This may sound like blasphemy to some people, but Chad LaRose was one of the Hurricanes better forwards last season. No, he doesn't have the best skillset, never puts up dazzling numbers and was probably over-slotting in the top-six but he did a lot of good things for this club that got overlooked. LaRose is never going to be known as a goal-scoring threat or a top forward but an area that he managed to excel in last season was being able to create a lot of offense and drive possession at even strength for the Canes. Oh, and he managed to be one of the few Carolina players who was able to do this while taking the majority of his even strength shifts in the defensive zone and be matched up against tough competition. On a team that was beaten so badly territorially at even strength, that says a lot.
Unfortunately, LaRose's hard work has never led to much success in terms of boxcar stats. He has a couple of 19 goal seasons under his belt but his career high in points is only 32, which really isn't a lot for someone who has spent time in the top-six. LaRose did miss 15 games last season and was on the receiving end of some bad puck luck (he had the 34th worst PDO in the NHL) so you could make the case for him having a better season if he was healthy and had a few bounces go his way. While that might be true, I still don't think LaRose's ceiling is that high. Injuries are one thing but LaRose has always had a low shooting percentage over his career and neither has his on-ice shooting percentage. A low shooting percentage in one season can be blamed on bad luck, but there comes a point to when you start to believe there is something more keeping a player back when it happens on a yearly basis.
Outside of Eric Staal and some of the teams other top forwards over the years, LaRose is usually among the Canes shot leaders but has struggled to score on a consistent basis and it wouldn't surprise me if this relates to him having somewhat of a limited skillset. We'll discuss this in more detail later, but I think most Canes fansd know what to expect from Mr. LaRose by now. He's the type of player who will work hard every shift, give you 12-19 goals in a season and play any role that the coach staff asks him to. Last season, he was utilized throughout the lineup and played on just about every line at least once. The Canes had a lot of forward depth issues and LaRose was able to help out by being somewhat useful in just about every role.
Now that the Canes project to have a much stronger top-six and forward corps in general, where does LaRose fit into the equation? His ability to drive possession and hold his ground against tough competition makes him a top candidate for the third line and with the lockout ruining training camp, he may have less competition for that spot whenever the season starts. A third line role is pretty much an ideal situation for a player like LaRose, but what kind of impact will it have on his numbers? We will take a closer look at that after the jump.