The Carolina Hurricanes seem to be having a bit of a resurgence this offseason. After the departure of former head coach Bill Peters, Hurricane great Rod Brind’Amour is now in charge of taking the players he has been responsible for developing to the next level. The bottom line for this next level is making the playoffs.
With a new face in the front office, the Hurricanes will additionally add another new face with the second overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. The Buffalo Sabres, holders of the first pick, are widely rumored to be 100% set with drafting Rasmus Dahlin of Sweeden. Given the Canes don’t trade away their pick (Please God, don’t let this happen) they have every right to Russian winger sensation Andrei Svechnikov.
The 20-year-old shooter has been on a scoring tear ever since he could put on gloves, sniping 40 goals in just 44 games for the OHL’s Barrie Colts last season. To really convince you, the left-handed shooter scored 31 goals at just 15 years of age in his home country of Russia while also recording a 29 goal, 58 point season in the USHL in 2016.
Needless to say, he brings offense which any NHL team welcomes with open arms. The Hurricanes struggled on offense last season ranking 23rd in goals per game. They would often explode for five or six goals every once in a while, but the offense was inconsistent for the most part.
There is no denying the offensive talent on the depth chart in Sebastian Aho, Jeff Skinner, Teuvo Teravainen, and Valentin Zykov but the Canes did not utilize their lines to their potential last season. Sebastian Aho logged some terrific minutes when placed at center but was only put there in meaningless games after playoff elimination. Brind’Amour can use his extensive knowledge of these players and their talents and, hopefully, make effective lines for the team.
So among all these forwards, where will Svechnikov fit? While he is an offensive specimen, it’s doubtful that he’ll start right away. Fellow Russian winger Valentin Zykov enjoyed a wildly successful season on the team’s AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, in 2017 (33 goals, 54 points) and will likely be playing most of his minutes in the NHL this year. It’s safe to say the front zone of the ice will be crowded with talent.
The TSA line (consisting of Jordan Staal, Sebastian Aho, and Teuvo Teravainen) proved to be the shining light for the squad last season, so a change in the first line is doubtful. Brind’Amour would be foolish to mess up the only positive takeaway of 2017.
Jeff Skinner, who was Carolina’s premier forward before Aho caught fire, played on the third line for a majority of the season. This was one of Bill Peters’ biggest mistakes. Many forget Skinner was a prolific goal when he was the star in Carolina and his offensive value surely has not declined in the last two years. You would think he would have to be the front man of the show on any line but that was not the case.
It would make sense to pair Svechnikov with old-timer Justin Williams so that he could learn under the experienced tutor. While Skinner and Williams in the same line sounds enticing, the young man needs to develop.
At center, there are a plethora of interesting combinations Brind’Amour could use. Hopefully, the team will re-sign Derek Ryan in free agency, as he has proved to be one of the more consistent and all-around players on the team. I don’t see Ryan getting pushed down to the third or fourth line, though.
This leaves Victor Rask or Elias Lindholm. Each of these centers has had a similar story in the NHL, being drafted high and not meeting expectations but not being terrible. Each has found their footing recently but both still have plenty to improve on.
Lindholm is finally starting to grow his game into what the team wanted and could soon be a much better player. Lindholm is a multi-tooled guy, bringing a lot of IQ and playmaking to the offensive side. He knows how to push the puck up the ice and is great at finding the gaps in the defense to feed his teammates. Having a center like Lindholm (who could dish out more than his career-high 34 assists this season) would help Svechnikov gain confidence in his shot and get a lot of looks.
I think Lindholm would be the better option because you’re putting some solid experience into a lower lineup. This would help develop the younger guys that are coming onto the ice but let’s not forget at this point we need more than just development. We need the guys that have been on the team for a few years to step up and make it happen. If the team wants to reap the benefits of drafting a talent like Svechnikov, the Canes must find a style of hockey that works first.
It may be a familiar scene but the NHL Draft is one of the few places the Hurricanes earn national attention. New owner Tom Dundon has led an optimistic re-model of the organization so far but things don’t always seem to go right for the Canes on draft day.
Svechnikov is a wondrous talent and it would be unwise to pass on him. The Hurricanes have a chance at building an offensive juggernaut and this upcoming season will determine the effectiveness and possibility of that idea. Let’s see if they can put it all together instead of tearing it all apart.