Our Carolina Hurricanes 2020-21 Preview is part of a one-a-day series covering the entire NHL. Click here for the rest of the teams in the leadup to another action-packed NHL season!
Coming off another successful season that saw them finish 9th in the NHL with 81 points in 68 games (.596 P%), the Carolina Hurricanes continue to dominate opponents through an aggressive playstyle that relies on the tenacity and quick thinking of its players. Coach Rod “The Bod” Brind’Amour has done an excellent job at hammering in his system and getting a general buy-in from the entire roster, top to bottom.
And what a roster it is. Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Andrei Svechnikov have emerged as one of the most potent trios in the league. Aho is a legitimate star player who does not get enough recognition for his talents (yet). Svechnikov, in his sophomore season, tallied 61 points in the team’s 68 games. Teravainen is the oldest player on that line at 24, so expect these three to become one of, if not the, most exciting line in hockey in the years to come.
Despite having a strong lineup, the Hurricanes will need more production from their depth forwards next season to help continue the upwards trajectory. This was a major struggle for the team with offense being hard to come by. Martin Necas (36 points) and Warren Foegele (30) were the only two other forwards to hit 30 points in 2019-20. Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Dzingel, and Jordan Staal were close but for players spending time in a second line role, they need to produce as one. Adding Vincent Trochek at the 2019 Trade Deadline and Jesper Fast in free agency will help shore up the depth scoring if Niederreiter, Dzingel, and Staal don’t bounce back as much as they need to.
GM Don Waddell had a low-key offseason that focused mostly on resigning players and filling out some depth spots on the roster. Players like Joakim Ryan, Clark Bishop, Sheldon Rempal, Drew Shore, Gustav Forsling, and Jeremy Bracco are being retained/brought in for some competition and to give the team options for call-ups and lineup rotations if needed.
The hope is that the moves being made will help with consistency. The Hurricanes, when on their game, can dominate play like no other. They are fast, quick thinking, tenacious on the forecheck and backcheck, and play 2 or 3 moves ahead of where the opponent is. But, they’re streaky and prone to losing their game for periods (and entire games). This is what’s been happening in the playoffs for them the past 2 seasons. Coincidentally, against the Bruins both times (who are an excellent team, so it is no surprise they can stifle the Hurricanes’ system). Carolina needs to be able to find some consistency in their game so the entire team doesn’t go hot and cold at the same time.
Trevor van Riemsdyk
Carolina Hurricanes Roster Overview
Svechnikov-Aho-Teravainen lead the away, no doubt about it. It will be incredibly fun to watch and see how these three develop further. However, the Hurricanes are no strangers to lineup shuffling and mixing things up as shown by some of their lineup combinations through 2019-20. They are lucky to be able to do this and still have mostly successful combos as it gives them a ton of options for matching up and playing the hot hand in opportunistic situations, but the need to spread out the Svechnikov-Aho-Teravainen trio so they can generate offense from more than one line is in itself a missed opportunity to have those dynamic three together as much as possible.
The emergence of Martin Necas has given the Hurricanes another offensive threat from the middle of the lineup. His 36 points in 64 games was the 4th highest from a forward and gives him first dibs on the second line. Necas, the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft, is an excellent skater with size, strength, and a laser of a shot that makes him a well-rounded offensive weapon. He mostly played wing in his first season (only taking 48 faceoffs). With his strong showing in his rookie year, expect Coach Brind’Amour to test Necas at centre a little more often through his sophomore season.
Potentially surrounding Necas in the middle line forward positions are Jordan Staal, Nino Niederreiter, Vincent Trochek, Warren Foegele, Ryan Dzingel, and Jesper Fast. Even the bottom line and depth forwards can potentially move up and play different roles, as Jordan Martinook and Brock McGinn have useful skillsets for that in certain situations.
They’ve experienced some turnover on defense over the past season but they still have one of the best defensive lineups in the entire NHL. A healthy (fingers crossed) Dougie Hamilton will hopefully pick up where he left off and play a Norris calibre game with the help of Jaccob Slavin. Although Dougie Hamilton gets most of the recognition for being the offensive side of this pairing, Slavin is no slouch offensively either as a set-up guy. Four straight seasons with 30+ points and in 2019-20 he set career highs in assists and points despite the season ending at 68 games for the team. Jaccob excels in this supporting role and contributes greatly to this pairing being one of the best in the NHL.
Also hopefully healthy is Brett Pesce who has been out of the lineup since February recovering from a shoulder injury. Pesce has been the subject of trade rumours in recent years but with the loss of Edmundson, Vatanen, and van Riemsdyk, his spot in the lineup should be safe for now unless the team needs to free up a bit of cap space. He is likely joined by Brady Skjei but either of Jake Gardiner or Haydn Fleury could find themselves getting a shot on the second pairing if needed.
James Reimer and Petr Mrazek don’t make up the most tantalizing tandem but they’ve generally been serviceable. Not great, not awful, but serviceable. It would have been nice to get an upgrade on one of them for the upcoming season, especially with the group of goaltending free agents this offseason. Reimer and Mrazec are both in the last year of their contracts, however, and prospect Alex Nedeljkovic, though shaky and slow to develop, is also on the last year of his deal. The season in net is primed to be full of “show me what you can do” situations which could lead to some fierce competition. Expect Mrazec to get the initial nod in the starter’s role after a decent showing in the playoffs.
Carolina Hurricanes 2020-21 Prediction
3rd – 5th Central Division
The Hurricanes benefitted a bit from the 2020-21 divisional alignment, as the level of competition they will be facing decreased and will make it easier to overlook the lack of goaltending this team has. They should be solidly in 3rd in this division, but if their scoring depth suffers again and the team is inconsistent, they could fall a bit in the standings.
That concludes our Carolina Hurricanes 2020-21 Preview. Check to see if your team has been covered yet in our 2020-21 Season Preview Series.
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