As we embark on the NHL All-Star break, you can't help but wonder what the second half of the season will bring for the Carolina Hurricanes. This could be the year that everything clicks and a run to the Stanley Cup is possible. Many reasons will be presented for that dream to come true.
Whether it be a star player or a role player, certain players will put this team on their back while they take their game to another level. We saw it last year with the Florida Panthers when Matthew Tkachuk was unbelievable in the playoffs. Unfortunately the Canes ran into that Cinderella story in the Eastern Conference Finals.
What makes the Canes so good is they have a plethora of talented players who could be heroes any night. Sebastian Aho has had the best first half and earned the trip to the All-Star game this weekend. But in the second half, the most important player to this team will be Andrei Svechnikov.
Last year's lone Carolina representative at the All-Star game in South Florida, Svechnikov was having a great season. We all know the ending to his second half was too soon due to injury and created a bigger hurdle for the team, heading into the playoffs. This year the 23-year-old has had some maintenance days and the season started off delayed due to the injury from last year.
The former second-overall pick in the 2018 draft has played in just 29 games. Surely almost half of these games were him shaking off some rust. Still, he has been producing with 11 goals and 19 assists. For such a young age, it is impressive that he has 13 playoff goals to his resume.
The first important thing for Svechnikov will be his health. With the time off he should be hitting his stride at the right time of the season. Rod Brind'Amour will have to watch his ice time closely during the grueling weeks of playoff positioning.
The ability that Svechnikov has to take control of a game and score multiple goals is dangerous enough to distract the opposition's game plan in a playoff series. This skill level will have time to develop after the break and get back to 100% for the most important games of the season.
Already matching last season's total in power play goals, Svechnikov will most certainly double that and result in victories and offensive improvements for his teammates.
It is no secret that this team lacks a true sniper and with the roster similar to last season, the re-emergence of Svechnikov's goal-scoring ability will hoist this team to a better spot in the playoff seeding while adding the missing piece to a team so close to the cup finals last year.