The State of Carolina’s Prospects: Left Wingers

A few days ago, we reviewed Carolina's prospect depth at center and talked about how the Hurricanes are in relatively good shape at this position in both the present and future. The same can't be said about the wingers, specifically the left wing. At the NHL level, they have Jeff Skinner and Jiri Tlusty, who are both in their early to mid-20's so their top-six is set for now. The rest of the lineup, however, isn't as much of a sure thing and there isn't a lot of help coming from within the system. The cupboard isn't completely bare because the Canes do have plenty of prospects, but hardly any of them project to be future stars and a lot of them have questionable NHL futures. 

This was a different situation a few years ago when the Canes had Zach Boychuk in the system but i think most of us know how that situation turned out. While Boychuk is still technically "in" the Hurricanes system and young enough to be considered a prospect, he is a restricted free agent this year and it's hard to see the team qualifying him after waiving him twice. Boychuk played only one game with the Hurricanes last year before being waived and picked up by the Pittsburgh Penguins. After not working out there, the Pens also waived him and the Nashville Predators decided to take a chance on Boychuk. He would last only five games before finding himself on waivers again and the Hurricanes re-claimed him to send him back to Charlotte where he finished the year.

Even if Boychuk never lived up to his first round pedigree, there was a chance of him being somewhat of a useful player at the NHL level, but his progress this season wasn't encouraging so the Hurricanes will probably end up cutting ties with him. There's no sense in keeping him around if they are going to use him as an AHL player and nothing more. The Canes don't really have another left wing prospect with Boychuk's talent, but they do have a few interesting players who may have a future at the next level if their opportunity comes. Most of the left wingers in the Hurricanes system are mid-late round picks or were undrafted, so the most you can hope for with these types is for them to have some sort of future in the NHL, even if it's only a depth role. 

Which players are the closest to making the NHL full-time or being on the right track to do so? We'll discuss that after the jump.


Phil Di Giuseppe: 2nd Round, 2012 Draft, 6'1", 201 lbs.
Age: 19
Birthplace: Maple, Ontario

Phil Di Giuseppe
Season Age Team Lge GP G A Pts P/G NHLE
2009-10 16 Villanova Knights OJHL 56 16 31 47 0.84  
2010-11 17 Villanova Knights OJHL 49 24 39 63 1.29  
2011-12 18 U. of Michigan CCHA 40 11 15 26 0.65 22
2012-13 19 U. of Michigan CCHA 40 9 19 28 0.7 24

Di Giuseppe is still very young, but I was expecting him to have a pretty big year at Michigan given his talent and that he was playing a top-six role for most of the season. His numbers only slightly improved from what they were a year ago and he went through a pretty long goal-scoring drought for the first half of the season. That being said, he really improved as the season went on and I was impressed with him in the Michigan games I got to watch. From what I've seen, he doesn't have a flashy skillset (most of his goals came from right in the paint) but he plays a very smart game away from the puck. He makes a lot of good reads on opposing forwards and is very strong along the boards. He is also a pretty effective physical player and can become even better in this department as he gets older. Di Giuseppe was lauded as one of the more complete players coming out of the draft, so he was a good pickup for the Canes in the second round. How likely is he to have an NHL career, though?

Well, his offensive numbers weren't very impressive in his sophomore year, but he was noticeable in every Michigan game I watched last year, so I wouldn't judge him based solely on that. Di Giuseppe is a fine defensive player and does a lot of the little things that some younger player struggle with, so I'm not that concerned about his development. I'm expecting him to have bigger numbers next year, though since he is a lot more experienced now and should be able to figure out opposing defenders better than he has in the past. Some scouting reports talked about Di Giuseppe's puck-handling skills coming out of the draft but I didn't see a ton of that last year since he played a much more conservative game (think a bigger Patrick Dwyer). Then again, I could only watch a handful of Michigan games so my opinion isn't the best to go by, but I'm expecting to see more offense out of him next year regardless. He'll likely be one of the leaders on that Michigan team and should have a big role. The Hurricanes could have him signed by this time next year depending on how his season goes. 

Progress: Was about as good as he was last year for Michigan. Expecting more next season.

Chris Terry: 5th Round Pick, 2007 Draft 5'10", 190 lbs.
Age: 23
Birthplace: Brampton, Ontario

Chris Terry
Season Age Team Lge GP G A Pts P/G NHLE
2005-06 16 Plymouth Whalers OHL 64 9 19 28 0.44 10
2006-07 17 Plymouth Whalers OHL 68 22 44 66 0.97 23
2007-08 18 Plymouth Whalers OHL 68 44 57 101 1.49 35
2007-08 18 Albany River Rats AHL 1 0 0 0 0 0
2008-09 19 Plymouth Whalers OHL 53 39 55 94 1.77 42
2009-10 20 Albany River Rats AHL 80 17 30 47 0.59 21
2010-11 21 Charlotte Checkers AHL 80 34 30 64 0.8 19
2011-12 22 Charlotte Checkers AHL 74 16 43 59 0.8 19
2012-13 23 Charlotte Checkers AHL 70 25 35 60 0.86 20
2012-13 23 Carolina Hurricanes NHL 3 1 0 1 0.33  

Terry has gotten better every year at every level he has played at but he didn't make his NHL debut until this past season. He didn't get to stay very long but he made quite an impact during his brief stink with the Hurricanes, scoring his first career goal in his NHL debut playing a strong game away from the puck, as well. I never know what to think of Terry's NHL future because even though he has been one of the Checkers better forwards since he arrived, he has always been passed over in favor of other prospects when the Hurricanes needed to call someone up.

Part of the reason why Terry hasn't been given much of a chance at the NHL level is because the Hurricanes had other prospects who were higher in the pecking order than him and they were usually the first to receive call-ups if the Canes needed a scorer. Terry's size has also been an issue, as he is under six feet tall and NHL executives always seem to have a concern about smaller forwards being unable to succeed at the highest level. Terry has also primarily a scorer and was never known for his defensive play, which made it hard for the Canes to call him up to be in a checking-line type role. So all of this results in Terry not getting a chance until this year.

All of these are legitimate concerns, but there have been smaller forwards who have succeeded in the NHL and Terry is talented enough to overcome some of these obstacles. The window for him is closing, but it's hard to argue with what he has done thus far and at the very least, he has been improving every year. He was arguably Checkers best player after the NHL's work stoppage ended and could have thrown himself in the running to get another look with the Hurricanes next year. That will probably depend on who the Canes acquire this off-season and how he looks in training camp, though. Either way, I like Terry a lot and hope to see more of him in the coming years.

Progress: Made NHL debut and had a great season in the AHL

Justin Shugg: 4th Round Pick, 2011 5'11", 194 lbs.
Age: 21
Birthplace: Niagara Falls, Ontario

Justin Shugg
Season Age Team Lge GP G A Pts P/G NHLE
2007-08 16 Oshawa Generals OHL 38 4 10 14 0.37 9
2007-08 16 Windsor Spitfires OHL 23 0 3 3 0.13 3
2008-09 17 Windsor Spitfires OHL 68 17 16 33 0.49 12
2009-10 18 Windsor Spitfires OHL 67 39 40 79 1.18 28
2010-11 19 Mississauga St. Michael's Majors OHL 66 41 46 87 1.32 31
2011-12 20 Florida Everblades ECHL 11 4 8 12 1.09  
2011-12 20 Charlotte Checkers AHL 33 5 8 13 0.39 14
2012-13 21 Florida Everblades ECHL 19 11 11 22 1.16  
2012-13 21 Charlotte Checkers AHL 39 7 14 21 0.54 19

Shugg is a small, but very talented forward and has been a force offensively at all of the lower levels. He is a good skater an sees the ice well, so it's made him a go-to option on the power play for just about every team he has played for. Shugg had to start the year in the ECHL because there wasn't enough room for him on the Checkers with the NHL lockout crowding their roster and he dominated for the Everblades. Injuries led him to being called up to the Checkers and he managed to stick there for the remainder of the season.

While Shugg is a very talented offensive player, I don't expect his high point totals to carry over to the AHL or the NHL for a few reasons. He wasn't really a offensive threat in juniors until he was older and he had some trouble playing against bigger competition once he got to the next level. Injuries have also held Shugg back a little bit, as he was hurt for a good chunk of his rookie season and missed some of last year, as well. Shugg is also pretty small and might have some trouble executing some of the same moves that worked for him in juniors. 

Even with these concerns, Shugg has been a pretty effective player for the Checkers and I thought he took a couple steps forward with his development this year. I don't see him being a big goal-scorer int eh NHL, but he could be a solid checking line player with a decent amount of upside.

Progress: Improved in the AHL when healthy

Brock McGinn: 2nd Round Pick 2012 Draft, 5'11", 186 lbs.
Birthplace: Fergus, Ontario

Brock McGinn
Season Age Team Lge GP G A Pts P/G NHLE
2009-10 15 Orangeville Crushers OJHL 3 0 0 0 0  
2010-11 16 Guelph Storm OHL 68 10 4 14 0.21 5
2011-12 17 Guelph Storm OHL 33 12 6 18 0.55 13
2012-13 18 Guelph Storm OHL 68 28 26 54 0.79 19
2012-13 18 Charlotte Checkers AHL 4 0 0 0 0  

The Hurricanes scouting staff must have saw something they really liked in McGinn last year because he was a bit of a reach as a second round pick given his size & low scoring numbers. With two second round picks, they had some flexibility to reach for a player that they really wanted and apparently they were really sold on McGinn for whatever reason. Taking him in the second round may have been a reach, but McGinn showed a lot of promise last season and could prove to be a solid pick when all is said and done.

McGinn is primarily a grinder and is more known for doing things like winning battles along the boards, delivering hits and killing penalties. Basically everything that you would expect out of a checking line forward. He showed more of an offensive upside last year, though by scoring 28 goals and performing well in a top-six role with the Guelph Storm. He isn't going to dazzle you with a lot of moves, but he does have a fair amount of skill and knows how to use it.

I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw out of McGinn this year since I wasn't thrilled with the pick at first and the Checkers must have also been impressed because they signed him to an amateur tryout contract near the end of the season. He might need to put on some more weight and grow a little more before he is ready to play in the AHL full-time, but he should be in training camp next year and get a chance to earn a roster spot. Chances are he'll spend next year in Guelph, though since he'll probably get good ice time there. 

McGinn's ceiling isn't very high but he could at least make a decent NHLer if he continues to develop well.

Progress: Improved considerably in the OHL and made his professional debut with Charlotte

AJ Jenks: 4th Round Pick, 2008 Draft (Acquired in trade with Florida Panthers), 6'2", 200 lbs.
Age: 22
Birthplace: Wolverine Lake, Michigan

AJ Jenks
Season Age Team Lge GP G A Pts P/G NHLE
2006-07 16 Plymouth Whalers OHL 68 9 14 23 0.34 8
2007-08 17 Plymouth Whalers OHL 68 26 29 55 0.81 19
2008-09 18 Plymouth Whalers OHL 61 21 31 52 0.85 20
2009-10 19 Plymouth Whalers OHL 52 23 40 63 1.21 29
2010-11 20 Rochester Americans AHL 63 8 12 20 0.32 11
2011-12 21 San Antonio Rampage AHL 25 0 0 0 0 0
2011-12 21 Cincinnati Cyclones ECHL 13 3 3 6 0.46 0
2011-12 21 Charlotte Checkers AHL 27 4 5 9 0.33 12
2012-13 22 Charlotte Checkers AHL 12 1 2 3 0.25 9
2012-13 22 Florida Everblades ECHL 14 1 2 3 0.21 0

The Hurricanes got Jenks along with Evgenii Dadonov in a deal with the Florida Panthers involving prospects Mattias Lindstrom and Jon Matsumoto. The hope was that Jenks and Dadonov could help the Checkers and possibly the Hurricanes in the future in exchange for some AHL depth pieces. The result didn't work out too highly in the Canes favor because Dadonov ended up going to the KHL while Jenks hasn't really amounted to much in the ECHL or the AHL.

Jenks has mainly been used as a bottom-six player with the Checkers and he struggled to stay in the lineup this year with Charlotte having a lot of forwards at their disposal. He also started the year in the ECHL and wasn't very impressive offensively either. The one positive of Jenks' season was his six-goal, eight-point performance in 13 playoff games with the Florida Everblades. Jenks will probably be a career AHL-er (if that) based on his career track record but maybe he'll surprise some people.

Progress: Struggled to stay in Checkers lineup, but was good in the ECHL playoffs

Brendan Collier: 7th Round Pick 2012 Draft, 5'9" 168 lbs.
Age: 19
Birthplace: Charlestown, Massachusetts

Brendan Collier
Season Age Team Lge GP G A Pts P/G NHLE
2010-11 17 Malden Catholic USHS 25 30 45 75 3  
2011-12 18 Malden Catholic USHS 25 26 38 64 2.56  
2012-13 19 Valley Jr. Warriors EJHL 43 14 28 42 0.98  

It's hard for me to get a gauge on Collier because I have never seen him play before and he hasn't played at any major level yet. He was a star in high school, though and was pretty impressive in the EJHL this past year, too. He is also committed to Boston University, so Carolina fans should be able to learn more about him in the coming years.

Progress: Impressive in EJHL and will play in the NCAA next year

The Hurricanes don't have an immediate need for a left winger with Skinner & Tlusty currently in the NHL, so they should be in relatively good shape if one of these players can play a bottom-six role in the next couple of years. However, a problem is that their higher end left wingers are either a few years away (Di Giuseppe) or have questionable NHL futures (Shugg), so it would be wise to draft another left-winger this year. Tlusty is also going to need to be re-signed after next year and they might need to find a replacement for him he becomes too expensive for them to keep. Either way, this isn't a position of strength and probably should be addressed in the upcoming draft. One could say that they did this last year by adding Di Giuseppe & Collier, but more depth is never a bad thing.