2 Hurricanes Who Must Step Up to Replace Andrei Svechnikov

The Carolina Hurricanes confirmed their fears on Tuesday (March 14) afternoon, as general manager Don Waddell announced that forward Andrei Svechnikov would be out for the remainder of the season due to a torn ACL. This is a devastating blow to the Hurricanes’ postseason hopes, as he currently sits second on the team in points with 55 and third in goals with 23. Their offense has been sputtering of late, scoring one goal in their last three games combined including a 3-0 shutout loss to their Metropolitan foe the New Jersey Devils.

“After further consultation with global experts in this field, it has been determined that the best course of action for Andrei’s future is to have this surgery, and to have it done by our team orthopedist, Dr. Marty Isbell…We’re confident that Andrei will make a full recovery.”

Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell

This injury announcement comes almost two months after Carolina suffered the loss of forward Max Pacioretty to a season-ending Achilles tear. It will be tough for the Hurricanes to overcome both of these injuries down the stretch with the postseason looming. It’s imperative that a few players step up in the absence of Svechnikov as they attempt to outlast the Devils for the Metropolitan Division crown in the short term and contend for the Stanley Cup in the long term. Here are a couple of Hurricanes’ forwards that will need to rise to the occasion in the coming months to keep these hopes alive.

Jesse Puljujarvi

The first player that came to my mind in the moments following the announcement of Svechnikov’s season-ending injury was Jesse Puljujarvi. The Hurricanes acquired him in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers on March 1. The 24-year-old forward struggled to get things going this season in Edmonton, producing just five goals and nine assists in 58 games. However, many believe a fresh start in Carolina could be just what he needs to get his promising young career back on track.

Jesse Puljujarvi Carolina Hurricanes
Jesse Puljujarvi, Carolina Hurricanes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Puljujarvi had a promising season for the Oilers in 2021-22 finishing with 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists), setting career highs in points and assists. With the loss of Svechnikov, it’s likely that Puljujarvi will permanently take his spot on the first line alongside Sebastian Aho and Seth Jarvis. Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour and company are counting on him to gain some confidence next to his fellow countryman, Aho, and produce at a much more consistent rate than he has to this point in the season. Aho and Puljujarvi put on a show together for Team Finland at the 2016 World Juniors, combining for 31 points in seven games en route to the gold medal. It will be interesting to see if he can find a spark in Raleigh and rejuvenate his career.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Another Hurricanes forward that will need to increase his offensive production in the coming weeks is Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He’s been playing much better over the past couple of months, and now with the team facing this rising adversity due to the loss of a fellow top-six forward, I believe it’s important that he takes things up another notch. The Hurricanes will need him to solidify himself as a solid 2C that is a consistent scoring threat in order for Carolina to contend in the postseason.

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Kotkaniemi is currently fifth on the team in points with 33 (14 goals, 19 assists) in 66 games played on the season. I expect him to eclipse the 40-point mark down the stretch while continuing to bring his physicality and great defense to the ice every night. He was one of the many Hurricanes players that struggled mightily to produce points in the postseason last year, finishing with two points in 14 postseason games played. It will be imperative to their playoff success that he finds his footing and plays with confidence once postseason play arrives.

How Will the Hurricanes Handle Adversity?

There’s no doubt that the Hurricanes’ postseason hopes took a massive hit with the injury to Svechnikov, but I think you’d be foolish to write off Brind’Amour and this group now. This team has responded all season long no matter who is out of the lineup or who is in net. I fully expect them to continue battling each and every night and handling the adversity as well as they can down the stretch as they attempt to earn back-to-back Metropolitan Division titles. Do they still have the pieces needed to contend for the Stanley Cup? Only time will tell.

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