2018 will be a year full of fresh starts for the Carolina Hurricanes. A new head coach, new personnel, and a new starting line-up are on the horizon for the team’s 21st season.
While fans may get this “fresh” feeling at the start of every season, this one feels truly different under a new coach with a slew of young talent waiting to be tested. Even with the hype surrounding young stars Andrei Svechnikov and Valentin Zykov, there are plenty of older faces around that could still represent the organization.
Rod Brind’Amour has made it clear the team will only have one captain this season, as opposed to sporting two co-captains, which is what Bill Peters went with last season. Depending on who is chosen, the captain could be the face of the team. Veteran winger Justin Williams is a favorite entering the season, with his “hockey-dad” demeanor and long, flowing mane.
Jordan Staal is another guy with just about every reason to be captain. The Stanley Cup-winning center showed an incredible display of courage and grit last season when he and his wife’s child, Hannah, was stillborn. Staal missed some time while being with his family but returned in less than two weeks. I have never been a huge Jordan Staal fan, but for any person to go through that and still show commitment to the team is impressive. I think every single Carolina fan would be honored to have number 11 representing the team as captain.
However, the most offensively versatile and successful player on the team will likely be the guy selling all the jerseys and putting butts in seats. Connor McDavid. Sidney Crosby. Alexander Ovechkin. These are the types of players that represent a franchise. With longtime goal scoring expert Jeff Skinner gone, the race for that spot is wide open.
Forward Sebastian Aho is already leading the charge after a 29 goal, 65 point campaign last season. The young Finn has shown incredible potential and if Brind’Amour moves him to the center spot permanently with success, there is no telling how many points the gifted youngster could earn.
The Hurricanes did have the fortunate pleasure of having the second overall pick in this year’s draft, which led to the selection of winger Andrei Svechnikov. With any high draft pick, much of the spotlight will be on him. He scored 40 goals in just 44 games for the OHL’s Barrie Colts last season while scoring 31 goals at just 15 years of age in his home country of Russia. Don’t forget he also recorded a 29 goal, 58 point season in the USHL in 2016.
If he can reproduce numbers like these, there is no doubt his face will cover the walls of PNC Arena. Fellow Russian Valentin Zykov has a high potential as well after the leading the AHL in goals while taking the Charlotte Checkers to the playoffs last year. If they both see the ice enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Russians assume a “dynamic duo” role.
To top it all off, rookie center Martin Necas will have a lot of responsibility placed on his shoulders as well. While fans are hoping he is ready to carry that weight on his shoulders, the 19-year-old Czech may need a lot more work.
At the end of the day, in my opinion, the spotlight will be on Aho. The community has already started to gather around him and if he is ready for a full-time role at the center spot, he could be leading the team in jersey sales and on the stat sheet.
With the season a mere month away, the “franchise player” will become more apparent as we get closer to puck drop.
Who do you think will be the face of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2018?