The loveable losers that are the Carolina Hurricanes can’t seem to catch a break. Since their improbable Stanley Cup winning run back in the 2005-06 season, the Hurricanes have missed the playoffs in 10 of 11 seasons. I say loveable, but what I really mean is that no one actually hates this team…well, except maybe for some old Hartford Whalers fans. You know who you are.
There are some rumors floating around that general manager Ron Francis might be looking to make a splash via the trade route. It might not be a bad idea to bring in an experienced forward with some offensive abilities. Without 28-year-old Jordan Staal factored in, the balance of the top six forwards average 22 years of age.
The eye of the hurricane is rising star Sebastian Aho. The 19-year-old winger had a successful rookie campaign, recording 24 goals and 49 points in 82 games. Post All-Star game, Aho scored at a 55-point pace. He put the finishing touches on this year with a very good performance for the fourth place Finnish squad at the World Championships. Aho led the team with 11 points in 10 games
2015-16 was also a good one for Aho. He scored 20 goals and 45 points in 45 games for Karpat in Finland’s top league and had 15 more points in 14 playoff games. He also played a significant role for a stacked Finland club that won the World Junior Championship. Aho recorded14 points in seven games, behind only Jesse Puljujarvi and one point ahead of Patrik Laine. Aho finished that last season by winning silver at the World Championship, registering seven points in 10 games.
What will the upcoming season hold for this fantastic Finn? Will he take a step back in his sophomore season or will he take it to the next level? With his history of offensive prowess, I’m betting that he takes another step forward.
In his first year in Carolina, Teravainen set new career highs in games played, goals, assists, points, power-play points and shots on goal. There is still lots of room for improvement, though.
At one time, Teravainen was considered the best player outside of the NHL. Before making the trip across the pond, he scored 44 points in 49 games in Finland’s top league. During that season, he made his final appearance at the World Junior Championship, recording 15 points in seven games, leading the Finns to gold while finishing atop the scoring race.
Teravainen is a pending restricted free agent, but odds are pretty favourable that he’ll re-sign in Carolina. He received top-six ice time and was in the mix for top power-play minutes. Once his contract is dealt with, look for the twin Finns to be reunited, as he and Sebastain Aho spent approximately 50 percent of their even-strength ice time on the same line and for both of them to improve upon their career bests.
Another one of Carolina’s young guns is Elias Lindholm. While just 22 years old, he already has 293 NHL games under his belt and will be entering his fifth NHL campaign. His point totals have been trending up with last season’s 45 points in 72 games being his best yet.
The 45 points are a baby step forward after back-to-back 39 point efforts from the fifth overall selection from the 2013 NHL entry draft. Lindholm recorded seven points in 10 World Championship games for the champion Swedes. He will also help out in rotisserie leagues, contributing about 110 hits annually.
There might also be additional motivation to take a step forward offensively, considering it’s a contract year — if you put any stock into that as a motivating factor. With a decent performance this season, Lindholm could double his $2.9M salary ($2.7M cap hit), so it might be worth keeping that in mind at your draft.
In his final year of junior hockey, Jeff Skinner scored 50 goals and 90 points in 64 games. He then added another 20 goals and 33 points in 20 playoff games. Skinner made the leap to the NHL directly from junior and garnered rookie of the year honors, netting 31 goals and 63 points.
This year, the 25-year-old winger managed to record a career-best 37 goals and matched the 63 points he had in his inaugural season. Playing for Canada at the World Championship after his NHL season was over, Skinner had nine points in 10 games and appears to have regained his scoring touch.
So what to do on draft day? Most poolies will drop Skinner down their draft lists because they will be worried about him missing time or suffering another concussion. Over the last three seasons, Skinner has played 79, 82 and 77 games. I have no trouble predicting another 35-goal campaign with 60 to 65 points.
A Word About Plus/Minus
For those that put any stock that the plus/minus statistic as an indicator of defensive prowess, let’s take a look at some very interesting numbers from this season.
Jaccob Slavin and Brett “Joe” Pesce were paired up nearly 70 percent of the time while at even strength. Both finished the season plus-23. The next closest Hurricane was Lee Stempniak at plus-2. It’s just odd that two of the team’s top four defensemen can be so far ahead of anyone else on the team. Slavin was second in even-strength ice time and Pesce was fourth. I didn’t catch enough Carolina games this past season to discover whether they are that much better than Justin Faulk and his minus-18 and why. Maybe they are really good at knowing when to change lines!?
While Slavin and Pesce are fine players, surely no one would say that Ekman-Larsson or Ekblad are worse defensively, would they? There is a massive 48-point difference in the plus/minus numbers between Slavin/Pesce and Ekman-Larsson. Even taking into consideration that Arizona is a bad team, how much better is Carolina?
I’m sure that there is some support for selective use of plus/minus as a beneficial statistic, but anytime one player makes a mistake or a goalie lets in a bad goal and everyone on the ice at the time, even if you just jumped over the boards, gets a MINUS, well that makes no sense. They even ding you with a minus if you did your job to perfection. Conversely, if you had absolutely nothing to do with your team scoring the goal, you still get rewarded just for being on the ice? I just can’t get on board.
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