Some quality OHL prospects in the stable for the Hurricanes.
1. Warren Foegele - Erie Otters
What a great decision by the Hurricanes to send Foegele back for his OA year. His game grew exponentially. He developed into one of the best, if not the best, two way player in the OHL. Such a complete center and has the makings of developing into a fantastic 3rd line center for the Hurricanes in the near future. Offensively, he's very adept at winning loose puck battles and is exceptional at using his body along the wall. He's also very aggressive in driving the net. We saw a massive confidence shift in terms of his shot this year. Way more aggressive in looking to shoot the puck and getting himself in good scoring position in the slot. Defensively, his anticipation and reads are terrific. He's become quite the excellent penalty killer. He's also fantastic on faceoffs. I also really liked how Foegele elevated his game in the playoffs this year during Erie's championship run. Was one of their best players on a pretty stacked team. He'll turn pro next year and I think he'll have an excellent rookie pro season. I see him putting up 15/20 in the AHL and fighting for a 3rd/4th line spot as early as 2018. Blog friend Matt Karash (of Canes and Coffee) actually feels Foegele could compete for a job as early as this season, based on what he saw at prospect camp. Either way, Carolina has a good one on their hands.
2. Janne Kuokkanen - London Knights
Solid rookie season for Kuokkanen with the Knights as he quickly established himself as a terrific secondary scoring option. Really like how he operates off the rush. A very dynamic, quick strike player. His skating is excellent and he really likes to use it to drive the net wide. Even though he only had 26 goals in the regular season, I think the playoffs (10 goals) better exemplified his goal scoring potential. He has a great wrist shot and as the year went on, he really started to become more aggressive in attacking the middle of the ice looking for scoring opportunities. As a complete player (play away from the puck, physical game, two-way awareness), I think his game still has some growth. Would love to see him use that speed to be more active on the forecheck. But this is a fun player to watch. Next year he'll be in the AHL with the Knights releasing his rights (before this year's import draft). As a '98 drafted from Europe, he can play in the league as a 19 year old. Might be a bit of an adjustment period for him as he learns to use his speed to be aggressive at the pro level. I see him as probably a 15/15 guy as an underager, which would still be a terrific season.
3. Jeremy Helvig - Kingston Frontenacs
Was a pretty solid season for Helvig, his first as a starter in the OHL. The Frontenacs were one of the better defensive teams in the Conference and he had a lot to do with that. He's a really big goaltender and he's worked hard to become more than just a stopper. Did a much better job swallowing up rebounds this year and limiting second chance opportunities, using that size to be aggressive and stopping pucks through traffic. There were some consistency issues at times, and he seemed to tire a bit by the playoffs (where he wasn't terrific). I think moving forward he needs to continue to work on his agility in the crease to make him more effective moving side to side, that way he can be even more aggressive in using his size to challenge shooters, but have better recovery ability. It's already been announced that he'll be returned to Kingston for his OA season. That's huge news for the Frontencas and a smart decision for his development IMO. Kingston has a chance to be a top 4 team in the East and Helvig should be a top 5 netminder in the league. Really want to see that save percentage in the .915 range next year and could be paired with 30+ wins.
4. Steven Lorentz - Peterborough Petes
Because he was a draft selection as a re-entry, the Canes had another year to decide on whether to sign Lorentz and thus returned him to Peterborough for his overage year. He rewarded them with an excellent season and they rewarded him with a contract. Last year I mentioned that the key to his development was improved play away from the puck; using his size to become a good two-way player. And we really saw that part of his game improve this year. Consistently winning battles along the wall. Consistently working hard on the backcheck as the first guy back. He's not the most physical player, but he does use his size well to give him leverage. Offensively, I think one of the biggest improvements I noticed was in his skating. Looked a lot more explosive this year and he used that to be aggressive in driving the middle of the ice, looking to create and push the pace. Saw a lot more confidence in his puckhandling ability and overall effectiveness off the rush. With size, improved skating, an improving two-way game and great faceoff ability, Lorentz certainly has the potential to develop into a solid 3rd/4th line center for Carolina in the future. He'll start his pro career this year. Would love to see him be a full time AHL player, but wouldn't be shocked if he split time between the A and the ECHL. As he adjusts, I wouldn't expect huge offensive production, but if Carolina is patient, this is a kid who possesses the work ethic required to be a quality pro.
5. Noah Carroll - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Probably not the season the Hurricanes had hoped for from Carroll at this point. We did see him improve his offensive production, but I'm not entirely sure he improved a whole lot as a player and prospect. First half of the season in Guelph, it was a lot of the same that we had seen the year before. Trouble with decision making in his own end and an overall indecisiveness defensively. The mid season trade to Sault Ste. Marie did seem to help a bit though. Was able to slide into a different role in the Soo, where he wasn't being asked to be a significant offensive contributor. Was able to simplify his game and as such, the turnovers decreased. Skating has never been a problem, which has always made you wonder if there's some offensive upside trapped in there. Next year is a big season for Carroll as an OA. He's going to need to have a good year to earn a contract from Carolina. At this point, I think it's a matter of developing an identity for Carroll. Focus on using your skating ability to develop into a quality defender. Increase the intensity level in the defensive end and make yourself a really tough player to match up against. Then find the confidence in your ability to handle the puck and use your skating ability to start the transition game and limit those turnovers. If Carroll can be a 30+ point defender but really improve defensively, he probably gets a contract. And he'll be counted on to be a top 3 defender for the Hounds (a contender in the West), so the opportunity is there.
*Martin Necas - Saginaw Spirit
Looks like Canes' first rounder Martin Necas is indeed going to commit to the Spirit next year (or at least signs are pointing towards that). Big add for that franchise and for the league, if true. From what I've seen, Necas' speed and ability to drive the middle of the ice should play well in the OHL. He'll likely be Saginaw's top line center and should be a good bet to be a point per game player. The Spirit have mired in mediocrity for a few years, so hopefully he can elevate them back to being a quality team in a tough Conference. Excited to see him play.