)
The current face of the franchise, Aho was the first big piece that began turning the tide for the Hurricanes’ franchise. The hidden gem of the 2015 draft, Aho took an extra year in Finland before he came over to Carolina and once he arrived he got right to work, with five points in his first five games. It took him 14 games to find his first, and second, goals and he still managed to cap off the season with 24 playing on the wing with Jordan Staal.
Sebastian Aho with his first career NHL goal. Teuvo Teravainen with the second assist. pic.twitter.com/oPGBpElNQ3— Hoop Informatics (@HoopInformatics) November 13, 2016
Andrei Svechnikov: 2018-19 (82 games; 20G; 17A) P(9 games; 3G; 2A)
Currently on track for super stardom, Svechnikov has been one hell of a player. He was the final piece that the team needed to turn the franchise around, finally becoming a playoff team after a decade of mediocrity. Special from day one, Svechnikov has only gotten better. But this is about his rookie year. The one where he scored 20 even strength goals mostly from the bottom-six role Brind’Amour gave him. When he shocked everyone at how effortlessly he man-handled players at the ripe age of 18. The one where he proved he was destined for greatness.
Erik Cole: 2001-02 (81 games; 16G; 24A) P(23 games; 6G; 3A)
Cole was a solid Hurricane from day one, a tough and relentless player who was hard to play against and was just as likely to put one in on you as take one away from you. He was a mid-round pick that proved to be every bit as capable of being an NHL regular. Oh yeah, and his rookie year was the debut of the BBC line of lore.
Martin Necas: 2019-20 (64 games; 16G; 20A) P(8 games; 1G; 3A)
The ceiling is high for Necas, who is coming off of an impressive first “full” NHL year. He’s shown a lot of ability, mostly with his skating, that shows he can be a true difference maker and dynamic offensive player. I still dream about that goal against the Arizona Coyotes and his immaculate edgework.
Necas putting on a dance clinic out here pic.twitter.com/sD883viKN0— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) January 11, 2020
Eric Staal: 2003-04 (81 games; 11G; 20A)
Potentially the best player to ever have represented the Carolina Hurricanes, Staal was a dynamic player who helped lead the Canes for many years, but in 2003-04, he was but a promising piece on a struggling team.
That 2003-04 team managed to put together only 28 wins and had no players reach 20 goals and only two even broke 40 points, but Staal showed promise which he would later deliver on.
Warren Foegele: 2018-19 (77 games; 10G; 5A) P(15 games; 5G; 4A)
Foegele’s rookie year was a real roller coaster of emotion. Things were looking promising with a hot start to kick off the season with a two-goal, three-point performance in game three, followed by an intense scoring drought, then he potted a couple of goals to end the season and then absolutely kicked ass in the first two rounds of the playoffs. And honestly it was that playoff performance that bought him a spot on the team.
Josef Vasicek: 2000-01 (76 games; 8G; 13A) P(6 games; 2G; 0A)
Vasicek’s rookie year was by no means anything special, but he was a dependable guy. I’ve always liked Vasicek and while his better years were ahead of him at this time, I still want to have him on my squad. Nothing more to say on this, and to be fair, it’s quite difficult to comment on a year where I was only three years old at the time.
Victor Rask: 2014-15 (80 games; 11G; 22A)
Rask’s rookie year also wasn’t a big year, by any means, but it was solid and that’s still a lot better than a lot of players’ debuts have been for the Canes over the years as I found out (that and I needed another center).
My Technicalities: Picks that don’t quite fit the criteria
Morgan Geekie: 2019-20* (2 games; 3G; 1A) P(8 games; 0G; 1A)
He will still be considered a rookie next season because he played so few games, but I’ll still put him on here for this last season, and how can you not include the NHL’s all time points-per-game leader? Okay, that joke has been used so many times already, but until the NHL starts back up, I’m gonna keep beating this dead horse. Morgan Geekie = G.O.A.T.
Derek Ryan: 2016-17 (67 games; 11G; 18A)
I don’t care what anybody says about rules or technicalities on this one. Derek Ryan, at 30-years old, was a rookie and dammit I’m putting him on this list. The perseverance he showed to the game eventually resulting in him getting a break to come back to North America after playing so many years in Europe and then to turn into an NHL regular was something spectacular.
Jaccob Slavin: 2015-16 (63 games; 2G; 18A)
Slavin is an All-Star Defenseman who is starting to gain attention around the league, but Canes fans knew from day one that he was special. He averaged over 20 minutes per game his rookie season, put up 20 points and even though plus/minus is a dumb stat, I’m still going to mention how Slavin was the only Hurricanes defenseman that year who was even a plus.
Brett Pesce: 2015-16 (69 games; 4G; 12A)
Pesce might not have been as great out of the gate as Slavin was, but in terms of rookie Canes defensemen, he is still quite a few steps ahead of the pack. Just goes to show how special the two of them were and how quickly they leap frogged their development and everyone’s expectations. And you also don’t expect rookies to be that great defensively, so these two really flipped the bill from everyone else.
Noah Hanifin: 2015-16 (79 games; 4G; 18A)
It’s crazy how I never really registered that the Canes played three rookie defensemen for the 2015-16 season and just hoped for the best. To be fair, it did work out pretty nicely for two of them, but remember when Hanifin was that promising star? Some good points in his debut season and the next, but how quickly that fantasy faded.
Justin Faulk: 2011-12: (66 games; 8G; 14A)
A wicked slapshot from the point. The power-play quarterback, the team needed. All the things we expected out of Justin Faulk eventually fell to the wayside and while he got way more flack than he deserved over the years, he did set the bar at a decent level to begin with. Even collecting some Calder votes and making the All-Rookie Team.
Jamie McBain: 2010-11 (76 games; 7G; 23A)
McBain was another out-of-left-field successful rookie, that put up some major points. It’s even crazier that this was his career high. Those were some rough teams, but if McBain could make the NHL All Star Rookie Team that year, than I think he has what it takes to make my roster.
Keegan Lowe: 2014-15 (2 games; 0G; 0A; 10 PIM)
Okay, on the one hand there was a real lack of quality defensemen with strong rookie seasons when I looked for potential candidates. On the other, Lowe fought Vincent Lecalvier and handed it to the veteran in his first NHL game (of the only four he ever played in).
Cam Ward: 2005-06 (28 games; 14W; 0.882 S%; 3.68 GAA) P(23 games; 15W; 0.92 S%; 2.14 GAA)
How can you not pick the Stanley Cup Winning run of Cam Ward as the best rookie goalie performance? I mean come on. Regular season stats were alright, I mean better than most rookie goaltenders that the Canes have tried out, but that playoff performance? Chef’s kiss.
Svechnikov - Staal - Necas
Skinner - Rask - Aho
Willis - Geekie - Cole
Vasicek - Ryan - Foegele
Slavin - Pesce
Hanifin - Faulk
McBain - Lowe
What do you think of this team? Would you have made some different selections? Let me know, but remember the caveats. Only Hurricanes players and it has to be based on their rookie seasons in Carolina.
And who knows, if the NHL can’t get its stuff together soon, maybe I’ll circle back to the best sophomore seasons team and junior year team and fabulous fourths and fantastic fifths and please let there be a hockey season soon.