A couple of weeks ago, I added an organizational depth chart to the menu at the top of the page so that everyone can see how deep the Canes are at a certain position. Most of that is subject to change with training camp being just around the corner and there's a few roster spots which are up for grabs, especially on the wings. Which players have the best shot of starting the season in Carolina and who will likely see themselves in Charlotte? Who has the best chance of being called up mid-season should an injury occur? Let's find out. I will mainly look at players on the AHL roster as guys still in junior, college, Europe or the ECHL will probably not be on the Canes this year.
Zac Dalpe - I think he would be better off starting the year in Charlotte unless he wants to move to the wing full-time. As of right now, the Canes do not need another center and Dalpe would be stuck with fourth line minutes at that position which is not going to do any good for his development. He did play on the wing for a little bit last year so he could have a shot on the third or maybe even the first line if he's impressive enough out of camp, but I think keeping him in the AHL is the right call for now. At 21, there isn't any need to rush him and he was a key part in the Checkers success last season, so keeping him there is better for the organization. He is also exempt from waivers so the team can call him up whenever they need to. That said, if Ruutu struggles and Dalpe impresses in camp and performs well in the AHL, then I would give him a chance on the second line. His tendency to shy away from physical play is one of the main things keeping him from being a full-time NHL-er right now, so that's another thing he can work on in Charlotte.
Zach Boychuk - I've said enough about Boychuk and how this year will determine just how successful of a player he will be at the NHL level. If he doesn't make the team out of camp, then that's a huge cause for concern with his development. The only reasoning I can see with him starting the year in the AHL or being there at some time this year is that he does not have to pass through waivers but Carolina really needs to improve their forward corps and Boychuk will do just that if he makes the team. Even if he starts the year on the third line he could have some success and manage to work his way up. He is potentially an upgrade over both Anthony Stewart and Alexei Ponikarovsky on the first line, as well. Regardless, I would like to see him be a full-time NHL-er next season even if he isn't a 20-goal scorer.
Drayson Bowman - Bowman is only 22, finished the year in the NHL last season and had some very good underlying numbers despite not scoring a goal in 23 games last season. Personally, I would like to see him get a shot in the NHL to start the season but it's likely he begins the year in Charlotte. Yes, there's a chance he could be better than Anthony Stewart and Jiri Tlusty but considering the team already gave those two new contracts, I think they will likely be on the roster come October instead of Bowman. Bowman doesn't have quite the potential that Boychuk has. Bowman hasn't exactly been lighting it up in the AHL either and doesn't have to pass through waivers so he will be on the Canes at some point this season...just not to start the year.
Jonathan Matsumoto - Unlike the first three, he is not exempt from waivers and is 24. He played 13 games in Carolina last year and had very moderate success (and I feel like I'm being generous) there, so I can't see him making the team unless he really impresses the coaching staff out of camp like he did last year. He has been very good in the AHL at least, so keeping him there isn't terrible for the organization.
Chris Terry - This is one player that I've seen some fans peg as the dark horse to make the team coming into this year. He's posted some gaudy numbers in junior hockey with Plymouth and had a 30-goal, 64-point season in Charlotte last year, so he's definitely making a case for himself. However, he has zero NHL experience and he will need to do really well in camp to get a shot on the Canes to start the year. Considering the team's depth at winger, it's possible that he may but I see him in Charlotte come October and getting his chance later in the year.
Jerome Samson - Also not exempt from waivers, Samson will have to make the team or the Canes may lose him. He was a point-per-game player in the AHL but has still yet to score his first NHL goal and hasn't shown he can be much more than a bottom-six forward at the NHL level. He might be worth keeping around for depth purposes because like Bowman, his underlying numbers were not bad last season despite not scoring a goal. I see him potentially kept as a spare forward if anything.
Nicolas Blanchard - Blanchard is 24, not waiver exempted and has never really been a great point-getter in the AHL, so he's likely to either be in the AHL next season or lost on waivers.
Riley Nash - Will likely be in Charlotte for another season and may need to bulk up a little before he makes it to the NHL.
Matthew Pistilli - Big sized forward who drifted between the ECHL and AHL last season. Probably won't make it to the big club but he should at least provide solid depth in Charlotte. Another player who lit it up in the QMJHL but didn't do much after that.
Mike McKenzie - I see him getting a shot with the Checkers but it's possible that he might end up in in the ECHL again.
Jared Staal - Another player who will probably drift between the AHL and ECHL but I'm hoping he can at least be productive in Charlotte as there could be some players leaving there.
Chris Durno - Was signed specifically for Charlotte, so I think that answers the question of where he'll spend most of next season. May be called up if a plethora of injuries occurs.
Brett Sutter - Will likely play on the third or fourth line in Charlotte
Oskar Osala - I believe he's on loan to the KHL right now so we probably wont see much of him this year.
Matt Beca - Spent the majority of last year in Florida (ECHL) and will get his shot on the Checkers in the next few months.
Ryan Murphy - I know I said that I wouldn't count players in junior but Murphy could pull a Jeff Skinner and make the team out of camp. However, I think it's best that he stays in junior as the team does not need to rush his development at all. Plus, I think the Kaberle and Pitkanen signings show that they do not intent to promote him right off the bat. He may play in a few games to start if he blows people away in camp but that's about it, in my opinion.
Justin Faulk - Got to play in the AHL a little bit during the playoffs after helping the University of Minnesota-Duluth win the NCAA championship. Like Murphy, there isn't a need to rush him and he will provide a big help for Charlotte so I see him staying there for most of the year. Might be called up for a game or two but I don't think it's neccesary unless he is crusing in the AHL and the defense is riddled with injuries.
Bobby Sanguinetti - He's apparently polished his defensive skills a little bit so there's a chance that he gets a call-up this season if things get ugly on Carolina's blue-line but I think he'll spend most of the year in the AHL.
Brett Bellemore - His ceiling is a lower-pairing defensemen so I think he will spend most of the year in Charlotte based on that.
Rasmus Rissanen - Will likely make the jump from junior hockey to the AHL this year.
Michal Jordan - Made great progress in Charlotte last season and will spend another season there after attending the Hurricanes training camp. He's been impressing me a lot more than I thought he would and could have a possible future in the NHL in another couple years.
Ryan Donald - Was also acquired for AHL depth and spent most of last season in the ECHL.
Ryan McGinnis - Had a few chances to play in the AHL with Manitoba but didn't stick around for too long. Will likely get his chance this year.
Kyle Lawson - Will battle with Donald and McGinnis for a full-time spot in Charlotte.
Justin Krueger - Will be 25 when the season starts and spent most of last year with the Swiss league. This is potentially his first pro season in North America. Question is where will he spend most of it?
Evan Stephens - Fresh out of Dartmouth University, he will likely play in the ECHL for the majority of this coming year.
Justin Peters - Will stay in the AHL unless Brian Boucher or Cam Ward gets injured. He now has a spot since Justin Pogge left for Phoenix.
Mike Murphy - Started about half of Charlotte's games last season, so he will likely play there again and split time with Peters.
John Muse - Has only one game of pro experience but he was part of Boston College's NCAA championship team two years ago so there's some potential here. I think he'll end up in Florida as they need goalies and Charlotte does not.