The Carolina Hurricanes will be without Erik Haula for an unknown period of time. Lucas Wallmark must seize this opportunity to show his value.
A key part of the Carolina Hurricanes early season success through the first quarter of the season has been the strong play of one the Hurricanes off-season acquisitions, Erik Haula.
Haula has started strong, notching 8 goals and 3 assists in 16 contests this season. There is just one problem for Haula: a lingering knee injury that he initially injured last year that forced him to miss significant time
Now that Haula is looking like he’ll be out for a little while longer, this opens the door for someone to step up in his absence. This could be a big opportunity for someone like Lucas Wallmark to step up and be that guy. So far, in 21 games this season, Wallmark has chipped in with 2 goals and 5 assists for the Carolina Hurricanes.
This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Wallmark. He filled in on the second line when Jordan Staal missed some time last year. This is a great opportunity for the 24 year old native of Umea, Sweden to do the same thing after 10 goals and 28 points in 81 games last year.
The Hurricanes are missing some offence with Haula, but they are also missing that net-front presence and spark that Haula has provided everywhere he has played. Can Wallmark provide that grit and toughness in front of the net? Can he learn something from the play of Erik Haula? Time will tell in the coming games.
Wallmark is now in his third season with the Carolina Hurricanes, and after the success of last season, including a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, this team has some high expectations. Wallmark must prove his value, especially now that players like Martin Necas, a strong Calder trophy candidate, and Eetu Luostarinen, are getting more ice time. Could Wallmark’s job be in jeopardy?
Wallmark clearly has some big shoes to fill. Can he play the style of hockey that got him drafted in the first place? Can he produce to the level of a top-six forward now that he will likely see more ice time, along with guys like Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, or Andrei Svechnikov, to name a few?
Lucas Wallmark has also made his mark, if you will, as a strong penalty killer for the Hurricanes. Whenever the Carolina Hurricanes have needed a clutch kill, he’s usually on the ice, providing some solid minutes when the team needs it most. With the absence of Haula and the shuffling of lines, Wallmark can use his strengths to further solidify his worth.
So far in his young career, Wallmark has played in 122 games while scoring 14 goals and adding 25 assists. He has stuck with the team in large part thanks to the depth he provides and his strong penalty killing ability. He is essentially a smaller, quicker Jordan Staal with better hands.
This season, Wallmark has registered 3 goals and 5 assists, for a combined point total of 8 in 22 games played. Staal, in the same amount of games this season, has similar numbers to Wallmark with 3 goals and 4 assists for 7 points in 22 games played.
The comparisons between the two end with each of their salaries. Staal is currently carrying a cap hit of $6M AAV, (Average Annual Value) while Wallmark’s contract carries a cap hit of $675k. Wallmark has become a mainstay on the Hurricanes’ roster despite not showing up very much on the scoresheet.
Erik Haula will be out for an indefinite amount of time. As of the writing of this article, a timeline for Haula’s return has yet to be determined. With Eetu Luostarinen called up to fill in for depth, this is the perfect opportunity for players like him and Lucas Wallmark to step up and shine in Haula’s absence.
Question for CC Readers: Do you think Lucas Wallmark has what it takes to fill Haula’s shoes?