Sami Vatanen is the Carolina Hurricanes’ Playoff Wild Card

Carolina Hurricanes defender Sami Vatanen is a wildcard come playoffs

Sami Vatanen will add crucial depth to an elite Carolina Hurricanes blue line, and provide a boost to the power-play unit.

Sami Vatanen is the ultimate wild card for the Carolina Hurricanes heading into the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. Vatanen was already injured when he was acquired by the Hurricanes, and an unfortunate injury setback combined with the paused regular season resulted in a team that has not played a single game with the 29-year-old defenceman.

Vatanen has had a solid career as a reliable defenceman, spending most of his career with the Anaheim Ducks and the New Jersey Devils. Vatanen added much needed blue line depth for the Canes at the trade deadline with the absence of Dougie Hamilton, as Brind’Amour probably wanted to plug him into the line up immediately.

The aforementioned injury setback has put the Finn in a curious position in the playoffs because with the return of Dougie Hamilton, and the unlikely but still possible return of Brett Pesce, there will be room for a healthy scratch among the defencemen.

While uncertainty is rampant in terms of what next year could look like for Vatanen, he has been given a chance to prove himself to the Canes in the playoffs. He compiled 23 points in 47 games with the struggling New Jersey Devils for the 2019 season, showcasing an important offensive edge.

In the video above, the panel discusses Vatanen’s time on ice with the New Jersey Devils during the 2019 season. Vatanen averaged 21:45 per game in 2019 with the Devils, and the Hurricanes should absolutely utilize Vatanen for long shifts that will be necessary for the playoffs.

Sara Civian for the Athletic (paywall) writes that according to “One Metro Division scout:

“I like him . . . Undersized guy but plays like he’s 6-foot-4 — he’s never going to lose a battle due to lack of compete. He plays hard every game, blocks a ton of shots as well (including the reason he’s on injured reserve). No idea (how the Hurricanes will use him), but he can eat big minutes.””

As I have talked about before, the power play has been both a strong point and a scourge for the Hurricanes during different stretches of the 2019 season. The loss of Dougie Hamilton was a big blow to the power-play unit, and while Jaccob Slavin was able to keep the Canes power play lethal, it hasn’t truly reached its potential this season.

Vatanen’s highlight reel is heavy with power-play moments because he is known as an asset within the power-play unit. He is not afraid to shoot the puck and has a strong slapshot with excellent accuracy.

The Canes need to utilize Sami Vatanen in the power play because he excels in both creating and capitalizing on scoring chances. The Canes will quickly advance in the playoff if they can harness each penalty minute and capitalize on scoring opportunities. The advantage that Vatanen adds to the power-play unit could put the unit on another level.

I wouldn’t blame you if you watched the goal above eight or ten times, because I definitely did. This highlight reel worthy moment shows that Vatanen also possesses excellent puck awareness and is able to use this ability to create a scoring opportunity.

The Hurricanes have to take advantage of every player on the roster, regardless of what next season may look like for some. Vatanen has an opportunity to provide much-needed depth and skill to the blue line, and Brind’Amour should use him both for long shifts and power play opportunities.