The Carolina Hurricanes may have established themselves as a Bunch of Jerks in 2018-2019, but they also established that they’re a team to be taken seriously on the scoreboard. Carolina not only qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2009, but they ventured all the way to the Eastern Conference Final.
The matter at hand now is following up. Granted, there are odds. The Hurricanes haven’t tabled a back-to-back playoff team in a while. They’ve won consecutive post-season berths just once since the move from Hartford and have otherwise kind of yo-yoed, even after they won the Stanley Cup in 2005-2006.
With that in mind, the Hurricanes were adamant with respect to adding depth over the summer. That means the acquisition of UFA Ryan Dzingel, plus a trade for Erik Haula. Haula has skated with Nino Niederreiter before in Minnesota, so that reunion could provide some forward chemistry. Dzingel brings speed and momentum, coming off a career-high 56 points last season.
“We want to be a high-tempo offense and watching them last season I thought it was a perfect fit for the way I play,” Dzingel said. “Obviously, [I] want to go somewhere where I fit with their style and that’s obviously one of the biggest reasons I think I’d fit right in.”
Tempo is the name of the game for the Hurricanes’ offence and that’s where Sebastian Aho comes in. The Canadiens saw fit to offer sheet the forward, of course, but Carolina made their moment count and the 22-year-old is sticking around. Aho had 83 points in 82 games last season and he should have no issue creating opportunities again in 2019-2020.
Teuvo Teravainen generally skates with Aho and helps generate a lot of up-tempo offence for the Hurricanes. He had 74 points last season, an improvement from 2017-2018’s 64 points. He also led Carolina in assists and is a bit of an iron man, having missed just one game in the last three seasons.
Andrei Svechnikov is arguably the team’s third most potent forward. He skated all 82 games in his rookie season last year and produced 20 goals for a total of 37 points. The 19-year-old will be looking for more scoring consistency across the course of a whole season, but there’s a spot for him on the top line if he’s game to take it.
Niederreiter skated with Aho and Teravainen a bit last season and found scoring success. He should still see top power play unit time in 2019-2020 and could be positioned on the second line with Jordan Staal and Dzingel. That could open the doors for more offence and will give Niederreiter plenty of opportunity to throw the body around. He had 94 hits last season.
The Hurricanes like to activate their defence and play a fluid style, which served them well when it mattered most. They overwhelmed the New York Islanders in the first round of the playoffs and will look to do more of the same in 2019-2020. Jaccob Slavin, Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce, and Justin Faulk are the core of this group.
Hamilton is a perfect example of pushing offence from his own zone. He finished second among defenceman in scoring last season with 18 goals, even as his overall points have dropped a touch. That shouldn’t be a problem given his penchant for overall coverage.
The Hurricanes did lose D-man Calvin de Haan in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, so that might change it up a bit. That said, the third pairing now has an opening and that means it’s time for Hadyn Fleury. Gustav Forsling, one of the dudes that came the other way in the de Haan swap, could also challenge for the slot in camp.
Petr Mrazek is well slated as the starter, you have to imagine. James Reimer and Anton Forsberg will be up for the job as backup. Don’t discount Alex Nedeljkovic as a possibility, too. The 23-year-old has played in just two NHL games for a total of 41 shots against, but he’s allowed just two goals in that span.
Mrazek is the sort of goalie who serves well as part of a tandem, which is why he and Curtis McElhinney were often the best pair in the NHL last season. But McElhinney is gone, which puts Mrazek’s 23-14-3 record in 2019-2020 back under the microscope. The Hurricanes have to imagine they can go all the way with the starter – and there’s no reason to believe otherwise.
Carolina is a young, competitive team with heart and soul. They like to have fun and that can give the crowd a boost, which in turn can make them tough to play against. If the Hurricanes can get their momentum going and not give up on the personality that made them a Bunch of Jerks in the first place, they could go all the way in 2019-2020.
Photo credit: NHL