The Carolina Hurricanes are a competitive team and should be considered a Stanley Cup contender. The Hurricanes have a young core of forwards they have built around which the team drafted and developed. Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, and Seth Jarvis are all home-grown prospects, and under 25 years old.
The team has only selected inside the top ten of the NHL Draft once (Andrei Svechnikov 2nd in 2018) since 2016, and they still have a strong prospect pool. Give the Hurricanes scouting staff a lot of credit as they consistently draft and develop NHL talent in the second half of the draft. Morgan Geekie, Nicolas Roy, Steve Lorentz, Warren Foegele, and Jacob Slavin have all played over 100 NHL games and are picked 67th or later.
The current prospect pool may lack a lot of blue-chip prospects, but it has good depth and there will be several players that find their way into the NHL within its ranks.
Top 10 Carolina Hurricanes Prospects
1. Pyotr Kochetkov, G – Chicago Wolves (AHL)
Drafted: 2019 round two 36th overall by Carolina Hurricanes
“Koochie” first caught my attention after being named the WJC Best Goalie and backstopping Russia to a Bronze Medal. Following that performance his KHL career was frustrating being used sparingly with SKA St. Petersburg before a trade to Torpedo where he played in 23 games in 2021-22, posting a 10-10-2 record on a non-playoff team.
When the KHL season ended he moved to North America and made a splash in the AHL with a sparkling 13-1-2 record that earned him some NHL time when injuries presented an opportunity. Koochie finished the year in the AHL leading the Wolves to a Calder Cup Championship with a playoff stat line of 1.65 GAA and a .950 SV%, winning five of six games played with two shutouts along the way.
Kochetkov will spend the bulk of his first full season in North America in the AHL as Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta are under contract. Both are on expiring deals which will open the door for Kochetkov to break into the NHL and become the franchise’s starting goalie next year.
2. Scott Morrow, RD – Umass (NCAA)
Drafted: 2021 round two 40th overall by Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina has a core of youth up front and have two top prospects coming down the pipe to bolster the goal and defence position in Kochetkov and Morrow. The pandemic may have derailed some paths for prospects. Morrow was supposed to play in the USHL in 2020-21 but remained in high school with Shattuck St. Mary’s. It did not stunt his development last year as an NCAA freshman as the right-shot defender scored 13 goals and 33 points in 37 games as a top-pairing defender for the Minutemen.
Morrow has returned for his freshman season where he should be a dominant player. Look for Carolina to sign Morrow following the conclusion of his school year and begin his pro career. Morrow has the upside to be a top-pairing defender and should replace Brent Burns as power play quarterback in the future.
3. Jack Drury, C – Chicago Wolves (AHL)
Drafted: 2018 round two 42nd overall by Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina’s second-round selection from 2018 continues to develop and trend up. Drury scored over a point per game in his two seasons in the NCAA with Harvard before the pandemic ended his time in the NCAA as the Ivy League teams did not play.
Drury found a home in the SHL with Vaxjo where he scored 30 points in 41 games and helped lead the Lakers to a SHL Championship with 11 points in 14 playoff games. Drury returned to North America last year in the AHL and won another Championship with Chicago where he scored 52 points in 68 regular season games and another 24 points in 18 playoff games. His play was rewarded with a two-game NHL recall, and he scored two goals in his brief audition. Drury is on the cusp of becoming a top-six NHL regular.
4. Ville Koivunen, LD – Karpat (Liiga)
Drafted: 2021 round two 51st overall by Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina has been successful in mining prospects from Finland, and they have found another gem in the offensive defender in Koivunen. Last year was his rookie campaign in the Liiga on a strong Karpat squad and he did not disappoint. Teenage prospects can struggle to find minutes in the top pro leagues in Europe, but Koivunen played his way into a top pairing role with Topi Niemela and scored 29 points in 53 games.
He is back in Finland on loan to Karpat for the 2022-23 season where he should see plenty of minutes and be a top player for Finland at the WJC before likely heading to North America for the 2023-24 season.
Still only 19 years old, the Hurricanes will be patient with his development and give him the time he needs to round out his two-way game and refine his skating, which may not take long.
5. Noel Gunler, RW – Chicago Wolves (AHL)
Drafted: 2020 round two 41st overall by Carolina Hurricanes
As a 20-year-old Gunler played a top-six role in the SHL with Brynas with a semi-breakout performance of 13 goals and 23 points in 52 games. He finished the year in the AHL with five points in 11 regular season games.
Gunler has a good shot and is strong on the puck. He plays a pro game already and may not be long for the AHL. Look for the Swede to play a big role for the Wolves and have a cup of coffee in the NHL this year, and seriously compete for an NHL roster spot in 2023-24.
6. Alexander Nikishin, LD – SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Drafted: 2020 round three 69th overall by Carolina Hurricanes
The 21-year-old defender has already amassed 116 career KHL games, an impressive total for a young man who played in the league at 17. A big defensive defenseman, his offensive game has also slowly started to develop, and he is off to a hot start to the 2022-23 season with 15 points already in 21 games. Make no mistake, his meal ticket to the NHL will be the physical and aggressive game he brings. Any offense is a bonus.
7. Ryan Suzuki, C – Chicago Wolves (AHL)
Drafted: 2019 round one, 28th overall by Carolina Hurricanes
It has been a rough go for the Canes 2019 first-round selection. An eye injury in junior has left him with a permanent blind spot and cost him some development time. The pandemic ended his junior career and limited him to 26 games in the AHL where he scored 10 points as a rookie.
His play in the 2021 WJC was a bright spot as he posted four points in seven games to help Canada to a Silver Medal. Another injury cut short his season last year to just 34 games and forced him to miss the Wolves run to a Calder Cup Championship.
Missing this summer’s camps will have him off on the wrong foot to start the current season, but the younger brother of Montreal Canadiens Captain plays a similar style, has terrific playmaking vision, and has made strides defensively. A strong campaign with good health in the AHL is needed to swing his trending direction back to an upwards trajectory.
8. Gleb Trikozov, LW – Omskie Yastreby (MHL)
Drafted: 2022 round two 60th overall by Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina did not own a first-round selection in the 2022 Draft, but some may say they walked out with a first-round talent in Trikozov. The Russian winger saw limited minutes in his draft year with Omskie in the VHL, but he exploded after moving to the MHL with 34 points in 35 games.
The highly skilled offensive winger will remain in Russia developing as he is under contract through the 2023-24 season. If he comes to North America some AHL seasoning may be required as well. His upside is high, but the wait time will be several years.
9. Jamieson Rees, C – Chicago Wolves (AHL)
Drafted: 2019 round two 44th overall by Carolina Hurricanes
Rees’ development has been up and down since his draft. His D+1 season saw him have a breakout performance of 61 points in 39 games with Sarnia before the world closed due to COVID. With no OHL season the following year, he got an early start in the AHL and had 14 points in 29 games. Last year he played his second campaign in Chicago and his production dipped to 0.39 PPG down from 0.48 PPG. Rees needs a good season in 2022-23 to get his projection back on track toward a bottom-six NHL player that plays a strong physical game and has some offensive upside.
10. Vasili Ponomaryov, C – Chicago Wolves (AHL)
Drafted: 2020 round two 53rd overall by Carolina Hurricanes
Another of the Canes prospects that came from Europe to finish the year in the AHL. Ponomaryov split time between the KHL, VHL and MHL before ending up in the AHL. When he arrived, the offensive Russian hit the ground running scoring 10 points in 11 games and had six more in 18 playoff games en route to the Calder Cup.
Ponomaryov isn’t your typical high-offensive Russian, he is a more reliable two-way playmaking pivot. He has some strong competition to crack the Carolina roster, but all the players on their top ten have strong NHL potential on one team or another.
Aleksi Heimosalmi – Played limited Liiga minutes but was impressive at WJC with seven points in seven games with Finland. Needs more ice time with Assat.
Vladimir Grudinin – Undersized defensive blueliner lacks offensive upside or physicality, but he is a steady reliable player.
Dominik Fensore – Undersized and offensive defender is Captain of the Boston Terriers in his final season of NCAA. Carolina needs to sign him before he becomes a UFA in August.
Anttoni Honka – Mobile two-way defender making his North American debut in AHL after playing five years in Liiga.
Alexander Pashin – A diminutive Russian winger has come to the AHL and if he can produce there, his value would skyrocket!
Justin Robidas – Son of former NHLer and founder of Robidas Island, Justin is an offensive forward who could light up the QMJHL in his final campaign of junior with Val-d’Or.
Patrik Puistola – Injuries have played a hand in his lack of production. If he can regain his health, he could become relevant again.
Cruz Lucius – Making an early impact in the NCAA as a freshman at Wisconsin. Keep an eye on the Cruz missle.
Tuukka Tieksola – Struggled to find production in Liiga and has come to North America to play in the AHL. Like Puistola and Pashin, if he can produce at the AHL level he could become relevant again.