If I had to pick a team to break out this year like Columbus did last season, it would be the Carolina Hurricanes. They have an excellent young core in place, especially on the blue line, and now they may finally an answer in net. After being dragged down by a few different goalies (mostly Cam Ward), Scott Darling now gets his chance to be a #1 goalie. If his performance in Chicago is a predictor for the future, Darling should be just what the Hurricanes need to make the jump. Let’s take a look at what Carolina is working with:
Elite Talent – This is what I wrote about Jeff Skinner in my top 50: “I may end up sliding Skinner down a few spots when I update but for now, I’m putting him at 30th overall. Skinner had a terrific season scoring 37 goals on a whopping 281 shots. If his power play points go up, he won’t have an issue paying off this draft slot. The team around him is drastically improving so that should happen. I’m a big fan of the entire Carolina team and Skinner leads that charge.” And that’s me copying and pasting me copying what Grey does! Those goals and shot rate are incredible and Skinner is still only 25 years old. That’s insane given that he is going into year 8. Consider him in the third round.
Must Draft – Sebastian Aho had a very strong rookie season scoring 24 goals and 25 assists with an average shot rate. He played in all situations and should see an increased workload in year two. Would it shock me if Aho scored 30 goals? Not at all. 30+ assists? Certainly possible. He’ll probably be outside of my top 100 but he won’t be far off; Aho’s upside is through the roof.
Elias Lindholm finished last season on an absolute tear to finish with 45 points in 72 games. That’s a 51 point pace. Assuming that his power play assists go back up, I think Lindholm can get to 60 points. Sure, it’s going to be assist heavy, but Lindholm could have a season like Alexander Wennberg did last season, just with more shots on goal.
Late Round Fliers – Getting Teuvo Teravainen from Chicago last season was an excellent move for a rebuilding team. Teravainen was decent in his first year in Raleigh scoring 15 goals and 27 assists with an okay shot rate. The good news is that Teravainen will only be 23 years old when the season starts and he should be in the top six all year. The penalty minutes are low and the shot rate isn’t great which is the only reason he’s listed as a late round flier. There’s plenty of upside here so Teravainen is one of my favorite choices for my last pick or two in 12’ers.
Can Victor Rask take a step forward this season? Like Teravainen and Lindholm, the non-points stats for fantasy aren’t that great for Rask. Around 20 goals and 30 assists seem likely for Rask. Maybe he can take another step, especially if his linemates keep improving, but I’m not counting on it. He has a lot more value in deep leagues for his safety but in standard 12’ers, I think he’s an elite streamer who will have stretches of being a hold.
Safe Streamers – After leaving in 2009, Justin Williams has returned to the Hurricanes. Williams was very good last season for the Capitals scoring 24 goals and 24 assists with 50 PIM. My concern is that his shot rate dropped and he’ll be 36 when the season starts. I also think there’s a good chance he starts on the third line which is a drop from where he was in Washington. Williams will be fine but I don’t see him becoming a hold.
You can write Jordan Staal down for 45-50 points with okay PIM and SOG. The reason he’s in this category is because he’s never been a good power play player. This is about to be year 12 so I don’t see that changing for Staal. Staal is much more useful in real life than in fantasy.
At this point, I don’t think Lee Stempniak quite makes streamer level this season, mostly because his role should decrease. However, I’m mentioning him here in case I’m off base because he did have 40 points last season.
Must Draft – Justin Faulk is a tough player to gauge for fantasy. On one hand, he’s scored at least 15 goals each of the past three seasons with an elite shot rate. On the other hand, Faulk has been at least -18 in each of those seasons. His PDO is laughably bad which hints towards the plus-minus fixing itself. The team improving around him makes that more likely as well. Take Faulk as your #3D knowing that he could give you enough value to be a #2.
Will Any Of You Breakout? – I love Carolina’s defensemen in real life but I’m not sure any of them will be worth owning in 12’ers. If I had to pick one, it would be Noah Hanifin. Usually a defenseman finds his offensive game in year four but perhaps Hanifin will do it in year three. The former top 10 pick scored 4 goals and 25 assists last season. The problem is that his shot rate is poor and the penalty minutes aren’t great. That could be cancelled out by an increase in ice time but I’m not counting on it. I’m leaving him on the waiver wire.
Jaccob Slavin is working his way into elite company as far as young defenseman in the league go. Like the other Carolina defensemen besides Faulk, Slavin gives you poor shots and PIM. 12 PIM and 99 SOG in 82 games isn’t going to get it done. I think his power play time will be gone as well so I’m not expecting a breakout here either.
Trevor van Riemsdyk should play on the third pair and probably the second power play unit. He’s a decent gamble in deep leagues but the minutes won’t be there for him to be 12’er worthy.
As mentioned in the opening, Scott Darling is a #1 goalie for the first time in his career. Darling posted a .924 save percentage last season in 32 games bringing his career totals to a .923 in 75 games. He’s slightly risky since he’s never had this kind of workload but it wouldn’t shock me at all if he’s this season’s Cam Talbot. Darling will probably crack my top 100 because I want him on all of my teams as my #2 goalie.
The corpse of Cam Ward remains in Carolina but now as the backup. Ward hasn’t had a save percentage better than .910 in five seasons so don’t even stream him when he starts.
HITS / BLOCKS / FACEOFF LEAGUES
Staal gets a nice boost for his solid hit totals and was excellent at the dot. Otherwise, there are no players on the team that are great in these categories. Skinner and Teravainen drop considerably while Rask and Aho take a slight hit as well.
This team is incredibly young boosting a ton of their players in dynasties. Aho jumps the most since he’s still only 20 years old. Lindholm becomes a firm must-draft as well. I’m more likely to take a late pick on Teravainen in dynasty formats while Skinner and Rask get marginal boosts. On the blue line, Hanifin becomes must-draft since the offense will come around eventually. Faulk also gets a slight bump.
Blue Chip – I’m sure the Hurricanes are hoping that Martin Necas is their last lottery pick for some time. The Czech center is an offensive player who has explosive speed and is willing to go into the tough areas. He’ll still be in the Czech League this season but if you’re willing to wait a year or two for Necas to get to North America, he could pay big dividends.
I’m a big fan of Jake Bean‘s potential. Bean skates incredibly well and has great offensive instincts. He was over a point per game last season in the WHL and I expect that to happen again. Bean is still a couple years away but the former first round pick can definitely be a top four, PPQB type of player if things pan out. That’s a guy we want in all fantasy leagues.
Haydn Fleury‘s overall numbers in the AHL last season aren’t great but he did take a big step in the second half. The former seventh overall pick has a decent chance of cracking the opening night lineup for Carolina this season but if not, he should be the first recall. Most people consider him to be the top Hurricane prospects but Fleury isn’t my favorite from a fantasy perspective.
That’s all for now guys. A small change of plans in terms of the schedule this week: Reid and I will be recording a podcast today before he goes on vacation so that will go up on Tuesday. If all goes to plan, my top 100 will come out on Wednesday morning. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. Thanks for reading, take care!