The kids are alright

Who are the best players still in Carolina’s prospect pipeline?

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Despite picking up some veteran players this offseason, the Hurricanes roster is getting younger and , hopefully, more talented. We’ve already seen the cream of Carolina’s rebuild rise to the top with the likes of Sebastian Aho, Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Terarvainen, Victor Rask, Noah HanifinBrett PesceJaccob Slavin, and Justin Faulk.

Incredibly, there’s still plenty more potential stars in the pipeline, so let’s take a look at the best prospective players that haven’t broken into the NHL (yet).

Of all of Carolina’s prospects who have yet to break into the NHL, WHL defenseman Jake Bean is probably the cream of the crop. Despite missing most of last season due to an injury sustained in training camp, he’s still one of Carolina’s best up-and-comers. The 19-year-old already has a great hockey IQ and makes all the right moves with and without the puck. He scored 8 goals and 45 points in 34 games with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL last season, but managed 24 goals and 64 points in 68 games the season prior. He’s a steady workhorse, and looks to have a bright future in the NHL.

Then there’s right wing Julien Gauthier. At 6’4, 225-pounds, this 19-year-old is the picturesque power forward. He plays hard, goes to the dirty areas, and scores. His great hockey sense makes him just as valuable on the backcheck as on the forecheck, and he has the puck skills that can make your jaw drop. He played 43 games in the QMJHL last season, notching 17 goals and 51 points. The only knock against Gauthier is his ability to stay consistent, and he’ll have a lot to prove in the AHL this coming season.

The Hurricanes have a glut of young talent in the AHL, many of whom could make it into the NHL this season.

Forward Aleksi Saarela looked good playing in Finland last season (15 goals, 28 points in 49 games) and even better during his short AHL stint (6 goals, 10 points in 9 games). Center Lucas Wallmark also impressed last season in Charlotte (24 goals, 46 points in 67 games), as did Sergey Tolchinsky (7 goals, 23 points in 59 games) and Valentin Zykov (16 goals, 34 points in 66 games).

On the blueline, 21-year-old Haydn Fleury and 23-year-old Trevor Carrick are progressing nicely, and while both could be a long-shot to make the Hurricanes roster to start the season, they’re able replacements should the need arise. There’s also Roland McKeown who has been a solid blueline presence, if somewhat overshadowed by his peers in Charlotte.

Most of these players could fill a hole in Carolina’s lineup if need be, but ideally, they all could probably use some more time in the AHL to develop. A strong showing during training camp by any of these players could see them staying with the Hurricanes after the preseason, but the competition will be fierce.

Carolina looks to be turning a corner in their rebuild, and they still have a ton of great talent in their prospect pipeline to work with over the next few seasons.