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Future Watch – Carolina Hurricanes: Swirling winds

If the Hurricanes are propelled back into the fray by way of their prospects, they can thank their former GM.
Charlotte Checkers

Charlotte Checkers

B+ / 5th overall

While the Hurricanes failed to make the playoffs in Ron Francis’ four seasons as GM, and his first-round drafting record is open to scrutiny, there’s no question that he restocked the organization with prospects after the pipeline had run dry. The new regime stands to benefit if the kids continue to develop, although two of the organization’s best young players – 18-year-old rookie sniper Andrei Svechnikov and defense prospect Adam Fox – have come aboard in the past eight months. Carolina is counting on Martin Necas and Fox to be stars while hoping two of Francis’ slower developing first-rounders, Jake Bean and Julien Gauthier, pan out.

CAR_Trend

1. Martin Necas (4th overall)
C, 20, 6-2, 189 – Charlotte (AHL)
47–9–25–34–26
2017 draft, 12th overall
Necas was inked into the lineup before camp as a top-nine, if not top-six, center but the Czech’s adjustment to the North American game has been slow. He played only seven games before being sent to the minors. His skill level remains unquestioned, but he struggled on the smaller ice, especially with defensive positioning and strength on the puck. He’s still the projected third leg of their trio of young stars with Sebastian Aho and Svechnikov, but this season has been a disappointment.
FW18| No. 1 – NHL | 2019-20

2. Adam Fox (30th overall)
D, 21, 5-10, 185 – Harvard (ECAC)
29–8–32–40–14
Trade (Cgy), June 23, 2018
Fox was the key piece to the blockbuster that saw the Hurricanes acquire Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland. They wouldn’t have done it without getting Fox, because they see him as an elite right-shot power-play ace who is already skating, thinking and playing at an NHL level. There have been questions about whether Fox will sign or play one more year at Harvard and then become a UFA, but the Hurricanes are confident they can get his name on a contract.
FW18| 2 (Cgy) – NHL | 2020-21

3. Jake Bean (42nd overall)
D, 20, 6-1, 187 – Charlotte (AHL)
57–11–24–35–20
2016 draft, 13th overall
Bean may not end up being the top-pair offensive D-man the team envisioned when they drafted him, but he has still put up points at the AHL level while improving his defensive play. He held his own in a two-game NHL audition. Bean needs to work on his agility, nimbleness and skating ability in tight areas, and management would like to see more improvement in the ‘D’ zone. If that happens, and he continues his level of play in other areas, he’ll challenge for an NHL roster spot soon.
FW18| No. 2 – NHL | 2019-20

4. Janne Kuokkanen (86th overall)
LW, 20, 6-1, 188 – Charlotte (AHL)
48–12–26–38–16
2016 draft, 43rd overall
Here’s a gifted and versatile winger who has had a couple looks in the NHL without sticking. Kuokkanen is the kind of forward who does many things well but nothing great: solid shot, mobile skater, strong hockey sense. The Canes at this point would only call him up to fill an opening in the top-six, so he may not get another shot this season, but he’ll challenge for a job next fall. He’d help his cause considerably with defensive improvement and a more consistent effort.
FW18| No. 4 – NHL | 2019-20

5. Julien Gauthier
RW, 21, 6-4, 225 – Charlotte (AHL)
59–18–12–30–53
2016 draft, 21st overall
Gauthier was headed down the “first-round bust” path before the light started to come on. He’s a physical specimen, but his introduction to the pros became a struggle when he discovered his strength wasn’t the advantage it was in junior. There’s a long way to go, but Gauthier is showing signs of becoming the power forward the Canes thought they were getting. It will take a few years of development to determine what they have in him, but they think he is likely to play in the NHL, which was uncertain a year ago.
FW18| No. 5 – NHL | 2021-22

6. Eetu Luostarinen
C, 20, 6-2, 178 – KalPa (Fin.)
50–13–19–32–71
2017 draft, 42nd overall
Rangy, puck-dominating center will stay in Finland until ready for NHL role.

7. Jack Drury
C, 19, 6-0, 180 – Harvard (ECAC)
28–8–15–23–14
2018 draft, 42nd overall
Brings the leadership of a Drury, but skating and strength need to improve.

8.Stelio Mattheos
RW, 19, 6-1, 200 – Brandon (WHL)
58–40–50–90–68
2017 draft, 73rd overall
Prolific junior winger has good size and natural goal-scoring talent.

9. Aleksi Saarela
C, 22, 5-11, 198 – Charlotte (AHL)
54–18–20–38–8
Trade (NYR), Feb. 2016
Has speed and a wicked NHL-ready shot, but overall game needs work.

10. Morgan Geekie
C, 20, 6-2, 178 – Charlotte (AHL)
56–15–19–34–14
2017 draft, 67th overall
Great hockey sense and competitiveness. Skating is the big question mark.

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