Part 10 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Already a third of the way through!
Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great.
Current Rankings List:
22. Los Angeles
25. New Jersey
30. San Jose
#21: Carolina Hurricanes
Top Fws: Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner
Top Ds: Joni Pitkanen, Jamie McBain
Top G: Cam Ward
Top 3 Under-23s:
1. F Jeff Skinner (20)
2. F Jordan Staal (23)*(This one is kinda unfair, but he really doesn't turn 24
3. D Justin Faulk (20) until September and that's still 2 months away)
Top 5 Prospects
1. D Ryan Murphy (19)
2. F Zac Dalpe (22)
3. F Victor Rask (19)
4. D Danny Biega (20)
5. D Bobby Sanguinetti (24)
Prospect Pool Rating:
Bluechip Talent: C
They have accrued some highly skilled players up front. Eric and Jordan Staal make for a strong 1-2 punch up the middle while Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu, Jussi Jokinen and Alex Semin fill out what is on paper a very capable top 6. The Canes also have a solid group of defensemen and Cam Ward is a top goalie in the NHL.
Up front, the team lacks depth on its bottom 6 forward lines. While the Canes have two solid scoring lines, that benefit is mitigated somewhat by the uneven seasons they all had last year, and beyond Eric Staal none of the otehr forwards can be relied upon as a true top flight scorer. Joni Pitkanen is a solid top pairing defender but the rest of the cast is more suited to a 2nd pairing role (or lower).
Quite simply, Ryan Murphy is the jewel of the whole pool. An offensive dynamo not seen in the OHL since Ryan Ellis, Murphy leads a group of talented defenders in the Canes' development system. They have a few high-caliber players at the center position; Victor Rask made a seamless adjustment to North American hockey and Zac Dalpe has been plying his trade in the AHL.
They are weak in net in terms of both talent and depth, even with the two new prospects from this year's draft. The Hurricanes also lack in skilled players at the wing positions, particularly on the right side. While they have a few defenders who look like they'll be NHL caliber players, they don't really have a lot of depth at the position either.
Carolina has been middling beyond a surprise run to the Conference finals in 2009. Even though they've got two franchise cornerstones in Eric Staal and Cam Ward, the team has not been able to find any lasting success in the post-lockout era. Despite this, they've done very well with the development of many of their prospects, with names like McBain, Skinner, Faulk and the now-departed Brandon Sutter all playing key roles on their NHL squad.
In an attempt to find some support up the middle, the Canes managed to acquire Jordan Staal. While Jordan Staal, a former second overall pick, is a skilled player, it's unlikely he'll turn around what ails the Canes. And for a team that has missed the playoffs each of the past 3 seasons, and 5 of the last 7, the team's prospect pool isn't as strong as it could be.
The Canes will likely be among the teams fighting in the East for a playoff spot. However, their future remains cloudy at the moment.