The Carolina Hurricanes started off the season losing their first eight games. Then went on a four game winning streak. In the last eight games they have only won twice. It has been an up-and-down season for the ‘Canes. The team recently lost in Colorado after blowing a lead, and writers and fans have focused in on Alexander Semin not living up to his contract. There has been a lot of bad for the ‘Canes this season, but the development and breakout season of Riley Nash is a high point. Nash is in the midst of the best start to a season in his career and has been the most consistent forward for the ‘Canes this season.
First round pedigree
The Edmonton Oilers selected Riley Nash in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, and after never being able to crack the Oilers team (Nash spent his time in the ECAC playing with Cornell), the Oilers traded his rights to Carolina. Nash spent some time in Charlotte with the ‘Canes AHL affiliation and got his first full season in the NHL last season averaging 12:40 TOI a game. When Jordan Staal went down in the preseason it gave an opportunity for Nash to step and he took those minutes and ran with them. Nash is now averaging 18:07 TOI a game, and he is only 9-points away from his total in 73 games last season.
What has he done this season?
Riley Nash leads the Hurricanes with 15 points and has been great in the face-off circle. He has won the most face-offs on the team with 190 and is going %53.7 from the face-off circle.Nash is sitting comfortably on a line with Nathan Gerbe and Elias Lindholm, which has been the ‘Canes most productive line this season. Nash has scored 4 goals, and contributed 11 assists. Nash is not blowing the league out of the water in points, but he is contributing more points than bigger named players who are getting heftier contracts. The line with Nash, Gerbe, and Lindholm has been the most comfortable line for Bill Peters with a frequency of %10.19 a game. Nash has helped make the ‘Canes deep at center in a season where they are missing big minute center Jordan Staal. Jay McClement, Eric Staal, and Riley Nash are all players Peters can put on the ice knowing they can win a face-off in both zones. Depth is important for a team like the ‘Canes and Nash’s emergence gives the ‘Canes depth that lost when Staal went down. Nash has been the most consistent center for the Hurricanes this season.
Hard work pays off
There have been times this season when the effort just hasn’t been there for the Hurricanes, but its a different story with Nash. Nash took advantage of the Staal brothers missing time because of injury this season. His effort on the ice shows that he can step up and play important minutes for the ‘Canes. He is meshing with a young talented line, and is contributing on the power play. 10 of Nash’s points this season have come in games the ‘Canes have lost. That stat shows that Nash is still contributing and trying to win games no matter what is on the scoreboard. Carolina needs players who bring their game no matter what the score is. Effort, and hard work have been an emphasis for the Carolina Hurricanes this season. Alexander Semin has been a large talking point this season, but now Riley Nash opens up that talk even more. You are receiving better play from a player a lot less expensive. The Hurricanes are in a process of putting pieces together to put a winning team on the ice. Despite the struggles this season the organization is getting production from low-budget players. Riley Nash’s development sticks out as something the ‘Canes can build on the rest of the season if he can keep up his great play.
Do the fans think Riley Nash can keep putting up points for the ‘Canes? Does Riley Nash’s development and young players stepping up help make Alexander Semin expendable?
Philip is a Sports Journalist covering the Pittsburgh Penguins. Duquesne University Journalism Grad 2013.