Carolina Hurricanes: Replacing Dougie Hamilton on Defense

The Carolina Hurricanes will need to find a replacement for Hamilton

With Carolina Hurricanes defender Dougie Hamilton potentially facing another injury, who can fill his spot for the qualifying round of the playoffs?

Unfortunately, it looks like Carolina Hurricanes’ star Dougie Hamilton is facing an injury that could see him miss the qualifying round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs featuring your Carolina Hurricanes against the New York Rangers.

The NHL has made it clear that organizations are not allowed to provide information on why a player misses practice, so we know little at this point. Michael Smith for NHL.com reported Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour‘s short remarks: “I can’t talk about his injury. That’s it, I guess . . . He’s unfit to play at this moment.”

Smith also reported that Carolina Hurricanes’ trade acquisition Sami Vatanen is currently filling Hamilton’s role alongside alternate captain Jaccob Slavin.  Could Vatanen be the player the Canes need to make a strong start in the playoffs, or will another blueliner fill in this enormous absence?

I don’t want to speculate because we just don’t have any certain information to go off of with Hamilton’s injury; however, Canes writer for The Athletic Sara Civian has heard that this is not a setback related to his broken leg earlier in the year. If the timetable for his playoff appearance is indeed weeks, it is possible he could play in the series that will follow the qualifying round.

I don’t think it can be emphasized enough how important the qualifying round against the New York Rangers will be for the Carolina Hurricanes. Apart from the obvious that the Canes must win to proceed into the playoffs, a strong qualifying round showing is the first step to a deep playoff run.

Sami Vatanen is the first possible temporary replacement for Hamilton, as he has already been plugged into Hamilton’s spot alongside Jaccob Slavin. I have already written about Vatanen is the Hurricanes’ wild card in the playoffs, but I never could have imagined how crucial his performance could be to the team.

Dougie Hamilton has become the ultimate weapon for the Carolina Hurricanes. His offensive abilities are often discussed as much, if not more, than his defensive style.  While Sami Vatanen has not had a scoring season like Hamilton, he has proven that he is more than capable of scoring and creating offensive opportunities.

Vatanen not only compiled 23 points in the 2019 season for the struggling New Jersey Devils, but he also averaged 21 minutes and 45 seconds in ice time. Hamilton averaged over 23 minutes, so I think that Vatanen would do just fine with extended playoff minutes.

Although several sources have speculated that Sami Vatanen may not be signed by the team for next season, a strong playoff performance could give Vatanen a home with the Carolina Hurricanes. Vatanen’s pairing with Slavin is the most likely pairing, in my opinion, but there are several other options on the table.

Charlotte Checkers’ standout Jake Bean may finally get his moment to prove himself on the Hurricanes’ roster. I haven’t doubted that he would get ice time during the playoffs, but Hamilton’s injury may give Bean the minutes that he deserves.  Bean’s accomplishments speak for themselves, with both the 2020 Eddie Shore award and a spot on the AHL All-Star Team.

A recent training camp surprise was the addition of Prospect Joey Keane. Cardiac Cane writer  Austin Isham speculates that Keane may be added due to both Pesce and Hamilton’s injuries. The defensive depth is the Cane’s best advantage in the playoffs, so there is no reason why Joey Keane shouldn’t travel with the team to the Toronto bubble.

Athletic writer Scott Wheeler (paywall) wrote about Keane when he was still a Ranger’s prospect. What stands out to me about this article is a quote about Keane from Barrie Colt’s assistant coach Todd Miller:

“He can defend so well that you rarely, rarely ever saw him get burned one-on-one, and if he did jump into the rush he was always the first guy back. His skating ability alone was so good that he can recover so well. That’s one thing that I really noticed with him and that will help him along the way in pro hockey.”

Keane’s ability is evident, as he accumulated only 19 points in the 2016-2017 season, but made the astonishing leap to 44 points in the 2017-2018 season.  I look forward to seeing Keane on the ice with the Hurricanes, and Caniacs might have the chance to see the young blueliner in action sooner rather than later.

As a final note, it is certainly possible that main roster talents such as Haydn Fleury or newly acquired Brady Skjei may also inherit some of Hamilton’s responsibilities.  Fleury averaged almost 20 minutes in his last five regular-season games, and Skjei averaged 20 minutes in his time with the Canes. Both players have the potential to fill Hamilton’s absence.

The bad news is that the loss of Dougie Hamilton for the qualifying round is a blow to the Canes that is hard to understate. The good news is the Canes D line is so deep that the numerous players above have an opportunity to fill Hamilton’s role until he returns. With a D line this deep, there may be no stopping the Carolina Hurricanes on the road to the Stanley Cup.

Next: Jack Drury looking to play in Europe