Apr 1, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Carolina Hurricanes right wing Radek Dvorak (18) and defenseman Andrej Sekera (4) congratulate defenseman Justin Faulk (center) after Faulk scored an unassisted goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Hurricanes: Eight Defensemen, Who Plays?

The Carolina Hurricanes Prospects Development Camp came to a close Saturday night, and with it Ron Francis and the coaching staff turn their attention to prepping for training camp in September. One of the tasks head coach Bill Peters and company will have to sort out is how the forward lines and defensive pairings will be aligned.

Brett Bellemore and the Hurricanes were able to come to an agreement Friday night, after a short holdout by Bellemore’s camp. Bellemore signed a one-year, two-way contract, and as a result the Hurricanes now have eight defensemen signed to start the 2014–15 season. So, who plays?

The obvious first pairing will be Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera. A combined 16 goals and 60 assists between the two of them easily proves that they both can contribute offensively when needed. In addition, they also established themselves as Carolina’s most solid pairing in the defensive zone. Faulk and Sekera developed solid chemistry early on last season and will look to continue that in 2014–15.

For the second pairing, Ron Hainsey is a definite lock for one of the two spots. Hainsey came to Raleigh following five years playing for the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets, and instantly became a fan favorite. He asserted himself as a leader in the locker room and was a solid shutdown player. A partner for Hainsey could very well end up being John-Michael Liles. Liles was acquired from Toronto for Tim Gleason back on New Year’s Day, and became the new quarterback for the first-string powerplay unit. Speaking of Gleason, he also could serve as a partner for Hainsey. A long-time alternate captain for the ‘Canes, Gleason had an underwhelming season last year and is back on a one-year deal. Look for him to make a statement this year to prove he’s still someone who can contribute.

The third pairing will see lots of rotation throughout the season, due to the excess personnel on the roster. If the Hurricanes want to have a strong, tough pairing to match a checking forward line, the pairing of Brett Bellemore and Jay Harrison would be most ideal. Bellemore got his first full NHL season under his belt last year and will continue to improve, especially if he plays alongside veteran Harrison, who has served as a consistent depth defenseman for the ‘Canes over the past few seasons. Ryan Murphy will also see plenty of playing time after splitting his time between Charlotte and Raleigh last season. Murphy brings some offensive flair to the Hurricanes defensive core and will look to build upon his first taste of NHL competition last year.

Overall, the Carolina Hurricanes look fairly solid on defense heading into the 2014–15 season. And should the injury bug make its way to the Triangle, they’ve got depth that should alleviate any concerns Caniacs may have. The likes of Michal Jordan, Rasmus Rissanen, and Dennis Robertson (just to name a few) are all up-and-coming prospects that could see playing time. ‘Canes fans should also be on the lookout for 2014 draftee Haydn Fleury, who had a very strong showing at this week’s Prospects Development Camp.

Here are the defensive pairings I’d like to see for opening night:
Sekera–Faulk
Hainsey–Liles
Gleason–Bellemore
(Murphy, Harrison scratched)

Opening Night for the Carolina Hurricanes is Friday, October 10th against the New York Islanders at PNC Arena.

Tags: Andrej Sekera Brett Bellemore Carolina Hurricanes Jay Harrison John-Michael Liles Justin Faulk Ron Hainsey Ryan Murphy Tim Gleason

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