Editor’s note: Introducing Canes Country’s top 25 under 25 series. Last week, a group of us set out to rank the top 25 players 25 years of age or younger in the Carolina Hurricanes’ organization. We were successful in that endeavor. We took into account what players have accomplished to date, their likelihood of making it as a regular NHLer and the level of impact they’re likely to have.
On this list, you’ll find players currently on the Hurricanes’ roster and prospects scattered across the AHL, Canadian junior leagues and Europe. We’ll be revealing one player each week day (with a couple exceptions for holidays) from now through early January.
Today, we continue with a late-bloomer who has his sights set on making the big club.
You wouldn’t have found Steven Lorentz’s name on this list one year ago, but a lot of things can change in the course of a year and very few players within the Hurricanes organization saw their stock rise as much as this 2015 seventh-round draft pick.
In the first two years of his entry-level contract, Lorentz played in just 32 AHL games, spending the majority of his time in the ECHL where he played in 84 games and tallied 22 goals and 63 points.
His breakthrough happened during the 2018-19 season, where he parlayed a hot ECHL start into a full-time AHL job and played an integral depth role in the Charlotte Checkers’ Calder Cup run.
That success set the table for his biggest year to date, the 2019-20 season. And if you were paying attention during the early days of 2019 training camp, his breakout season might not have been a big surprise.
“I think I’m getting to the point where, I think my game is close,” Lorentz said after scoring the game-winning goal in a 2-0 preseason win over the Tampa Bay Lightning all the way back on September 18, 2019. “There’s still a couple of small attributes that, if I work on, I can hopefully get my shot and become a Carolina Hurricane because that’s the goal.”
Let's break this one down— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) September 19, 2019
Gauthier with the power move
Lorentz drove it home
Canes fans did this pic.twitter.com/bIsulhvg3S
Lorentz was a legitimate standout player in training camp, and he did factor into his first career NHL preseason game - and two more after that before being assigned to the Checkers in the final big wave of roster cuts. He had yet to play in a preseason game in his several appearances at Canes camp prior to 2019.
Before leaving the big club, though, he made it clear that his goal isn’t just to be an NHL player. He wants to be a Hurricane.
He doubled down on that claim with a big year in the AHL wherein he saw his role grow into that of a relied-upon goal-scorer and impactful physical force in all situations, including a spot on Charlotte’s penalty killing unit.
Lorentz scored a career-high 23 goals and 46 points in 61 games before his 24th birthday and was on pace to help the Checkers make the playoffs and fight to defend their AHL championship before COVID-19 halted and eventually cancelled the remainder of the season.
Despite the unceremonious end of his breakout campaign, his steps forward are still very impressive and remarkably surprising for a seventh round pick. He’s a late bloomer, but he has bloomed nonetheless. The question now is whether he can build on that.
He signed a two-year contract extension with the team over the offseason, and there is some significance to it being a multi-year deal and not a typical one-year deal that you’d usually see from an AHL player like him.
Putting the goals aside, he’s a big, physical player whose style of play projects fairly well to a bottom-six role. A lot of what he is (and how he cares so much about the organization) is reminiscent of Warren Foegele a couple of years ago. He’s an aggressive net-driver and a handful on the forecheck.
What makes the two-year deal so important is that they have a cost-guaranteed asset on the books in 2021-22, which is the year after contracts for Brock McGinn, Jordan Martinook and Ryan Dzingel expire.
If Lorentz replicates the kind of development that he showed last season, there’s no reason to think that he can’t factor in as a bottom-six option when spots open up.
If that does happen, it would be considered a huge win for the Canes’ scouting department. Even now, you can consider it a win. Very few players drafted in that spot end up turning into a quality AHL producer. Even fewer crack an NHL lineup.
It feels like that could be in the cards for Lorentz and, if it happens, we can look back to September of 2019 as a real turning point for him as a player. He’s an easy guy to root for.