19. Max Domi
A small sample size makes it hard to evaluate Domi, and in fairness to him he has played on three different lines during his short tenure as a Hurricane, but Domi is fine. His best game came playing center on the third line but obviously, he won’t be retaining that role in the playoffs.
Domi could benefit from potential mismatches if he does end up playing on the fourth line in the playoffs. Max is a good middle 6 player whose reputation is going to coast off of his 2018-19 production for probably the rest of his career, and you know what? Good for him.
18. Ethan Bear
I wanted to put him higher, I really did. Bear had a very strong start to this season playing on the first pair but after a battle with COVID in November never really seemed the same. Ethan is turnover prone and sometimes looks lost on plays, but at the same time is very valuable to the team’s transition game and overall has good impacts offensively.
The potential is there and I hope we see him in the Canes lineup come September. Ethan infamously became a scapegoat in Edmonton after their first-round elimination, and I doubt Bear has forgotten that. Ethan has a chance to get back to his early-season form and contribute to a potentially deep playoff run.
17. Jesperi Kotkaniemi
Kotkaniemi had a slow start to the season playing as a winger but has shown flashes of his potential as a center since being moved back to his natural position. On the fourth line, he has shown major improvements compared to where he was last year.
Kotkaniemi played his best hockey in December and January but has since cooled back down. The injury was a factor in it, but KK tied his rookie year goal total a few months ago but was never able to get his 12th of the year. Jesperi will be a lot higher on this list next year, and seven more years after that.
16. Ian Cole
Cole has quietly added a lot of stability to the Carolina defense in the form of a veteran presence. Ian has been VERY good defensively and has been a staple in the Hurricanes’ penalty kill all year. The two-time champion knows what it takes to win and will more than likely continue his steady play into the playoffs.
15. Antti Raanta
Backing up a Vezina candidate has led to Raanta kind of being forgotten about, but the “Finnish father” has been extremely serviceable for Carolina this season. It took him some time to get adjusted but since then he has been great in the few starts he’s gotten.
Raanta’s best moment of the season came when he shut out the Colorado Avalanche in mid-March. He keeps them in pretty much every game and has stolen a few for them too which is all you can ask for from a backup goalie.