We are currently in what I refer to as the "doldrums" of the NHL off-season, meaning that the "madness" of free agency has gone by and there isn't much news except for maybe one or two signings per day. It's a little boring if you're a hockey blogger like me, but it's also nice because it gives you some extra down time to work on other projects. One feature that I have had in mind for awhile is leaching off the Oilers blog Copper & Blue's idea of going through the organization's best players who are under the age of 25. This isn't limited to only prospects because having young talent in the system is important to any team and not just the ones who are rebuilding. The core of every team eventually starts to age and a new crop of young talent has to replace them when that time comes.
This is why having good organizational depth is important and it's never a bad thing to have a lot of quality players in your system who are under 25. Every player is different but the general rule of thumb is that a player enters their "prime years" in their mid-20's and they continue to get better until then. Most player who are under 25 still haven't come into their own and are still fixing the possible holes they might have in their games. The absolute ceiling of most young is always unknown, so having a lot of younger guys with solid potential is a must for every organization. Of course, many young players don't end up being much more than third liners, role players or career AHL-ers, but there's nothing wrong with getting as much young talent as possible and seeing what it can develop into.
The purpose of this feature is to examine the quality of the Hurricanes system and what some of these young players can do for them in the next few years. I will be featuring one player per day, discuss their most recent season, their development and what kind of potential they are showing and explain my ranking. My rankings are based on what they have done so far rather than what kind of potential they show. In addition to that, this feature should spark some discussion about what needs should be addressed in future drafts and trades. Before we dig into the rankings, I will talk about some players who didn't make the cut.
Before going through the rankings, we are going to discuss some of the players who didn't make the cut.
AJ Jenks - Acquired in the trade with Florida involving Jon Matsumoto and Mattias Lidstrom back in January. Jenks is a good sized forward and has some scoring upside but he was having an awful season before being traded to Charlotte. He began to play better once the Checkers traded for him and he was able to fit in as a solid bottom-six player there. However, I'm not sure if he can be more than that at the pro level. One nice thing is that Jenks has cut down on taking penalties since jumping to the AHL, which is good because that was one of his biggest problems in junior hockey.
Michal Jordan - Jordan was one of the final cuts on this list because he had a good season with the Checkers and was second among defensemen in points. He is also only 21 years old and has been quite a pleasant surprise for the Checkers ever since he made the team a couple years ago. Jordan was also 2nd among defensemen in shots on goal and 10th on the team. His game isn't anything spectacular but he's a solid enough defenseman who might have a future in the NHL if he can impress enough people. Unfortunately for him, the Hurricanes prospect pool is already well-stocked with defensemen and it's hard for Jordan to stand out amongst the pack.
Joe Sova - Sova was acquired from the Devils in the Alexei Ponikarovsky trade and he hasn't gotten the chance to do much with the Hurricanes organization yet. He recorded four assists in 20 games with the Checkers and played seven games during the Florida Everblades playoff run, recording three points in the process. The book is still out on him but he hasn't done much to impress me so far. I do like what he brings to the table, though. Decent size and a great shot form the point, so he could at least be a good contributor for Charlotte next season.
Jared Staal - Recorded six points in 37 games with the Charlotte Checkers last season and was mainly stuck on the bottom-six. The other Staal brother needs to make more of an impact if he wants to have a future in the NHL. He didn't exactly do that last season.
Tommi Kivisto - Much like Sova and Jordan, Kivisto hasn't been a large standout among the Hurricanes surplus of defensemen in their system. He had four points in 26 games with Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League last season, which isn't impressive but producing offense isn't exaclty his job description. Still, he hasn't done enough to stand out in the Hurricanes system.
Brett Bellemore - Bellemore is a fine shutdown defenseman at the AHL level and that's about all you can say about him. He's a tough player and has the size and the strength to be a good stay-at-home defenseman and that's what he has been in Charlotte/Albany for the last few seasons. It's unknown whether or not he can take on NHL competition but he hasn't been able to make the team out of camp while he's been under contract and other players have been turned to before him if a call-up is needed. That should tell you a little bit about him, but he's definitely a very important player on the Checkers.
Tyler Stahl - Stahl played only 20 games last season due to a concussion and didn't produce much when he was healthy and spent a lot of time in the penalty box.
Rasmus Rissanen - Rissanen had a okay rookie season with the Checkers and served his role as a defensive defenseman. His game is similar to Stahl's where he is more known for his toughness and has the tendency to take a lot of penalties.
Matt Mahalak - Posted a .923 save percentage in 30 games with the Plymouth Whalers last season. I almost considered putting him on the list because of his numbers there but he played fewer games and much fewer minutes than starter Scott Wedgewood, so I'm going to wait and see how he does as a starter. I've been impressed with what he's done so far, though.
Gregory Hofmann - Hofmann was thought to be one of the organization's more underrated prospects but he had a disappointing year all-around. He registered only 6 points in 34 games in the Swiss-A league and didn't play as much of a role as he could have in the World Juniors for Team Switzerland. Hofmann is known more as a two-way forward but he didn't do enough to stand out in my eyes.
Dan Altshuller - One of the three Hurricanes third round selections this year, Altshuller had a good season with the Oshawa Generals and was named rookie goaltender of the year in the OHL. Like Malahak, I would like to see what he can do as a starter before I put him in the top 25.
Brendan Coller - Coller is straight out of high school, so we will have to wait and see what he does against tougher competition before we consider him a top prospect.
Erik Karlsson - This is one of the players who is projected to be one of the "steals" for the Hurricanes in this year's draft. He's definitely got an impressive scouting report and sounds like someone who can possibly contribute in the NHL but as of right now, he's only 17 and hasn't played outside of junior hockey yet. We'll just have to play the waiting game here.
Brock McGinn - McGinn was a third-liner with the Guelph Storm last season and that's where he supposedly projects to be in the NHL. I guess that's the most the Hurricanes can wish for at this point, but we can always hope for more.
Trevor Carrick - A safe, sound defensive defenseman, Carrick has the makings of a future NHL-er but I'm never sure what to expect with stay-at-home defensemen. He's definitely a nice player but there are other defensemen in the system who rank above him right now.
Jacob Slavin - Again, another defenseman who has other above him who rank higher but that could change if he has an outstanding freshman campaign at Colorado College.
Collin Olson - Olson will be a freshman at Ohio State next season and it's undetermined whether or not he will be the starting net-minder there. Regardless, we should know more about him by this time next year.
Brendan Woods - Woods was mostly a third/fourth-liner and a "grit"-type player at Wisconsin during his freshman year. Let's see how he goes from there.
Stay tuned as I will kick off the list sometime later today.