Get to know Hurricanes’ slew of young defensemen
This post is a part of Hurricanes day at PHT…
There’s a strong chance that Carolina Hurricanes fans are strongly informed about this team’s wealth of promising - in some cases, already productive - young defensemen.
Carolina still has some questions in net, as Scott Darling must prove that his strong work as a backup in Chicago will translate into a productive career as the top guy with the Hurricanes. There’s also some questions at forward; while the group looks feisty, it’s unclear if they’ll be dominant or merely solid.
The defense, however, seems to be the group that could really become the envy of just about every NHL team outside of maybe Nashville.
Again, Hurricanes fans probably know this well. On the other hand, plenty of other hockey fans - maybe even hardcore ones - only know so much about these guys. In the event that the Hurricanes finally make good on their building hype, here’s a guide so that you can look like you knew about them first.
(Hey, you missed out on that sensation with your hipster music friends in high school, so here’s your chance.)
Note: This will focus mainly on their most prominent defensemen.
Justin Faulk - OK, if Hurricanes defensemen are indie bands, then Faulk is The Arcade Fire: most people know about him by now.
Still, at just 25, he’s in the thick of his prime, and at the very team-friendly clip of $4.833 million for three more seasons.
Since he really broke through in 2014-15, Faulk has generated 48 goals. That’s the sixth-highest total among NHL defensemen during that period of time, according to Hockey Reference. (Brent Burns is in a league of his own with 73, but he’s only eight behind Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who came in second with 56 goals.)
Faulk’s 23 power-play goals rank third among blueliners during that same stretch.
The American defenseman is a bit of a double-edged sword in that chances seem to go both ways when he’s on the ice, but his offensive production is probably worth it.
Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin - At the moment, it seems clear that the Hurricanes would be wise to make their current defensemen specialists.
While Faulk can be the offensive motor, it sure seems like Pesce and Slavin could be the guys doing the dirty work in their own end. Head coach Bill Peters can decide if he wants to have one be Faulk’s “defensive conscience” or if he wants to put them together, but either way, each blueliner puts up modest offensive numbers but limits chances against to a promising degree. And, hey, there’s a chance they might bump those scoring numbers up at least a bit as they mature.
Noah Hanifin - There are certain numbers that make you grimace with Hanifin, 20, especially if you grade him based on the fact that he was drafted fifth overall in 2015.
He certainly doesn’t work out too well from a fancy stats perspective:
Yikes, well at least he seemed to be a strong playmaker ...
On the bright side, Canes Country’s Peter Dewar notes that Hanifin’s numbers dramatically improved once he was elevated to a spot with Pesce in Carolina’s top-four once Ron Hainsey was traded.
Hanifin scored almost as many points (14) in 26 games after Hainsey was traded than he did (15) in the 55 contests before that happened. His stats improved basically across the board, often in dramatic ways.
Perhaps Hanifin made the jump to the NHL a bit too quickly, but there’s still plenty of time for him to figure things out. Much like Klas Dahlbeck and Trevor van Riemsdyk, Hanifin enters a contract year as he’ll be an RFA after 2017-18. Dalbeck and TVR are both 26, so the similarities likely end there.
Haydn Fleury: Click here for plenty on Fleury, the subject of “Looking to make the leap.”
Jake Bean: Along with Fleury, Bean is one of the blueliners who could battle for minutes in the near future. Bean, 19, was the 13th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft. He’s been putting up impressive offensive numbers in the WHL, and even last year spoke with NHL.com about the logjam in the Carolina pipeline.
“In some ways it’s a logjam, but for me, I’m excited that I’m going to be surrounded by really talented prospects and players,” Bean said. “It’s an opportunity not everyone is going to get with every team.”
For all we know, amassing such an impressive war chest of defensive talent might one day allow GM Ron Francis to improve other areas of the team. It’s the sort of luxury few teams can relate to.
As is, though, this is one impressive group with its best days almost certainly coming down the road.