Those of us who follow the Carolina Hurricanes closely continue to be pleasantly surprised by the consistent, high quality play of the Canes defence grouping. We keep waiting for the shoe to drop, but guess what? Not going to happen. Outsiders look at a “D” group of Faulk, Hainsey, Liles, Hanifin, Pesce, and Slavin and say “who?”, dismissing them as light weight and a huge liability on the Canes. Definitely not NHL grade.
Au contraire, mon ami.
Clearly, Justin Faulk is now getting his due as one of the top defencemen in the circuit, leading the league in powerplay goals and among the “D” leaders in points and minutes. He has become a real beast, not only offensively but also in his own zone. Just 23 years-old, the sky is the limit for Faulk. Noah Hanifin, still 18, was highly regarded at the 2015 draft, but could anyone imagine his progress to-date, not only quarterbacking a much-improved powerplay, but becoming increasingly more responsible in his own zone. What can you say about college stars, Brett Pesce and Jacob Slavin, who had an outstanding training camp and have parlayed that into key roles on the Canes blue as the season has progressed. These guys have been rock-solid in their own zone and continue to grow offensively with confidence. Was aware they were on the Canes radar, but definitely didn’t see this coming. If you haven’t heard much about them to-date, it is more because of their consistent quality of play rather than lack thereof. And, let’s not forget savvy veterans, Ron Hainsey and John Michael Liles. Both have been playing consistent, if not spectacular hockey for the Canes, and handle most of the tough assignments, playing big minutes in a nightly basis. They have been key mentors for the Canes Kiddie Corps and lead by example most nights.
And, finally, Carolina Hurricanes fans have reason for optimism with the possibilities on the “D” going forward. For the first time, in a very long time, they have assembled an outstanding group of young studs on the blue, all with size and mobility, most of all, bright futures. There is more. Team Canada junior team members, Haydn Fleury and Roland McKeown, aren’t far behind and expect to challenge next season for spots on the Hurricanes. And, what about former first rounder, Ryan Murphy, who was playing solid hockey for the Canes prior to his recent concussion, and is now terrorizing the American Hockey League in Charlotte. Forgotten in all of this has been Michal Jordan, once near the top of the depth chart and now likely to be moved at the trade deadline, and James Wizniewski, who was expected to be a key contributor offensively this year but went down in game 1 and is scheduled to return in late March.
For Caniacs, the future looks bright, indeed.
Quick update on the farm. Ryan Murphy continues to rack up points in the “A”. He has amassed 6 points in only 9 games. Defenceman Trevor Carrick, well down on the Canes depth chart but an intriguing prospect, leads the Checkers D-men in scoring with 7 goals and 13 assists in only 28 games. Speedster Sergei Tolchinsky is starting to find his game. And, no surprise, Brock McGinn, recently recalled, tore up the “A” with 10 goals and 18 point in 18 games.
Next up, progress on the forward front for the Canes.
Follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/CanesTR
for all the latest scuttlebutt on the Canes.