Talk about depth. The Carolina Hurricanes will have to make some very hard decisions, very soon. As it stands now, it looks like the top-nine is set in stone, with one of Ondrej Kase or Paul Stastny being on the fourth line. That leaves about two spots left, and a multitude of players fighting for them.
Jordan Martinook is a player that many fans are frustrated with at the moment. Martinook’s best season came in 2018-19 where he scored a career-high 15 goals, and he hasn’t come close to that on-ice impact since. In fact, over his last three seasons combined, he only has 12 goals. So, why is he being considered?
Martinook is an alternate captain, and as we know, coach Rod Brind’Amour loves his energy. Although he is nowhere near the best option, I find it very hard to imagine a world where he doesn’t make the main roster in some capacity. Even if he isn’t in the lineup full-time, you can pencil him in for a player that will cycle into the fourth line as he’s done for the last few years.
Heading into training camp, Jack Drury was one of the most interesting story lines around the team. The 2018 second-round pick played two NHL games and was very impressive in both of them. Drury scoring scoring his first career goal in December of 2021 was one of the best moments of last season and one that made a lasting impacting among Canes fans.
At the AHL level, Drury recorded 52 points in 68 games for the Chicago Wolves last season, before elevating his game in the playoffs with 24 points in 18 games en route to a Calder Cup Championship. Many had him slotted in to make this roster because of this impressive resume.
Drury is very much a Brind’Amour-type player which is why he has been given an opportunity to earn a spot on the 4th line. Drury has had strong play so far in preseason action, but hasn’t shown up too much on the score sheet.
Drury could play both center and wing, and would be relied upon defensively. A very unique circumstance for such a young player as he would make 90% of the rosters of the NHL without a doubt. As much as I am rooting for Drury, the more I think he may be assigned to the Chicago Wolves.
This team is in a win-now mode, and that means icing the best possible lineup will take precedent over player development. Even if he does make the opening night roster there is no guarantee he will be in the lineup full-time. It may serve the player better to play top line AHL minutes than to spend half the season in the press box.
Derek Stepan is as reliable as he is bald. In 58 games Stepan recorded 19 points, and was an excellent leader for the young guys, primarily Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Stepan attended this year’s training camp on a professional tryout and as of the morning of October 4th he has not yet signed an NHL contract.
In two preseason contests, Stepan has looked extremely impressive, with three goals and one assist, including one goal short-handed. Derek Stepan is still very much an NHL-level player and if the Hurricanes don’t give him a contract, I’m sure that somebody will.
I’m not sure how likely it is, but Derek Stepan made the Hurricanes lineup better last season. Stepan plays a very smart game, and while he has slowed down a bit over the years, his hockey IQ and veteran leadership has only gotten better over the years. I know many fans would love Stepan back for another year.
Stefan Noesen has a very, very outside chance of actually making this roster but he is another guy that falls into the category of “probably should be in the NHL”. Noesen has spent the last few years bouncing around the league before signing with Carolina last offseason. After being assigned to the AHL, Noesen lit up the league for 85 points in 70 games.
He has looked strong in the preseason so far with three points in two contests. Beyond that though, Noesen has been noticeable because of his effort and drive to get the puck. Even if he doesn’t initially make the roster he should be one of the first guys called upon if/when this team begins to deal with injuries.
Many were surprised when Ryan Dzingel signed a two-way deal with the Hurricanes. Dzingel had 33 points in 75 games with the Hurricanes over parts of two seasons before being traded in February of 2021. Since then Dzingel has been apart of four organizations and has been unable to find a fit in the NHL.
If you said “reunion” and “Ryan Dzingel” in the same sentence many would expect him to go back to Ottawa rather than Carolina, but here we are. Dzingel looked really good in the Hurricanes’ 8-1 routing of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and now has three assists in two preseason games.
It seems like Dzingel knows he will likely be playing in Chicago this season, but he has made an impact and shown he may be able to produce for the main roster after all. Dzingel is familiar with the system even if he didn’t necessarily thrive in it before, adding him to the fourth line adds a bit more of a scoring touch to the bottom of the lineup.
Any of these forwards are capable to play in the NHL, and this much depth is a good problem to have. Every player mentioned in this article are required to go through waivers if the Hurricanes wish to assign them to Chicago, with the exception of Jack Drury.