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Hurricanes Prospects Mailbag: May

Canes fans brought the questions, Matt brought the answers.

Boston Bruins v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Two Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

Well, I’m less than a week from my own wedding, so I figured that I’d take time to answer some questions that fans had before disappearing for a little while. I’ve already given you all a look into some names to keep an eye on for the NHL draft. My coverage will shift primarily to Wolves and Draft posts in the coming weeks as we inch closer to the draft, and I’m hoping to have some more profiles and content out before the draft. Right now, however, let’s tackle some questions.

This one was sent in before I formally asked for questions, but I’m sure that some people were wondering the same thing. Alex Lyon started in Chicago’s last game of the regular season and should be good to go when Chicago begins their playoff series against the winner of Texas vs. Rockford.

Ronan Seeley’s WHL career came to an end this past weekend as the Everett Silvertips were shockingly defeated by the Vancouver Giants. It was a massive upset, but it’s not all bad. Ronan Seeley will be joining the Wolves for the remainder of the season. As to whether or not he’ll play, I’m doubtful. The Wolves have a deep blue line and one that, as of right now, has been unaffected by NHL call-ups. Seeley is likely joining the Wolves to practice with the team and get a taste of what the pro game is like before preparing for the World Juniors in August. Practice time with the pros is a good thing, especially considering the fact that Chicago has a number of veterans that can take him under their wing and show him the ropes.

I don’t know. The Hurricanes drafted Naumov in the seventh round of the past draft but he has yet to play a single game since then. I’m not sure why, but as far as I can tell, he did not play this season. Teams don’t lose the signing rights to Russian players for a long time (or ever, I think), so it’s not like we’re on a tight schedule with his development.

Would it be wrong if I said “none?” I trust the Hurricanes’ decision if they decide to hold off on signing certain prospects. While I’d certainly like to see players such as Scott Morrow, Domenick Fensore and Anttoni Honka in the AHL, it never hurts to get an extra year of development under your belt. What about Alexander Nikishin? Since he’s under contract in Russia, he cannot sign until his contract expires on May 1, 2023. If he signs a new contract in Russia, then we have to wait until that contract ends. It’s complicated, but that’s how it is.

I’ve mentioned Morrow, Fensore and Honka as three players I’d like to see the Hurricanes sign. A few others that come to mind are Justin Robidas, Massimo Rizzo (in a year or two), Patrik Puistola and Joel Nystrom.

First of all, why is it that Canada is getting yet another World Juniors after hosting four of the past six tournaments? It does nothing to grow the game and it’s frustrating. Now, onto the answer to the question. From non-Canadian teams, I’m looking at a handful of players. A lot of our prospects will not be eligible due to their age, so we’ll definitely have a smaller group at the 2023 World Juniors. The first group is the definite invites, which includes Ville Koivunen, Aleksi Heimosalmi and Nikita Quapp. The other group is comprised of players that were not on WJC rosters for this past (future?) tournament but could make the cut this time. That includes Patrik Hamrla, Justin Robidas, Jackson Blake and maybe one or two of our 2022 draft selections. The Czech goaltending core will take a hit with a few of them aging out, so Hamrla makes sense as one of the team’s two or three goaltenders. Robidas is a bit of a long shot given how deep Canada’s rosters usually are, but he’s a proven goal scorer that could play a depth role on the Canadian team if called upon. I feel the same about Jackson Blake. He had a great season in the USHL and could fill a role nicely for the USA, but it all depends on what direction the US decides to go in. The Hurricanes will be represented at the World Juniors, but it’ll definitely be a smaller contingent of prospects than the ten we had (have?) at the 2022 tournament.

I hope he’ll be okay by next season, but I don’t have an answer as to whether or not he’ll be good to go. As for the Wolves’ tandem, that’s something to keep an eye on. For me, it all depends on what the Hurricanes decide to do with Kochetkov. They love the player and it’s clear that he’s ready for the NHL, but they have two proven NHL goaltenders under contract for next season. Do they keep him in the AHL? If so, then it’s likely a Kochetkov-Makiniemi tandem with Kochetkov getting the bulk of the starts. If the Hurricanes find a way to fit Kochetkov in, then we’re likely looking at a 1a-1b scenario with Makiniemi splitting starts with an AHL veteran similar to Alex Lyon. Maybe they’ll decide to bring Alex Lyon back. For now, though, it’s something I don’t really have an answer to. This is going to be a great story to follow because as we’ve seen, the Hurricanes don’t want to roll with a goaltender that’s fairly unproven at the NHL level. Kochetkov is different, though. He hasn’t even entered his prime and he’s proving to be an NHL goaltender. We’ll see what the Hurricanes decide to do. Game three of the series was a little rough, but let’s be honest. The team failed Kochetkov. The penalty kill was weak and the team couldn’t generate a lot of momentum at even strength. Kochetkov has been a strong player for his other four appearances at the NHL, so I think he’ll bounce back.

There are three areas that I’d look to improve upon. First, the third pairing. The rotation of Ian Cole, Brendan Smith and Ethan Bear has been so-so this season and I’d like to see some more stability. Second, the “second” line needs a lot of work. The Hurricanes have to figure out how to get Martin Necas going on a consistent basis, because I feel that they’re not getting the most out of him at the moment. Now, that also brings up the question of bringing back Vincent Trocheck. In a perfect world, you’d be able to bring both he and Nino Niederreiter back next season, but it’s likely that one of them will have to go in order to be cap compliant. It’ll take some ridiculous level of cap gymnastics or a conveniently timed long term injury to make that work from a cap perspective. Third, please make the power play consistent. This year, there were some strong moments and some not so strong moments, and I feel that the Hurricanes need a legitimate net front threat on PP1. Vincent Trocheck brings a lot of skill to the lineup, but the Canes need someone a little stronger to clear bodies in front if there’s a rebound. Watching game three of the first round had me frustrated because the first unit cycled the puck between Teravainen, DeAngelo and Svechnikov without getting the puck below the goal line or even close to the slot. That has to change and I saw that too often this season. Now, if Jake Gardiner is able to make a return to the NHL, I could see him fitting in on the second unit. He’s a better power play quarterback than Slavin, although coming back from a year long break has to be tough.

As for who to re-sign or release, I’m leaving that up to the front office. I’d love to see Nino Niederreiter back, especially since his line has been one of the Hurricanes’ most consistent lines this year. Derek Stepan should also be brought back and be placed into a full-time NHL role. Trocheck would be nice to have, but again, I’m not sure how you make that work. I’d like to see the Hurricanes try to find another defenseman that can play on the power play, likely to replace Ethan Bear. I’m not sure who that will be, and to be honest, I haven’t looked at pending free agents around the league.

These questions are fairly similar so I’m going to go ahead and answer them both here. First, the organization’s depth is amazing. We have a number of prospects that project to play in the NHL and the Hurricanes have one of the deepest pipelines in the entire NHL. They’ve done a great job of holding onto their prospects in the past two seasons, too. A lot of teams would be envious of the depth the Hurricanes have and the future looks bright. At the AHL level, the Hurricanes have Kochetkov just starting to tap into his potential, Drury ready to take the next step in the NHL and Joey Keane ready for an NHL role. Jamieson Rees, Ryan Suzuki, Vasiliy Ponomaryov and Noel Gunler are all promising prospects. Outside of the AHL, the Hurricanes have prospects such as Ville Koivunen, Aleksi Heimosalmi, Scott Morrow and Massimo Rizzo to get excited about, along with quite a few other names. Still, the thing I keep coming back to is the fact that the Hurricanes lack a true top prospect. Yes, Scott Morrow is the best prospect in the system in terms of upside, but there isn’t a single truly elite prospect in the Hurricanes’ system. There was last year, but Seth Jarvis is now in the NHL. That’s a positive, right?

If anything, I’d like to see the Hurricanes add a left winger or two at the draft. That’s the only thing on my wish list that would be possible for the Hurricanes to achieve. Of course I’d love a truly elite prospect, but picking in the back half of the second round isn’t going to yield one of those. At least not right away, that is. The Hurricanes have Patrik Puistola and Alexander Pashin on the left wing, and with Pashin likely joining the Wolves next season, the depth looks a little better. But that’s about it, and even if some of our center prospects convert to the wing, it’s still fairly thin. The Hurricanes shored up their blue line depth in a massive way this past draft, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they add a winger or two in the upcoming draft.