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What Your Team Is Thankful For: Carolina Hurricanes

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What Your Team Is Thankful For: Carolina Hurricanes

 AT  CDT | BY 

As Thanksgiving and the holiday season approaches, PHR will be taking a look at what teams are thankful for in 2022-23. There also might be a few things your team would like down the road. We’ll examine what’s gone well in the early going and what could improve as the season rolls on for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Who are the Hurricanes thankful for?

Martin Necas.

The Hurricanes have a 10-5-3 record through 18 games. It isn’t bad by any means, but there are some unexpected issues rearing their ugly heads, especially in terms of depth scoring and goaltending. But after generating some criticism last season for a step back in production, even getting tossed around in trade rumors, Necas has stepped up in a big way to help buoy the team through a rough stretch.

Necas sits in the team lead in assists (14) and points (22), seeing the majority of his time on a unit with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Andrei Svechnikov. He’s been elevated to the top unit alongside Sebastian Aho in Teuvo Teravainen’s injury-related absence, scoring three points in four games there. Necas is averaging over 19 minutes a game, posting solid possession numbers in the process, and is looking every bit as strong as his 12th-overall in 2017 billing suggests.

He’s had to generate a lot of that offense on his own, too. While Svechnikov is plugging along with 12 goals in 18 games, Kotkaniemi, his usual center, has an eye-widening three points on the year. Necas isn’t shooting much higher than his career average, either, with his 14 percent mark this season just 1.5 percent over his 12.5 percent mean.

He can’t and shouldn’t be expected to do it all by himself all season, though. They need considerably more out of a healthy Teravainen, Seth Jarvis, and Paul Stastny on the scoresheet. Their defense has been contributing, sitting sixth in the league in goals against despite subpar goaltending. If the Hurricanes are going to push through on a deep playoff run, those players simply need to do better.

What are the Hurricanes thankful for?

Good drafting and a good farm system.

Their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, won the Calder Cup last season. That success is already paying off in the NHL this year, with minor-league vet Stefan Noesen playing some resurgent hockey in an unexpected NHL opportunity due to injuries.

Chicago’s had youngsters step up in the absence of Noesen and Andrew Poturalski, who signed with the Kraken, who both had 100-point campaigns last year. Jamieson Rees is taking a huge step forward in his development, leading the team with 13 points in 14 games. He could be a call-up option if things continue to sour for Carolina’s depth forwards.

What would the Hurricanes be even more thankful for?

USATSI_17875107-232x300.jpgAn early Max Pacioretty return.

14 years into his NHL career, Pacioretty remains a bona fide top-line winger. He’s played just a combined 87 games over the past two years though, and an offseason Achilles tear was expected to keep him out past the All-Star break.

That may still be the case, but Pacioretty did return to the ice this week in an unexpected development. The 34-year-old had 37 points in 39 games last year on the Vegas Golden Knights despite dealing with intermittent injuries throughout the season. An earlier return to the ice, if nothing else, could allow some other depth Hurricanes to play lower in the lineup and get more advantageous matchups. Either way, Pacioretty’s return from LTIR is bound to work toward solving this team’s biggest problem.

What should be on the Hurricanes’ holiday wish list?

Last year’s version of Frederik Andersen.

Carolina’s defense has been elite this season, and they’ve needed to be. Andersen is historically prone to slow starts, yes, but it’s a measurable achievement to post a sub-.900 save percentage on such a defensively stout team. That’s what Andersen’s managed to do, recording a .891 mark through eight starts.

He’s been out with a lower-body injury since November 8 and remains day-to-day. Pyotr Kochetkov has been a saving grace in the meantime, recording a 2-0-1 record and a .943 save percentage in three appearances.

They’ll need goaltending in the playoffs, especially in an Eastern Conference ripe with strong possession teams similar to Carolina. Unless Kochetkov is able to break out as a starting option earlier than expected, Andersen needs to improve his play.

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