The Carolina Hurricanes
Previous Year's Team Stats
35 wins, 37 losses, 10 OTL, 80 points, 24th overall in the league
It was a rough campaign in Raleigh last season as the Hurricanes came in 11th in their conference while going through the painful process of switching from a veteran team to a youth movement. Last season also saw the end of legend Rob Brind'Amour, along with a string of costly injuries it turned out to be a largely dissatisfying season for the Carolina faithful. The Hurricanes have a lot of questions about their talent level and haven't done much to address them this off-season, however the franchise will enter this season mostly healthy while looking to some of their young players to contribute.
Up front the Hurricanes offense is carried by superstar Eric Staal who is absolutely an elite center, but has struggled from time to time due to the lack of talent surrounding him. However Staal still managed to put up a point-per-game performance last season and will look to improve on his numbers. Behind Staal this season will be Brandon Sutterwho had a breakout season by scoring 40 points in 72 games during his sophomore campaign. Look for him to improve again this upcoming season and make his name as a solid two-way center. The second most deadly weapon in the Hurricanes arsenal is streaky sniper Jussi Jokinen. Jokinen has found his place in Carolina and brought home the bacon by having a career year in 2009-10. While it would be rather optimistic to expect Jokinen improve on these totals, look for him to repeat his numbers as he will likely play with Staal and get a significant amount of offensive minutes. To say that Tuomo Ruutu has had a rocky career is being generous, but the gritty Finn was much heralded when he entered the league and its his injury woes that have held his career down; essentially keeping him from gaining any momentum through an entire NHL season. Even as I write this, he is listed as questionable for the start of Hurricanes training camp with a shoulder injury. Simply put, Ruutu remains a high risk fantasy option. Speaking of walking wounded power forwards, Erik Cole has been cited as one of the best in the league (when healthy). While that hasn't been the case in a few years now, Cole will look to slot in a top-6 role for the Hurricanes this season, but he remains a very shaky option for fantasy owners.
The Hurricanes will also be looking to two young players to fill in on the wings this season; Jiri Tlusty and Zach Boychuk. Tlusty, a Maple Leafs refugee, signed a one-year, one-way contract from this Hurricanes this off-season and will look to make his mark on the NHL from Carolina's third line. The Hurricanes are also looking to Boychuk to play his first full season and contribute in an offensive role, something that he more than capable of doing. Hurricanes fans have given a lot of praise to grinder Chad LaRose likening his game and progression to that of ECHLer turned NHL first-liner Alex Burrows. LaRose found himself playing on the top line with Staal last year and could very well find himself there again if the 'Canes offense hiccups. Rounding out the forward group is young center Riley Nash, versatile center Patrick Dwyer, gritty middle-weight Tom Kostopoulous, and Russian train wreck Sergei Samsonov. Also look for recent draftee Jeff Skinner to get nine games with the Hurricanes this season.
The Hurricanes defense looks to be a talented group in the offensive zone but somewhat suspect in the defensive zone. Carolina does boast one of the most underrated blue line in the league. Joni Pitkanen is one of the best offensive defensemen in the league and puts up elite numbers every season. He is a strong fantasy defensemen and ofter overlooked, or drafted well below his fantasy value. The Hurricanes have also improved their defense by returning to the fold solid defensemanAnton Babchuk who is back from the KHL after defecting due to a dispute with management before the 2009-10 season. Babchuk is a talented, big defenseman who can play in all situations and will see minutes on both of Carolina's special teams. Tim Gleason will likely carry the second pairing and is considered a good all-around minutes eater who will look to get the bulk of short-handed minutes for the squad. Likely playing on the second pairing with Gleason will be rookie standout Jamie McBain. McBain exploded from the back-end last season with 10 points in 14 games and he makes for a great pick in the mid-rounds of your fantasy drafts; he is also being called a dark horse candidate for the Calder Trophy. Also brought in this year is retread and offensive-minded Joe Corvo to round out their D corps. The final spots will go to one of their youngsters; Jay Harrison, Brett Carson, or Bobby Sanguinetti.
The Hurricanes are blessed to have perennial top-10 goalie Cam Ward minding their net. Ward had a disappointed season last year winding up with a losing record for the first time in his career and sustaining a costly back injury, however he has (reportedly) fully recovered from the injury and is prepared to open the season in the familiar role as number one goalie. This is the year where Ward must bust through his top-10 label and define himself as an elite goalie in the league. The back-up this season in Carolina will be surprising youngster Justin Peters, who played in Ward's absence last season and did a very respectable job posting a 6-3 record in nine games. Look for Peters to get ten to fifteen starts this year and win about half of those games.
The Hurricanes will use this year to develop their youngsters and see how far their core can carry them. It would be pretty lofty to consider the Hurricanes a playoff team right now with the talent they have on paper and the significant injury history in their forwards group. However, the franchise boasts a few elite players and will hopefully get 70 games of Ward, making them a team that could look to surprise. I'd look for Carolina to come in somewhere between 20th-24th in the league.
BVB Projected Opening Night Line-Up
Eric Staal - 35 G/50 A 85 P
Jussi Jokinen - 26 G/30 A 56 P
Tuomo Ruutu - 17 G/26 A 43 P
Brandon Sutter - 27 G/30 A 57 P
Zach Boychuk - 14 G/20 A 34 P
Erik Cole - 20 G/22 A 44 P
Riley Nash - 10 G/15 A 25 P
Chad LaRose 15 G/17 A 32 P
Sergei Samsonov - 15 G/15 A 30 P
Patrick Dwyer - 8 G/8 A 16 P
Nick Dodge - 3 G/5 A 8 P
Tom Kostopoulos - 6 G/11 A 17 P
Joni Pitkanen - 9 G/38 A 47 P
Joni Pitkanen - 9 G/38 A 47 P
Anton Babchuk - 11 G/20 A 31 P
Tim Gleason - 4 G/18 A 22 P
Jamie McBain - 8 G/26 A 34 P
Joe Corvo - 5 G/12 A 17 P
Brett Carson - 1 G/11 A 12 P
Cam Ward 33-30-7 | 2.43 GAA | .919 Sv%
Cam Ward 33-30-7 | 2.43 GAA | .919 Sv%
Justin Peters 7-4-1 | 2.77 GAA | .907 Sv%