If there is one thing the Hurricanes seem to have a lot of, it is talented forward prospects with questionable NHL futures. Between Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman, Riley Nash, Jeremy Welsh and Jerome Samson, I'm sure the Hurricanes will be satisfied if they can get at least two full-time NHL-ers out of that pack. The expectations for some of these players was once higher than it was now, but the truth with just about any prospect is that you never really know what you'll get out of them and the best you can hope is for them to have at least some future as an NHL-er. Every player listed above at least has some NHL experience and Bowman is looking like he is ready to be a third-liner at the next level, so the future isn't completely uncertain for them. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for one of Carolina's lesser-known prospects, Chris Terry.
A fifth round pick from the 2005 draft, Terry has been a very productive goal-scorer and offensive player at just about every level he has played in. He led the Charlotte Checkers in points last year 59 points in 74 games and was their leading goal-scorer the year before. Terry was also a very accomplished goal-scorer in junior hockey, as he was one of the Plymouth Whalers top point-getters in all of his last three seasons there. The fact that he has been able to carry over his productive from juniors to the pros should be a good sign as far as his development goes but for whatever reason, Terry has yet to be given a shot at the NHL level. Terry would likely have only stuck around for 10-15 games at the max given that's what happens to most call-ups but it is a little odd that he has yet to receive a shot in the NHL when you consider that he has been waiver exempt and one of Charlotte's most productive players.
The issue with Terry not receiving a shot with the Hurricanes yet likely stems from the timing of each situation. Terry's numbers in the AHL have always been impressive but he is lower on the prospect totem pole than Dalpe, Boychuk and Bowman. Those three were always more likely to get a call for a two-week stint in the NHL just to see what they can do and what their future looks like. Terry is also a goal-scorer whose skillset is more suited for a top-six role, so when the Hurricanes needed call up someone to plug in on one of the bottom-two lines, it was going to be Brett Sutter or Jerome Samson since they have more experience in those roles. Unfortunately, during the Maurice era, Dalpe and Boychuk would also get slotted into those roles but that's another issue for another day. The main point here is that Terry has always been in kind of a tough spot when it comes to getting NHL experience and it makes you wonder if he will ever get a shot with the Hurricanes.
Perhaps a better question is whether or not Terry has an NHL future at all. Sure, his numbers are good but there are tons of players who have been able to dominate at lower levels while not amounting to much of anything at the NHL. Does Terry fall into this class? Right now, it's tough to say because he has yet to be given a shot there and is going to lose a year thanks to the lockout. He may get a chance someday but it may come when he isn't with the Hurricanes organization. Should that happen, are the Hurricanes going to be missing out on anything special? A way to find out is to look at some comparable players to Terry and see what they did in the NHL.
It's hard to find players who are exactly comparable to Terry, but the criteria for him is to look for players who spent four years in juniors from age 16-20 and spent the majority of their time in the AHL or a comparable league after that. I also looked for players who were selected in the same range of the draft as him and were very successful scorers in their junior years. As you can probably guess, there weren't many close matches and the ones who were didn't have very long NHL career, if any at all.
One of the few successful players who had a similar career path to Terry was Jason Pominville, a very successful top-six forward and goal-scorer who has played in 541 games. Even then, Pominville didn't have his first "full" season in juniors until he was 17 years old and was able to make the NHL when he turned 23 years old. Terry's 23-year old season is this curernt one and he was considered a longshot at best to make the Canes roster out of camp. Pominville was also taken much higher in the draft than Terry was. Still, the two are similar in size and don't differ that much in terms of playing style, so I don't think it is an outlandish comparison. Pominville is probably the "best case scenario" for Terry, though and there is probably less than a 5% chance of hm having the type of career that Pominville had.
The next longest tenured player I found similar to Terry was John Mitchell, currently with the New York Rangers. Mitchellw was selected in the same range of the draft as Terry and very good offensive numbers during his final two years with the Plymouth Whalers, when he was 18 and 19 years old respectively. Mitchell then went onto play in the AHL for three years with the Toronto Marlies and had only one really productive year offensively which was in 2007-08 when he had 20 goals and 51 points in 79 games. He made the Leafs at 23-years of age the following season and was mostly a third/fourth line tweener, which is basically what he is now as a member of the New York Rangers. Terry and Mitchell differ in terms of size and the fact that Mitchell is more suited for a third/fourth line role than Terry is. In the end, though, he is a replacement level player.
Other comparables I found for Terry include Evan McGrath, Francois Groleau, Ramzi Abid, Yanick Lehoux, Chad Hinz, Daniel Corso, Jonathan Delisle, Jason MacDonald and Matt Davidson. Corso has the most games played of that group with 77, so that should tell you that none of these players were anything special in the NHL. The problem with finding good comparables to Terry is that most players who went onto have careers at the next level had at least some NHL experience before their 23-year season. Terry currently has none, which isn't completely his fault but it doesn't look good on his record. That being said, one way Terry differed from some of the players who didn't do much in the NHL was that he was a decent scorer in the minor leagues, which could give him an edge over some of the competition but not by a lot.
Terry is still 23, and I think the window of opportunity for him is still open even if history doesn't paint a pretty picture for his future in the NHL. As a 5th round pick, the odds of a player like him making the NHL are slim to begin with but Terry has at least done a good job to be an effective player at every level so far. I'm not sure what that does for him long-term but I'm sure it will be enough for him to get a shot in the NHL someday. Terry has always been a good player and a hard worker and I think some team will reward him for that with his first NHL game. What happens after that is anyone's guess.