Saturday, August 10, 2019

31 Teams in 31 Days - Carolina Hurricanes

Time to review some future jerks.

1. Ryan Suzuki - Barrie Colts
A first rounder by the Hurricanes this year, Suzuki is one of the best playmakers in his age group. Not just among OHL players, but in the world. His vision is so elite and he seems to see the gaps and holes before they open. He quite often surprises players (especially at the OHL level) with his passes because of how precise they are. Suzuki also possesses good skating ability and creativity with the puck. This makes him a dangerous player in transition, although I would say he's better currently when the game slows down in the offensive zone. This is why he is so dangerous on the powerplay. But there are elements to Suzuki's game that need a lot of seasoning and it makes him a longer term project for Carolina, who is probably three years away as he physically matures. Suzuki goes through serious phases of invisibility and it is because he can lack urgency with and without the puck. He needs to get stronger on the puck, because quite often his attempts to gain entry to the offensive zone are shut down before the blueline. Suzuki also needs to attack the middle of the ice more aggressively. He can be kept to the perimeter and it limits his effectiveness as a playmaker because he's not drawing defenders too him, opening up those lanes for his linemates. Additionally, Suzuki's shot is currently quite weak and it is clear that he lacks confidence in it. This also hurts him as defenders give him time and space, taking away passing lanes from him and forcing him to shoot the puck. But, this is a talented kid. As he matures physically and the rest of the Colts' roster grows around him, he could be a really terrific player. Barrie should already be better next year and I believe pretty strongly that Suzuki will be an 80+ point player in the league.

2. Jamieson Rees - Sarnia Sting
Made no effort to hide my love for Rees as a player this draft ranking season and believe he was a tremendous selection by the Hurricanes in the second round. This is a kid who will go through a wall for his team and projects as a very versatile player at the pro level. His terrific skating ability is at the heart of his success as a player, as it fuels his non stop motor. Rees is an absolute puck hound who is always on the attack, looking to turn play the other way for his team. He is also a very physical player who relishes in the chance to throw his body around. All of this makes him a very effective penalty killer. But Rees' offensive skill set is underrated. He has good hands and good finishing ability in tight. There are some things that need to be improved upon though. The first is durability. Rees needs to prove that his smaller frame can stand up to playing the way that he does, because it is the key to his success. He's struggled with staying healthy so far in his OHL career. Rees also has to improve his decision making with the puck. He needs to make quicker decisions and learn that sometimes the safe play is the right play. He can be turnover prone in the offensive zone. But like Suzuki, as he gets stronger, I do think we'll see him start to take over more consistently. Staying healthy and hitting the 70 point mark would be a great year for Rees and is a very realistic possibility.

3. Blake Murray - Sudbury Wolves
Murray was a very divisive prospect in the scouting community this year. But where Carolina selected him, he was a very good pick with some high upside. Firstly, Murray has that size and skill package and he can simply score. He has both a good shot and good scoring instincts that saw him score 30 in his draft year. But consistency is an issue. There are shifts where he is engaged physically, using his size to dominate down low. And there are others where he tends to float and is just "there." His skating is good for a guy his size, but he could also stand to improve his first few steps to really give him that separation ability. This would allow him to be more of a factor in transition, looking to beat defenders to the net. For bigger forwards like Murray, consistency is often one of the last things to come to their game as they try to balance using their size and skill together. Sudbury should have one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference and I expect Murray to have a big year. I think he cracks the point per game mark and should inch close to the 40 goal plateau.

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