Last season the Carolina Hurricanes struggled to score goals. They ranked 27th in goals per game and Eric Staal was the only player to score 20 goals. The two former 40 goal scorers on the team were ice-cold. Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin combined for only 23 goals. The organization doesn’t have the money to spend on a high-end goal scorer in free agency and it looks like the top defensive prospect will fall to them in the draft. How will the ‘Canes up their goal scoring? The team will need to find scoring from players already on the roster. Lets take a look at those forwards who can lead the team in scoring next season.
The Swedish Beast
Elias Lindholm grew into the role as the teams most talented forward prospect, and solidified his position within the organization last season. Lindholm will be playing in his third NHL season and will be a lock in the team’s top forward pairing. He scored 17 goals this season including his first career hat-trick against the Edmonton Oilers in March. Lindholm is a prime candidate to lead the team in goals next season as his stock continues to grow. Starting the season on a line with Eric Staal and Jordan Staal will insure his first career 20 goal campaign.
The Injured Warrior
Jordan Staal’s injury hurt the ‘Canes at the beginning of last season. When he returned to the lineup there was a notable spark, and he added another offensive weapon to a team struggling to score goals. Staal has four 20-goal seasons in the NHL, and was traded to the Hurricanes to find the opportunity to play steady top line minutes. Despite that, Staal has not had much success scoring goals in Carolina, but next season could be the year he catches his groove. The big bodied center is finding chemistry with his brother and Lindholm. Even when not scoring goals himself the big bodied center can cause a lot of havoc in front of the net. A full healthy season for Staal will help generate more goals next season.
The Comeback Kids
Two great goal scorers are on the ‘Canes roster in Alexander Semin, and Jeff Skinner. Both have been at the top of the league in scoring multiple times in their careers. They have recently fell on hard times with both players only combining for 23 goals last season.
Alexander Semin has been in the news a lot of this off-season. What happened to his game? Should the team try to get rid of him? Those are questions Semin can answer for the team next season. He has battled injuries and it has been tough for him to find chemistry while in Carolina. At the top of his game the Russian winger is one of the top snipers in the league. Semin has a total of five NHL seasons with over 25 goals, and needs to rebound with one of those seasons to prove he still can score in the NHL.
Another ailing sniper is Jeff Skinner. Skinner’s concussion issues have been a real set back for the young forward. This off-season is a good chance for Skins to heal up and find that scoring touch. Finding a center that meshes well with the former Calder Trophy winner is a priority for management next season. Skinner is still young and his best years are not behind him. With a healthy season and some new blood on his line Skinner will put up big goal numbers.
The goals have to come from within…
A few talented forwards could fall to the team at the 5th pick. Mitch Marner can become a great goal scorer if they him at five, but the team is mocked to select the top defenseman this season. Even if the team drafts a forward it is too risky to bet on them making a goal scoring impact immediately
Free agency isn’t going to bring in any huge goal scorers. The offensive talent level isn’t there, and the money the team does have needs to work to fill in the defensive hole left by Andrej Sekera. Unless management decides to make a trade to bring in a big name scorer, the team will need to get goals from the current group.
The goal scoring will need to come from players that started growing into that role last season. Elias Lindholm can add that extra goal scoring season. He grew offensively and showed he can get the puck in the net. Even if he doesn’t become a great goal scorer his offensive abilities need to spark goals from line-mates Eric and Jordan Staal.
Without any major roster changes this off-season, Alexander Semin, and Jeff Skinner will both have a chance to regain their scoring touch. Skinner gained scoring momentum at the end of the season, and a full healthy season will make him the top scorer in Carolina again.
Alexander Semin is not as bad as his stats next season. Don’t expect Semin to score 40-goals next season, but he will bounce back from his down year. A healthy Semin on a solid line adds a huge impact to the team next season. He can prove the doubters wrong, and put up big goal numbers for the team again. He plays hard, and highlights from last season including his interview at the end of the year show that Semin cares about his game.
The ‘Canes need more goals. It will help the team offensively and give their goalies a better chance at winning games when they don’t have to protect 1-goal leads (The team lost 21-games by a single goal last season). Not only did was the team 27th in the league in goals per game, but they were also 27th in total goals with only 183. Without the luxury of having the tools to make a trade for a big name goal scorer, and a weak free agency pool of forwards the scoring is not going to come from a player outside of the organization. They need scoring to come from within, and who will step up and score those goals is a big question in Raleigh next season.
Philip is a Sports Journalist covering the Pittsburgh Penguins. Duquesne University Journalism Grad 2013.