The State of Carolina’s Prospects: Right Wing

When analyzing a team's draft needs, it's important to look at what kind of position they are in for both the present and the future because an area that might not currently be a position of need could easily be on in another few years. This is the spot the Hurricanes are in now at right wing. At the NHL level, they have plenty of talent with Alexander Semin and Tuomo Ruutu holding the spots on the first two lines along with Patrick Dwyer and Kevin Westgarth in the bottom-six. There isn't much depth behind these players, though and the Hurricanes don't have much depth to fill in for them in the event of an injury. They also don't have anyone to take over for Semin or Ruutu once they age or if they are traded, so adding more prospect depth here in this year's draft could go a long way. 

This is why I am not against the Hurricanes taking a forward with the #5 pick. Defense might be the immediate need for the Hurricanes, but unless Seth Jones falls to them, it's unlikely that they will draft a blue-liner who can step into a top-four role next year. Even Jones himself will take time as a young player because defensemen just take longer to figure out the game than others. When you have a top five pick in a draft like this, taking the best player available is usually the best option and it's what the Hurricanes should do if they want to add an elite talent to the team's prospect depth.

Despite the Hurricanes stating that they want someone who will make an immediate impact, all front offices need to come into the draft with long-term plans in mind and the Canes should consider finding an eventual replacement for Semin & Ruutu when they move on in a few years. Whether that someone is Valeri Nichushkin or Jonathan Drouin remains to be seen, but it's something that the team should keep in mind when making the fifth overall selection. This is something that will need to be done eventually because the right wingers in their system aren't going to be those replacements even if there are some promising names. 

After the jump, we'll take a closer look at some of these players and what they can give the Hurricanes in another few years.

Jerome Samson – Undrafted, 6'0", 195 lbs.
Age: 25
Birthplace: Greenfield Park, Quebec

Jerome Samson
Season Age Team Lge GP G A Pts P/G NHLE
2004-05 17 Moncton Wildcats QMJHL 63 6 11 17 0.3 6
2005-06 18 Moncton Wildcats QMJHL 62 20 32 52 0.8 20
2006-07 19 Moncton Wildcats QMJHL 38 19 33 52 1.4 33
2006-07 19 Val d'Or Foreurs QMJHL 33 25 22 47 1.4 34
2007-08 20 Albany River Rats AHL 65 21 18 39 0.6 22
2008-09 21 Albany River Rats AHL 70 22 32 54 0.8 28
2009-10 22 Albany River Rats AHL 74 37 41 78 1.1 38
2009-10 22 Carolina Hurricanes NHL 7 0 2 2 0.3 0
2010-11 23 Charlotte Checkers AHL 53 26 28 54 1 37
2010-11 23 Carolina Hurricanes NHL 23 0 2 2 0.1 0
2011-12 24 Charlotte Checkers AHL 57 20 17 37 0.6 23
2011-12 24 Carolina Hurricanes NHL 16 2 3 5 0.3 0
2012-13 25 Charlotte Checkers AHL 37 7 11 18 0.5 18

Like a few others in Carolina's system, Samson is on the cusp of losing his status as a "prospect" because of his age (he turns 26 in September) and he is an unrestricted free agent. His stock was never that high as an undrafted player, but I've always liked his game and thought he had a decent amount of potential in the NHL. He has always been one of the Checkers best offensive players in terms of producing shots on goal and he plays a strong physical game away from the puck, too. He has gotten his chances with the Hurricanes, though and wasn't able to stick around after 46 games. That's not enough to close the book on a player completely but Samson is 25 now, so it's doubtful that he will have an NHL future with the Canes.

That being said, I think Samson can be a solid checking line player and someone capable of at least driving the play at the NHL level. He mainly played soft minutes in Carolina, but he was trusted with a bigger role in Charlotte and was one of their strongest players for a number of years. A bad injury derailed his most recent season, which is a real shame because he likely would have gotten another shot in the NHL with the Hurricanes experiencing a myriad of injuries. Would he have stuck around this time? Tough to say, but it would have been nice to see what else he could have done since this was probably his last year with the organization. 

Assessing Samson's future is tough because I think he can be a full-time NHL-er in the right situation, but players like him are usually lower in the pecking order for call-ups unless they really impress in training camp or in the AHL. Samson will probably be picked up by another team and start the year in the AHL unless he gets claimed off waivers. He seems like a Keith Aucoin type where he'll likely be an AHL veteran and get a few shots in the NHL before breaking into the league full-time. It's up to him to make that happen, though.

Progress: Spent the entire year in the AHL and was injured

Brendan Woods, 2012 5th Round Pick, 6'3", 215 lbs.
Age: 21
Birthplace: Yorba Linda, California

Brendan Woods
Season Age Team Lge GP G A Pts P/G NHLE
2009-10 17 Chicago Steel USHL 34 6 4 10 0.3  
2010-11 18 Muskegon Lumberjacks USHL 57 14 12 26 0.5  
2011-12 19 U. of Wisconsin WCHA 34 5 5 10 0.3 10
2012-13 20 U. of Wisconsin WCHA 41 5 7 12 0.3 10
2012-13 20 Charlotte Checkers AHL 2 0 0 0 0  

*Woods is a natural center but is listed as a right winger on the team's site, so we'll put him here for now.

It was surprising to see the Hurricanes sign Woods' entry-level deal so early because his numbers at the University of Wisconsin aren't particularly impressive and he he had a chance of playing a bigger role next year as an upper-classman. The Checkers seem set on getting younger, though and Woods helps them accomplish that. He doesn't possess a ton of upside, but he can win faceoffs, kill penalties and play a solid two-way game so that should definitely help them, especially if Riley Nash is in the NHL full-time next year. I see Woods as a useful player, but I'm not sure what kind of NHL potential he has. He has never been used in a scoring role, so his numbers have never been that impressive but he does a lot of other things to contribute outside of that.

Will we ever see Woods in the NHL, though? It's a little early to say yes or no to that question because he was drafted only last year and is still very young. How he performs with the Checkers next year will probably go a long way to determining that and it will be interesting to see how he does. You can never have too many young players in your system.

Progress: Modest offensive numbers in 2nd/3rd line role with Wisconsin, signed entry-level contract & made AHL debut

Jared Staal – 2008 2nd Round Pick, acquired in trade with Phoenix Coyotes, 6'4", 210 lbs.
Age: 22
Birthplace: Thunder Bay, Ontario

Jared Staal
Season Age Team Lge GP G A Pts P/G NHLE
2006-07 16 Sudbury Wolves OHL 63 2 1 3 0 1
2007-08 17 Sudbury Wolves OHL 60 21 28 49 0.8 19
2008-09 18 Sudbury Wolves OHL 67 19 33 52 0.8 18
2008-09 18 San Antonio Rampage AHL 5 0 0 0 0  
2009-10 19 Sudbury Wolves OHL 59 12 37 49 0.8 20
2009-10 19 San Antonio Rampage AHL 5 0 1 1 0.2 7
2010-11 20 Charlotte Checkers AHL 13 1 1 2 0.2 6
2010-11 20 Florida Everblades ECHL 33 6 5 11 0.3  
2011-12 21 Charlotte Checkers AHL 37 3 3 6 0.2 6
2011-12 21 Providence Bruins AHL 7 0 2 2 0.3 10
2012-13 22 Charlotte Checkers AHL 52 4 3 7 0.1 5
2012-13 22 Carolina Hurricanes NHL 2 0 0 0 0  

Jared Staal made his NHL debut at the end of last season but he probably doesn't have much of a future in the league based on his career numbers. He was called up to give the Staal family something to remember in a lost season and while he did play well, there are a lot of other prospects who are ahead of him in the call-up pecking order. Jared has mainly been a bottom-six grinder in the AHL and was a healthy scratch in the early part of the year, so it's tough to see him making much of an impact in the NHL unless he drastically improves at the lower levels. The fact that he played well in his two NHL games might give him some leverage with the coaching staff, but he still looks like a career AHLer in the big picture.

Progress: Made NHL debut but was unimpressive in AHL.

Zac Dalpe: 2008 2nd Round Pick, 6'01" 195 lbs.
Age: 23
Birthplace: Paris, Ontario

Zac Dalpe
Season Age Team Lge GP G A Pts P/G NHLE
2007-08 18 Penticton Vees BCHL 61 35 45 80 1.3  
2008-09 19 Ohio State University CCHA 37 13 12 25 0.7 23
2009-10 20 Ohio State University CCHA 39 21 24 45 1.2 39
2009-10 20 Albany River Rats AHL 17 9 4 13 0.8 28
2010-11 21 Carolina Hurricanes NHL 15 3 1 4 0.3  
2010-11 21 Charlotte Checkers AHL 77 29 41 70 0.9 33
2011-12 22 Carolina Hurricanes NHL 16 1 2 3 0.2  
2011-12 22 Charlotte Checkers AHL 56 18 14 32 0.6 21
2012-13 23 Charlotte Checkers AHL 54 21 21 42 0.8 28
2012-13 23 Carolina Hurricanes NHL 10 1 2 3 0.3  

The Zac Dalpe situation is really starting to wear on the fanbase because many thought he would be in the NHL by now and you can really make the argument that he should be. Or at the very least he should have more than 41 NHL games played in his career because he played well enough to deserve a longer look this season and has made progress. There just always seems to be something that keeps him from taking that next step. Last season, he was used in a fourth line role and got hurt in the first month of the year and this season, he was sent down after six games where he played well and missed almost all of March with an injury. Dalpe getting only ten games this past year was very frustrating because he played very well during his time in Carolina and filled a need, but he was sent down on multiple occasions for whatever reason.

Out of all of the Hurricanes current forward prospects, Dalpe is the most likely to be a full-time NHLer and his performance with the Hurricanes last year gave me some confidence that he is good enough to play for the Hurricanes as soon as next year. The question is when will he make the jump and where will he play? The Hurricanes are probably going to sign someone for the bottom-six and it might be hard for him to earn a roster spot unless someone like Drayson Bowman or Patrick Dwyer is moved. Dalpe will need to really impress in training camp for that to happen, but that hasn't been an issue for him in the past since he has made the team out of camp the last three seasons. Being able to stick around after that has been the problem.

I don't think Dalpe will be the star that some people projected him to be, but he should be a useful NHL-er and not another Boychuk. He needs to make the jump within the next year for it to happen, though and whether or not he stays with the Hurricanes is quesitonable. The Canes need cheap depth, so if he is good enough and the coaching staff likes him, then he should be a good fit next year. However, if he doesn't make the NHL next year, then he could find himself traded. 

To sum things up, the Hurricanes don't have a lot of depth at right wing in their organization but the good news is that they don't have an immediate need for one right now. They will in a few years, though so it would be smart for them to draft a couple of guys who can help somewhere down the line. Using the #5 pick on a right winger would not be a bad move at all.

Stats courtesy of HockeyDB