Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to our second edition of the Carolina Hurricanes Weekly Roundtable. This is a series that started last week where myself (Alex), Brandon Stanley, and Caleb Shaw talk all things ‘Canes hockey; from storylines to roster moves, some silly questions, and everything in between — anything goes here.
This week we saw… well, a lot of what we saw in the preceding weeks – a lot of Hurricanes wins and no losses. However, we have much to discuss, between a tough injury, two team debuts, and a franchise record. So, enough chit-chat, let’s get into it.
Topic 1: Seth Jarvis Made His NHL Debut in The 2-1 Win Over Arizona. How Did He Look?
Stanley: Jarvis looked excellent and certainly not like a teenager making his NHL debut. He easily could have had 3-4 primary assists, with Steven Lorentz getting two Grade-A chances off plays from Jarvis and Jordan Staal nearly stuffing in a feed from the kid in front of the net at one point as well. I hope we get to see him in the top nine at some point because this kid clearly can already make plays at this level and would benefit from a little more talent around him. He was incredibly poised, very smooth with the puck, and just fun to watch. The Canes seem to have yet another star on their hands.
Ohari: I thought he was pretty impressive, all things considered. His pace, hockey smarts and puck skills are quite clearly ready to play at this level — and he showed that consistently with some dazzling passes and creative offensive instincts. He also made a phenomenal back-check to stop an Antoine Roussel solo-rush late in the game, which is sure to go a long way for the trust of coach Rod Brind’Amour. My one flaw with Jarvis is that he did look a bit overmatched physically, which was fully expected considering his size, age and style of play. I’m very intrigued to see how he builds off what was generally an inspiring debut.
Shaw: Jarvis looked like he had at least a season of experience before his debut. His hockey smarts and talent fit right into the Hurricanes’ system and I think he’s undoubtedly earned more time in the lineup. As Brandon said, Jarvis easily could have had a multi-point game in his debut and given more playing time, I think it’s only a handful of appearances until he blows up a scoresheet.
Topic 2: Nino Niederreiter Injury
With the initial prognosis on Niederreiter’s injury expected to sideline him for multiple weeks, who are you expecting to step up and elevate in his absence?
Shaw: I think the answer is obvious here: Jarvis. He doesn’t play the same physical game that Carolina’s elite third line has played thus far, but being paired with Staal and Jesper Fast (who has had a, well, Fast start to his season) will give the rookie a great pair of partners to learn with.
Ohari: I’m honestly not sure any lone individual in this team’s lineup will be able to replicate what Niederreiter brings, especially considering that it’s Jarvis who’ll be stepping into the vacant spot. As far as the Hurricanes’ wingers go, he’s really their only body who can consistently win board battles and then make something happen with the puck. Andrei Svechnikov is growing in that regard, but Nino’s heaviness is unmatched by every forward on this team aside from Staal. He also provides a great net-front presence, which I’m optimistic can be replicated by Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Replacing him will take a real group effort.
Stanley: The Hurricanes definitely will miss Niederreiter’s heaviness, relentless forechecking and puck retrieval skills, and ability to be a key contributor on the scoresheet on the third line. Martin Necas is an obvious choice – he struggled in the first seven games but stepped up big-time in the first Niederreiter-less game with a goal and an assist. Vincent Trocheck has also been hit or miss to me so far this year, and in a contract year (like Niederreiter, which makes his injury all the most frustrating), I expect him to get going soon and have a big year.
Topic 3: Antti Raanta
Over the past week, Raanta made his first start in a Hurricanes jersey — which resulted in a 6-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. What are your first impressions of him?
Stanley: I had little expectation for Raanta making his first start with the team after sitting for two weeks to start the year behind red-hot Freddie Andersen. His first period was rough, but he settled in nicely afterward and made a few big saves at key points, especially while shorthanded, to keep Chicago at arm’s length. I’m sure his starts will become a bit more frequent moving forward and he’ll continue to get comfortable behind this sturdy Hurricanes defense, and I’m excited to see what the talented Finn does with those opportunities.
Related: Hurricanes’ Goaltending Overhaul Is Worth the Risk
Shaw: Raanta’s signing jumped out a lot more to me during the offseason, especially given the difference in price between him and Andersen. As I said in our last discussion, Raanta’s debut answered many questions about the Hurricanes’ goaltending gamble. The Canes’ offense led the way in this game, making his rough first period a little easier to digest. I think more time in the crease is all Raanta needs; sitting for two weeks certainly didn’t help him. Moving forward, Andersen is almost certainly going to remain the Hurricanes’ starter. Health is the only thing I could see stopping this tandem from being one of the better ones in the NHL.
Ohari: I was also very excited about Raanta when he was signed to a two-year deal over the offseason, and I pegged him as the guy who would emerge as the starter in this tandem. Obviously, that hasn’t (and probably won’t) materialized yet, given how well Andersen has played – but his debut showed he’s a capable and quality NHL goaltender. I thought there was a goal or two he’d probably want back, but he was coming off a long lay-off and could likely benefit from some more starts — to keep both he and Andersen fresh and engaged. They could become a special tandem over the next two seasons.
Topic 4: The Hurricanes Are Undefeated Through Eight Games. Can They Make It Through 82 Without A Loss?
Ohari: I mean, there’s a first for everything….right? In all seriousness, the Hurricanes will surely lose games, but optimistically I could see this group setting a franchise record for wins. They have the talent on this roster to flirt with a President’s Trophy victory and are absolutely among the early Stanley Cup favorites.
Stanley: I mean, can we really count against it at this point? It’s never going to happen for any team, so obviously not. But I think flirting with 55 wins is a legitimate possibility, along with a President’s Trophy. Not that Brind’Amour or anyone else on this team cares about or is looking for regular-season accolades at this point – it’s about what comes after.
Shaw: If the Golden State Warriors can go 73-9 in the NBA, an NHL team can definitely top it with a perfect season, right? Except for factors like higher league parity, a hard salary cap, the highly physical nature of ice hockey and a multitude of other reasons. This Canes team is arguably the most talented bunch to hit the ice in franchise history, though I see no reason they can’t secure the best record in franchise history. 52-22-8 is the current record, set by the 2006 Cup-winning team. I’d love to see them shatter it.
We’re continuing to learn more about this team and the new faces through eight games, even with their blemish-free record. Over the coming weeks, we’ll learn even more about the character make-up of the group and how they’ll fare without a critical piece in Niederreiter. It’ll also be exciting to watch how Jarvis adapts to the physicality of the NHL level and how long his tenure in the league will span. Undoubtedly, there’s no shortage of intriguing storylines to follow during the best start to a season in Hurricanes history.