The Carolina Hurricanes season maybe coming to a close, but 2017 is already proving itself to be the year for Canes rookies.
For the last three years, the Carolina Hurricanes have rebuilt their prospect pipeline with a slew of picks from drafts in 2014, 15, and 16. Now, those picks are starting to turn into legitimate NHL players for the Canes. That is why 2017 is Carolina’s Year of the Rookie.
It all begins of course with Sebastian Aho. After not scoring his first NHL goal until the middle of November, the 19 year old has been dynamite for the Canes. His 20 goals since then ranks him second on the team and 3rd among NHL rookies. In calendar year 2017, Aho has 13 goals, tied for most with Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews for the rookie lead.
There is a very good chance Aho ends up leading the Hurricanes in goal scoring by seasons end. That only tells part of the story though. His hockey sense is unbelievable and he turns up in clutch moments. He is Carolina’s best rookie since Jeff Skinner and is leading the charge among Carolina’s new wave of talent.
Aho may be the only Canes rookie to play all of this season, but the rest are banging on the door. Already we have seen rookie Valentin Zykov receive a call-up and play very well in the Canes bottom six. Just today, Lucas Wallmark will make his NHL debut after playing exceedingly well for the Checkers this year.
More call-ups and debuts are expected before the end of the season. Guys like Andrew Poturalski and Haydn Fleury are likely next in line to get some games in the NHL. Both will be hoping to put forth stellar performances like Aho and Zykov have.
Into Next Season
This year is going to be even more crazy with rookies when the new season rolls around. While Aho graduates as a rookie, there will still be numerous prospects battling for NHL spots. All the players previously mentioned will be vying for slots on the roster, as well as some new faces.
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Players from junior hockey will be moving to pro hockey. Those players include Julien Gauthier, Nicolas Roy, and Warren Foegele. All three have the chance to make the day one roster in October 2017, some more likely to make an impact than others.
Gauthier has the best chance. Given his incredible physical attributes, experience, and goal scoring ability, he has the best chance to make a big impact as a rookie. Roy could be impactful as well. His two-way hockey sense and offensive instincts would give Carolina an excellent option in their bottom six. Foegele would be an energy guy and has the lowest odds to make the team.
Carolina has a chance to have an incredibly young team next year, stocked with rookies. Assuming Francis doesn’t make a lot of depth signings with NHL veterans and instead elects to let the organization fill its own holes, Carolina might have upwards of 5-6 rookie players on the roster next year.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing either. The new wave of Hurricanes prospects have proved themselves to be successful once they make it to the NHL. Also, with the way the league is trending, filling your roster with young and ambitious players can work out very well. By the time 2018 comes around, we will look back on 2017 as the year Carolina’s rookies arrived.