Given the nature of the world we are currently living in as we inch closer and closer to the restart of the NHL season, the Carolina Hurricanes have planned accordingly with their roster depth at all positions.
Carolina will bring a group of interesting names whose skillsets and experience vary. From a young center who came on the scene with two big games, to the best defenseman in the AHL, to a 2019 first-round pick, the Canes will have options if/when injuries hit during the return-to-play process.
Here’s a shortlist of those interesting names, with a breakdown of how they got here and the likelihood that they will see game action.
Few players in the Hurricanes’ organization have seen their star rise as much as Geekie’s has over the last ~15 months.
After logging a strong 19-goal, 43-point scoring output as a rookie in Charlotte last season, he was a leading contributor (18 points in 19 playoff games) en route to a Calder Cup championship run.
The large turnover in Charlotte from the 2018-19 season to the 2019-20 season presented many challenges for the Checkers as they looked to defend their championship, but for Geekie, it presented a real opportunity.
With a further pronounced role in the club’s forward core, Geekie took considerable steps forward as an offensive weapon, which went a long way in securing a call-up in March.
What happened then was very well documented, even if it feels like it happened five years ago. Geekie scored twice in his debut in Pittsburgh and once more in Detroit a couple nights later.
For all those reasons, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Geekie’s name on Carolina’s return-to-play roster. Whether or not he plays right away is an entirely different discussion, though. While he might have the best odds of all of the Canes’ extra skaters, it’s an up-hill battle for him, especially when he’s competing for a job with Jordan Martinook in the middle of the fourth line.
Barring injury, I think it will be tough for Geekie to get a spot right away, but his long history of dominant playoff performances at every level he has been at should help put him at the very front of the line among the reserves that the Hurricanes will carry.
Remember when I said few players have seen their star rise as much as Geekie’s? Well, Lorentz is one of those few players.
Again, the turnover in Charlotte did wonders for Lorentz in giving him an opportunity to establish himself as a legitimate young player in the organization. He scored 23 goals in 61 games, his highest goal total in a season (throughout any level of competition) since his 29 goals in his final OHL season in 2016-17.
Lorentz is a big forward with a lot of physicality in his game. He put that on display during Charlotte’s Calder Cup run last season and carried it over this season. He also had a standout training camp with the Hurricanes back in September.
Along with the more experienced (and more... penalty-inclined) Max McCormick, Lorentz could be seen as an interesting depth piece on the fourth line. He would be a couple of injuries away from game time, but he has the aspects in his game that Rod Brind’Amour might like in a depth piece up front.
Carolina’s 2019 first-round pick had a rollercoaster of a D+1 season in the OHL.
On a bad Barrie Colts team, Suzuki had a good start to his season before suffering a scary eye injury that sidelined him for an extended period of time.
He did eventually come back, and when he did, he was dealt to the Saginaw Spirit at the trade deadline and saw his productivity jump in dramatic fashion. After compiling 23 points in 21 games with Barrie, Suzuki finished with 35 points in 23 games with Saginaw before the season was suspended and ultimately canceled.
Suzuki’s name is an interesting one to include for Carolina, but this feels like more of an “experience” add as opposed to someone who could realistically get in some games. There is surely some value in having a 19-year-old top prospect around during a playoff run, even if it’s just by way of skating in practices or even just being around the group.
It’s hard to imagine Bean’s first two years as a pro player going much better than they have to this point.
As a rookie in 2018-19, he was a dynamic offensive defenseman who was named to the AHL’s All-Rookie team and won a Calder Cup. In year two, he was the league’s best defenseman and was given Eddie Shore Award honors as a result.
Bean has earned a chance to play with the Hurricanes, but will he?
Unfortunately, the answer is almost absolutely no.
This is to no fault of Bean. It’s all about the competition he is going against. At the trade deadline, the Hurricanes added two defensemen in Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen. Both players are scheduled to be available and are fully practicing with the team.
On top of that, mid-season Norris candidate Dougie Hamilton is back in the lineup and even Brett Pesce might hit the ice again if the Hurricanes play deep into the postseason. Even excluding Pesce, Carolina will carry eight established NHL defensemen.
Bean is absolutely capable of challenging for a spot in the top-six for the postseason, but Carolina’s roster construction makes it so it’s almost impossible for him to get a shot.
Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg
The Hurricanes are set to bring four goalies with them to Toronto, and that is out of necessity.
Petr Mrazek and James Reimer are both good to go, but we’ve seen both of them fall victim to injury and miss significant stretches of time - at the same time.
Nedeljkovic and Forsberg carried the load for Charlotte this season and saw their play fluctuate at times, and neither of them overwhelmed at the NHL in level in their combined seven appearances. That being said, a goalie can get hurt at any time, and if that happens, the Hurricanes should feel relatively comfortable with their depth at the position.
Nedeljkovic is, like everyone in Charlotte a season ago, a Calder Cup champion. He has big-game experience both as a pro goalie and in international competition via World Juniors.
Forsberg has more NHL experience and was the better of the two goalies during their NHL stints. He, too, is a former Calder Cup champion, though that accomplishment is further back in his rearview mirror.