Thursday, October 3, 2013

One To Watch: Carolina Hurricanes

It's just a personal opinion but I wonder about the Hurricanes, specifically in regard to drafting and player development. Sure they have their hits but it feels to me, and I could be wrong, that they have more than their fair share of misses too. And again, I think drafting and player development are two completely and separate issues but if one lacks, the other will rarely yield positive results.  

The selection of Jeff Skinner deserves a lot of praise but having stepped right into the NHL from Kitchener, the 'Canes can't take credit for developing him to being NHL ready. It's a similar picture with Justin Faulk who appeared in all of 50 AHL games. 

Whereas guys like Zac Dalpe, Riley Nash, Zach Boychuk and Drayson Bowmen were that have, so far, failed to reach expectations placed on them. 

2012 Choice: Keegan Lowe - The Edmonton Oil King blueliner took a massive step forward in his development in 2012-13. The years prior he was often partnered with Mark Pysyk and it provided Lowe with a safety net to take risks which often got him in trouble, but not the team thanks to his partner. My question going in to last year was how Lowe would survive without Pysyk covering for him. The results were impressive and somewhat surprising. Lowe elevated his play dramatically, arguably becoming the teams most reliable blueliner. He took on the mantle of leader despite not wearing the 'C' and his production jumped from 3 goals to 15, his points from 23 to 31. 

My 2013-14 pick as One To Watch for Carolina comes after the jump.

Ryan Murphy (D)
Carolina Hurricanes
5'11, 185 lbs
Drafted 12th overall in 2011

Photo: Aaron Bell
I was not a big believer in 2011 that a team should use a high draft pick on the undersized Kitchener defenceman. I spoke with a number of people who thought Murphy was far too one-dimensional in his play; all offence, no defence. 

Murphy was cut from the World Junior team in 2012 despite a massive performance at the U18 event 6 months earlier. Last year he cracked the squad that went to Russia but received mixed reviews for his play during the event. 

Injuries have been a fact of life for Murphy during his junior career having never played an entire 68-game OHL season. In fact, Murphy was limited to only 103 games with Kitchener over the last two years combined.

What I find intriguing about Murphy is that I still talk to people who believe he will be a better pro than he was a junior. I don't know that I agree with that but when folks who have opinions I respect feel that way, it gives me reason to pause and consider. 

Photo: Jamie Kellner
The Hurricanes website lists Murphy as starting the year on the second pairing alongside Jay Harrison. We won't know how accurate that is or if it will last until the team starts playing, but it's pretty interesting to see. 

Is Murphy able to handle the physical play at the NHL level already or will we find out that he'll need seasoning on the farm for a while? Has his often criticized defensive shortcomings been addressed or will playing with veteran teammates help Murphy succeed and make the adjustments on the fly at the top level?

No one is talking about Murphy as a potential Calder Trophy candidate but he's been a point-per-game player over the last three seasons - if any of that production follows him to Carolina, would it be ludicrous to think he could work his way into the conversation?

Lot of reasons why I've gone with Ryan Murphy as my One To Watch this year for Carolina. 

Next Up: Phoenix Coyotes    

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