Now I am not talking about an actual storm, I am talking about the hockey team. One of the biggest surprises this year for me is the Carolina Hurricanes. After finishing in the bottom five last year and not adding much in the off-season, I don’t think many people had playoff hopes for this team, and with the declining attendance, that was pretty apparent. With the threat of relocation of the franchise, the team has come together and are still in the playoff hunt.
The Hurricanes are 6th in the metropolitan division, however they are only two points out of a Wildcard spot. The Hurricanes have been a special team this year, as they are finding ways to win games with such a young roster. The average age of the players on their current roster is 24 years old, including 10 players under the age of 24.
This includes the 5th overall pick from the 2015 entry-level draft, Noah Hanifin. The 19-year-old was the first defenseman selected in the 2015 draft. It surprised many people to see him jump into the Hurricanes’ roster so quickly this season. So far, the Hurricanes’ management team has to be happy with his performance, as he has two goals and ten assists in 54 games played. That’s not the stat everyone should be surprised by, however.
Young defensemen in this league make mistakes, and it usually results in giving up goals and a learning moment for the kid. Well, Hanifin isn’t making these mistakes, as his plus minus is a plus two on the season. This shocked me, as this shows that he is being calm and composed. It also shows that he has strong leadership on the back end from players like Ron Hanisey and John-Michael Liles.
Hanifin could also be following the path paved by the new leader of the team, Justin Faulk. Faulk is only 23 years old and this is his 4th full season in the NHL. Faulk leads the team in points with 34 points on the season. Faulk is shown to be a powerplay expert at his young age, as he is 3rd in the league for powerplay goals with 12 in the season.
The ‘Canes also have six players over 30 points on 56 games played. One of those players is Eric Staal. Staal is a major unrestricted free agent in this offseason, and if the Hurricanes hope to keep him, they are going to need to open their wallets wide as a lot of teams are eyeing him to help their teams next year. Eric Staal is one of the only players that was on the team when they won the Stanley Cup in the 2005-2006 season.
For the sake of the franchise, I hope the Hurricanes can make the playoffs this season. This would instantly boost attendance for them, and they would be allowed to stay in Carolina, although Las Vegas and Quebec City may be hoping otherwise. The Hurricanes have a tough couple of games coming up against the Lighting, Blues and Bruins, so we will see how they do.