Carolina Hurricanes: Season Report card – forwards


The Carolina Hurricanes have just passed the halfway point of their 2018/19 season, and are riding an exciting five-game win streak as they look to challenge for a playoff spot. This week we’ve looked at how each part of the team is performing – on Monday we awarded Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour a B-, Tuesday was the turn of the team’s goalies , and yesterday we looked at the Canes’ defensemen. Today’s final report card is for the team’s forwards.

This Carolina Hurricanes team was derided for most of the season for not scoring enough goals. Not any more, as the team has 21 in its last five games including, amazingly, some power play goals. Without further ado, let’s see how the Canes’ forward group is getting on this season.

Main men

It’s an easy place to start – the leading scorer for the Carolina Hurricanes is Sebastian Aho, the Finnish superstar who opened the season with an astonishing 12-game point streak. While some Canes fans will feel he’s still prone to missing some easy chances, no-one can fault his effort or his ability to win games single-handedly. He’ll get a very large raise this summer as his 45 points in 42 games has him on pace for around 88 points.

Teuvo Teravainen has played on Aho’s wing all season, bar that horrible time when Aho played wing. He’s having himself a decent season, with 34 points, and while we’d all like him to shoot more, he’s the perfect winger for Aho and a very good top six forward.

Let’s write about the team’s other top line forward. You know the guy. Brock McGinn. Strangely, his presence alongside the Finns appears to work on some level – he’s put up some points recently, with four points in his last four games – and he has to keep that production up if he wants to keep the prized spot on the Canes’ top line.

I’m as guilty as the next Canes fan of writing off the team’s captain Justin Williams too often. Every time I knock him, he comes out with a goal or two, particularly recently. Playing third line minutes, Williams has a respectable 24 points and is one goal away from 300 in his career. His presence in the locker room is likely even more valuable than his contributions on the ice.

Micheal Ferland was almost the forgotten man in the Hanifin/Lindholm/Hamilton trade, but he’s been quietly excellent either side of his concussion issues. His 12 goals remain second on the team, with several of those crucial goals earlier in the season. He’s on course for a career season, despite his demotion to the third line after his return from injury.

A dark horse for second in the Calder race this season – at least until recently – Andrei Svechnikov is quite the player. He’s scored some highlight-reel goals this season, yet doesn’t generate enough offense to justify a top six role. His recent streak of one point in nine games has gone almost unnoticed by Canes fans and media, due to the team’s winning streak, but if he’s not careful, he’s going to end up in RBA’s doghouse. That’s the last place we want him, so let’s hope he can find some offense quickly.

Lucas Wallmark has some nice hands, and is already enjoying a career season by virtue of having three goals and ten assists. He’s still learning the game, but has found chemistry with Andrei Svechnikov, and would do well to make the most of that link before Svech inevitably finds his shooting boots and moves back up the lineup. There’s no question, Wallmark has bookmarked a spot on this team for as long as he wants it.

The third wheel on the Wallmark-Svechnikov line, Jordan Martinook has had some memorable moments this season, the highlight being his first career hat-trick against Florida in November. Elliotte Friedman says the Canes are working on extending him – that’s the right decision. He’s a good, solid bottom six forward.

Could the most disappointing forward for the Carolina Hurricanes be former co-captain, Jordan Staal? He’s been inconsistent, has disappointed offensively, but has an astonishing Corsi For of 60.1% and was a big part of the team’s excellent penalty kill. He’ll walk straight back into the Canes lineup when he’s fit – but it would be harsh on others who have played well. Who could make way for him?

The easy answer is Victor Rask, who has frustrated Canes fans all season with his seeming apathy and lack of offensive contribution. Part of that is linemates – who could produce in the bottom six with less skilled linemates? Three points in his last two games has quietened the noise around him, but there’s no question that he’s the guy who should make way when Staal returns. Sadly, there’s no way RBA benches a $4m player, and so the unfortunate loser in this is the man who’s made a play for the hearts of Carolina Hurricanes fans everywhere in 2019.

That man is Greg McKegg, once and future King of Raleigh, who began his Carolina Hurricanes career with two goals and two assists in just three games and who looks like he has a fire lit under him. Not a single Canes fan wants to see him demoted – he should stay here, and let Clark Bishop take his role in Charlotte.

Warren Foegele started the season in fine form, even being mentioned in Calder talk, before succumbing to reality and going an astonishing 24 games without a point. He’s drip-feeding the points from the fourth line now, but looks like he’s rounding his game out. Next season will be his time.

Saku Maenalanen has also made a strong impression in a short time. After seeing one game earlier in the season, Saku has played the last four, notching two points and looking quite dangerous. He also deserves to stay, and provides the kind of hustle that eluded Phil Di Giuseppe. It’s also worth noting that the Carolina Hurricanes have won every single game Saku has played in his NHL career. Keep him up!

The future

Every Carolina Hurricanes fan wants to see Martin Necas back in Raleigh. Will he ever get called up again? I think Greg McKegg’s form has put paid to those hopes for now. While it would be great to see Necas back with the Canes, he needs what Kuokkanen needed: top six minutes. He’s not going to get that this year, so he needs to concentrate on having a good year in Charlotte and on blasting the team at camp.

Janne Kuokkanen is going to be a fine NHL player – but at the age of 20, he was seemingly overwhelmed by the pace of the game and by the physicality. He’s back in Charlotte now, and I doubt we see him again this season. He’ll get a good look for next season though.

Clark Bishop is a guy who plays well, but doesn’t score much. I wonder whether he’s the new PDG. We all like him, he plays better than Rask, but can any forward hope to retain a roster spot when they score just three points every 20 games?

Poor Nicolas Roy played 6 games, received minimal ice time and made next to no impression on anyone. Again, his best place is Charlotte, and he may be two or three years away from being able to hold down an NHL roster spot.

How do we score everyone?

As I did yesterday, I’ll keep it simple and lay out their marks in lines rather than write even more material to justify their grades:

Brock McGinn (C) – Sebastian Aho (A-) – Teuvo Teravainen (B)

Jordan Martinook (C+) – Lucas Wallmark (C+) – Andrei Svechnikov (B-)

Micheal Ferland (B) – Jordan Staal (C-) – Justin Williams (B-)

Warren Foegele (C) – Victor Rask (D-) – Saku Maenalanen (C+)

Greg McKegg (B) / Martin Necas (C-) / Janne Kuokkanen (D) / Nicolas Roy (D) / Clark Bishop (C-)

Sebastian Aho leads the forwards with his A-, with Victor Rask bringing up the rear after a hugely disappointing season thus far. Had Greg McKegg been playing all season he’s possibly be in Hart Trophy contention; the rest of the bottom six has contributed just enough offense to get respectable grades. This is a big half-season coming up now though – so many of these grades could change drastically with a few good/poor performances.

Next. Season report card - Canes' defense. dark

So there we have it. The Carolina Hurricanes are now more than halfway through their 2018/19 season, and the groundwork has been done to set the team up for a run at a playoff spot. While there have been several low points this season, all parts of the franchise have come together to produce an on-ice product that is better than most Canes fans would have expected – whether that’s the coaching from Rod Brind’Amour, the impressive goaltending, the Corsi-strong defense or the offense graded above, we’re right in the thick of the playoff race.

Go Canes!