Position: Right Wing/Center
Weight: 195 lbs.
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2008 Draft
Last Year's Ranking: 6
|2008-09||19||Ohio State University||CCHA||37||13||12||25||0.7||23|
|2009-10||20||Ohio State University||CCHA||39||21||24||45||1.2||39|
|2009-10||20||Albany River Rats||AHL||17||9||4||13||0.8||28|
Zac Dalpe is a player who everyone thought would be in the NHL by now and you can make the argument that he should have more than 41 total games played. Projected as a future top-six player, Dalpe has been one of the Hurricanes top prospects for the last few years and many expected him to be a contributing player by now. Unfortunately, his career hasn't gone in that direction as he has spent the majority of the last three years in the AHL despite making the Hurricanes out of camp. Some have written off Dalpe as a prospect because of this, assuming that he won't ever be a top-six player or even a future NHL-er. With so many young players breaking into the league, it's easy to get frustrated at Dalpe's progress, but I think there he still has plenty of potential and should find his way to the NHL soon.
You can make the argument that every prospect has "potential" and those who do not produce should not be given much thought. We all know what kind of skillset Dalpe has, but his results at the NHL level haven't been promising, as he has spent most of the last three seasons in Charlotte. However, it's also tough to say that Dalpe has been given a fair shot in the NHL thus far. In his first couple of seasons, he was used on the fourth line and predictably struggled in that role. Once Paul Maurice was fired and replaced with Kirk Muller, Dalpe began to play more minutes but still couldn't hold onto a full-time spot in the NHL.
This is why you have a lot of people on the "Dalpe is a bust, let's move on from him" bandwagon, but there are a lot of reasons to be encouraged with what he did at the NHL level last year. He played only 10 games, but was very effective during that time and did a lot to contribute even though he wasn't scoring. The biggest issue with Dalpe in previous years is that he struggled to drive the play north and keep the puck in the other team's end of the rink. That dramatically changed this past season, as he posted one of the highest shot attempt differentials on the team. Some of this might relate to him playing on a line with Jordan Staal, but Dalpe still did a lot of good things during his brief stint in Carolina and should have played more than 10 game.
When he was drafted, two of the biggest flaws in Dalpe's game were his poor defenisve play and how it was relatively easy to knock him off the puck. The Checkers seemed to notice this and decided to move him to right wing a couple years ago and it's produced some encouraging results in terms of his ability to drive the play
Dalpe has been shooting the puck a lot more in the AHL and while that might not sound like much, being able to consistently create offense is a good way to land yourself an NHL role, even if you aren't scoring. Playing on the wing gives Dalpe less defensive responsibility and not be the primary puck-carrier on his line, which opens him up for more opportunities and he has been able to generate more chances as a result. Not all of them resulted in goals, but he is still good at driving the net & creating space for himself when he has the puck so I think he will get more rewarded for it in a full NHL season.
Unfortunately, Dalpe has still yet to play a full NHL season and that is mildly concerning. Injuries are also an issue, as he has missed considerable time in each of the last two season and it has prevented him from being called up on a few occassions. He has a pretty good opportunity to crack the Hurricanes roster full-time next year with the team having a few bottom-six spots open, but it's a similar spot to what he was in last year. He will likely be one of 5-6 players who have a chance to make the team out of camp and who makes it will depend on who impresses the coaching staff.
The difference this year is that Dalpe isn't waiver exempt and the Hurricanes added a few other players who may also contend for a roster spot in Aaron Palushaj & Nathan Gerbe. Factor in the addition of Elias Lindholm and Dalpe is not a shoe-in for a roster spot out of camp. That being said, if he can continue to create chances and be a strong puck-possession player, he would be an excellent fit on the third line with Lindholm.
The expectations for Dalpe were a little high in his draft year, but he doesn't need to be a star to contribute to this team and it's very realistic that he can be a great third-liner next year. Dalpe skates well enough to keep up with Lindholm and should be able to provide a decent amount of secondary scoring, considering how often he shoots the puck. If he can do that and play a solid game away from the puck, then I think he will be in the NHL full-time next year. History suggests that Dalpe should be able to make it in the NHL in a complimentary role and that's probably the best thing for a Carolina team that needs forward depth.
Next year is probably the "make or break" season for Dalpe, seeing how he is on a one-year contract and isn't waiver exempt, so if he is going to have a future with the Canes it's going to be next year or possibly never. Some might think that he is Zach Boychuk part 2, but I think he is more likely to stay in the NHL and it wouldn't surprise me if he lands a full-time role next year.