Weight: 205 lbs.
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2010 Draft
Last Year's Ranking: 10
If there is one thing we all know, it's that the Hurricanes scouts love mobile defensemen and they haven't been shy about drafting or making trades for them. Some of them have worked out better than others, but Carolina's philosophy has remained the same, as they have continued to stockpile puck-moving defensemen both at the pro and amateur level. The term "puck-moving defensemen" is often used to describe offensive defensemen and most fans incorrectly assume that they are liabilities in their own end. Some of them do fall into that category, but just because a defenseman skates well and possesses offensive tendencies doesn't make him a "one-dimensional player" or a nightmare whenever they have to defend in their own zone. In fact, you can make the argument that being a mobile defenseman is a good thing in today's game and this is why Carolina's 2010 3rd rounder, Danny Biega, could find his way to the NHL sooner rather than later.
Biega recently finished his senior year at Harvard University and while that didn't go as well as he hoped, he still has a lot of promise as an offensive defenseman. He plays a strong two-way game but he is more effective when the puck is on his stick. His fluid skating, passing and hockey IQ made him a great fit on Harvard's power play in each of the last three seasons and these were on full display in his sophomore & junior year. Biega is also capable of leading a rush up the ice with little difficulty and this could definitely help him earn a job in the NHL somewhere down the line. His numbers weren't great in his senior year, but Biega's talent is still there and it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to playing in the AHL next season.
In his own end, Biega has some work to do because he doesn't play a physical game and tries to outmaneuver opponents rather than getting in their face. He isn't a small player, so he is capable of matching up against other team's forwards, but his style of play can get him into trouble if he makes a mistake or two. His play away from the puck is a little similar to that of former Hurricane Jamie McBain. Meaning that Biega can get aggressive in the offensive zone and it sometimes leads to him getting caught deep if he isn't careful. He has the speed to get back and cover up for his mistakes but sometimes makes bad reads on opposing forwards. Those are legitimate concerns, but Biega is still pretty dynamic with the puck and is defending only 40% of the time when he is on his game, which makes his upside very appealing. Next to Ryan Murphy, he was probably the most impressive defenseman at the Hurricanes development camp last month, as his terrific offensive skillset was on full display.
Another concern with Biega is that he is coming off a down season, especially for his standards. Harvard had a tough year overall and Biega was just one of many players on that team who struggled. Big things were expected from him in his senior year, but he wasn't quite the offensive force that he was two years prior. This was a combination of Biega's own struggles and Harvard, as a team, going through a tough transition year. I think Biega will rebound and have a good career, but I would be lying if I said wasn't expecting more from him last season. That being said, this is just one season and Biega's overall body of work is still very impressive.
This coming season will be an important one for Biega, as it will be his first fulll year in the pros and it should give the Hurricanes an idea of where his development is. Biega got to play a couple playoff games in Charlotte after signing his entry level contract and the coaches down ther e seemed to like him a lot. He gives them an element they were missing after Bobby Sanguinetti's departure and could possibly take over Marc-Andre Gragnan's role as the power play quarterback next season. The AHL is a different game than the ECAC but this is where his strengths lie and he should be capable enough to handle heavy minutes on the power play in Charlotte. Biega is still pretty young (only turns 22 this September), but he is at the age where a lot of future NHL-ers break into the professionals, so his rookie season with the Checkers will give us a big indication of where he is at and if he can develop into an NHL player.
Despite the bad season, I have Biega jumping up one spot in the rankings this year. Most of that is due to some other prospects underperforming but I also think what Biega has done over his entire career is good enough to keep him in the top ten. One down year isn't enough for me to lose faith in him and write him off as a prospect, not when he was one of the top offensive defensemen in college hockey only a year prior. He will regain his footing, but could have to make some adjustments as he enters the professionals next season.
I'm also putting Biega in the top ten because I see him as someone who can make the NHL somewhere down the line, which is what you want with all of your prospects. Offensive defensemen might give fans headaches at times, but all teams seem to have room for them and are on the lookout for players like Biega even if it's just to play on their third pairing. That might be all Biega is at the NHL level, but he has the tools to be a pretty effective offensive player and could be a solid top-four defenseman if a lot of things go right for him. Right now, he's a solid, mobile defenseman and it may not be long before dons a Hurricanes sweater.