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July 14, 2011
Top 10 Prospects
Carolina Hurricanes

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

The Carolina Hurricanes Top 10 Prospects

1. Ryan Murphy, Defense
2. Zac Dalpe, Center
3. Zach Boychuk, Right Wing
4. Justin Faulk, Defense
5. Brian Dumoulin, Defense
6. Drayson Bowman, Left Wing
7. Chris Terry, Left Wing
8. Victor Rask, Center
9. Justin Shugg, Right Wing
10. Danny Biega, Defense

Organizational Ranking: 6th

System Overview: Carolina has steadily built one of the stronger systems in the league even considering the quick graduation of 2010 first round pick and Calder winner Jeff Skinner. Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman and Chris Terry may have been the best collection of AHL forwards in the league while defensemen Justin Faulk and Brian Dumoulin impressed a fair amount in college.

The additions of Ryan Murphy and Victor Rask were huge for this already excellent system, as they are two top-end talents who could be significant pieces if they hit. This system overall looks primed to churn out a ton of NHL regulars over the next few years despite already seeing players like Jerome Samson and Jeff Skinner move on. Frankly, the only thing holding back these prospects will be space at the top level. This isn't a system to dream on though, as there are many prospects that are ready to produce now and if not, they will be very soon.

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1. Ryan Murphy, Defense
Date of birth: 03/31/1993
Age: 18
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 166
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 63 GP, 26 G, 79 P (Kitchener-OHL)
Acquired: First round, 12th overall in 2011 by Carolina

The Good: It's hard to start a write-up of Ryan Murphy without headlining his skating ability, as that tool is really what drives his value so much. It's a near-elite level tool and there is so much to like about how Ryan Murphy skates between his top speed, acceleration, lateral movement and edge control. He can get to top speed within a few strides that he generates off quick legs and that top speed is very dangerous to the point where he will make NHL defenders back up an extra few steps to keep him in front of them. Murphy moves well from a standstill and can make people miss by out-angling them and being elusive. Murphy also does not shy from using his best weapon, frequently taking the puck out from behind his net and taking it deep or skating around defenders in the offensive zone. Murphy's puck skills are plus, with his ability to handle the puck at high speed being very good. His passes are crisp and accurate with his distribution skills being quite very good and for a player commonly labeled a puck-rusher, he sees the ice at a high level too. That is a good sign as likely when he gets to the pro game, he will likely be coached into toning down some of his superman acts with the puck and having the ability to be an above-average playmaker will help his power play value. When Murphy has the puck, he has the look of a unique player in how he moves around, makes people miss, and how he is aware of his surroundings. His shot is decent, and when he gets a full wind-up he can put some fine velocity on it.

The Bad: The physical game is the biggest question mark on Murphy and how he'll handle that aspect at the top level is the biggest deterrent to his draft value. To his credit, Murphy isn't afraid of contact but there are several times at the junior level where bigger players would simply outmatch him. His defensive game has come a ways since last year as well. While I wouldn't say his positioning is good, it's decent for a junior player but still grades as below-average. The lack of physical ability is the obvious liability going forward. He isn't completely shy from playing physical but there is nothing that stands out in that regard and how he builds his body in the coming years will be a significant key to his pro career and certainly a risk for the Hurricanes. Murphy can also get overzealous when trying to create offense and do too much on the ice, but he doesn't turn the puck over as much as someone with that issue usually does.

Projection: An all-star level defenseman ceiling, but there is also a lot of uncertainty to that projection and could end up topping out as a below-average second to above-average third pairing defender.

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2. Zac Dalpe, Center
Date of birth: 11/01/1989
Age: 21
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 195
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 61 GP, 23 G, 57 P (Charlotte-AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 45th overall in 2008 by Carolina

The Good: Dalpe is an above-average skater with a refined stride that lets him pick up speed well and he can really fly when he gets going. He's well-conditioned and has a notable work ethic that lets him take full advantage of how much ice he can cover on a shift-to-shift basis. He's decent with the puck, though he isn't really much of a dangler but will flash a beyond average pass or move on occasion. Dalpe contributes in the possession game by bringing the puck up and into the zone and then reverting to the sideboards and the cycle game to maintain it. He's got decent shot mechanics and will be able to score some goals from beyond the high percentage areas. Dalpe has pro-level strength and does fine in the physical areas and can stay tight on his assignments. He works hard and has shown commitment to improving his defensive flaws.

The Bad: He's still a little lean in regards to his frame and despite the fact that his muscle mass is fine, he can get boxed out along the wall by players with above-average size. Dalpe's defensive game has come a ways and while I think he can stay at center and play fine in that regards with a little more development, some sources question whether or not he may need to move off to the wing. He also needs to continue to work on his faceoffs.

Projection: An above-average second line center, but likely ends up an average second line center or winger.

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3. Zach Boychuk, Right Wing
Date of birth: 10/04/1989
Age: 21
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 188
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 60 GP, 22 G, 65 P (Charlotte-AHL)
Acquired: First round, 14th overall in 2008 by Carolina

The Good: Boychuk is an above-average skater whose top speed might flash solid-average, but is a really agile and shifty skater whose first few steps and lateral quickness are very desirable traits. His puck skills are above-average to plus as seen in his good hand-eye coordination and ability to do a lot of things with the puck in open ice. He's able to deliver accurate and crisp passes off a set-up or deliver on one-touches. Boychuk has decent shot mechanics and can project as a notable but not above-average goal-scorer. His work ethic off the ice has paid dividends and sources say he's become a more consistent threat on a shift-to-shift basis in his second minor pro season.

The Bad: Boychuk still has a wiry frame that lacks strength. As a player who in a few months will turn 22, the lack of physical development is somewhat concerning especially for a smaller player. It's hard to see him as anything beyond a fringe physical player in the NHL and possibly a true perimeter player despite the fact he isn't shy from engaging. His defensive game still needs to come a ways too and there are times he just doesn't show the same dedication to that side of the puck as he does offensively.

Projection: His upside is that of a first line winger, but chances are very remote that reaches that ceiling. He has the skills to definitely project onto a second line, but may need to get a lot of offensive zone starts.

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4. Justin Faulk, Defense
Date of birth: 03/20/1992
Age: 19
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 200
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 39 GP, 8 G, 33 P (Minnesota-Duluth-WCHA)
Acquired: Second round, 37th overall in 2010 by Carolina

The Good: Faulk is a very offensively-gifted defender with multiple tools to lean on. He has above-average puck skills and is a player who starts a lot of scoring plays. Faulk shows creativity with the puck and can make defenders miss. He makes fine distributions and he's able to be great power play quarterback with his good lateral mobility and hands. What's more, that's not even his best power play asset as he's a true plus shooter who can just wire cannons from the point. He's not a chucker though and is selective about his shot unless the lane is there. Being a sub-6'0" defenseman is usually a worry but Faulk shows a notable amount of strength relative to his size and age. He's able to protect the puck at a decent level and is not a slouch in battles. His defensive game has progressed since last season to a decent level and there is much less reason to believe that he will need to be protected usage-wise if he continues to develop in that area. His overall hockey sense is above-average and he appropriately times his conservative and aggressive reads on and off the puck. Faulk has top-end offensive potential, and NHL sources believe he can easily end up on a first power play unit.

The Bad: His skating tool is decent in a straight-line but the rest of the tool could use some fine-tuning, and I'm not sure I'd grade the overall tool as average and he could be more mobile for his size. His grit and strength for his size is good, but he needs to continue putting on as much muscle as possible to do well in the pro game next season. His defensive game has progressed well, even on some games flashing above-average, but he does have occasional lapses and with his size and mobility, he needs to do a better job of keeping faster forwards in front of him.

Projection: An above-average second pairing defenseman in a perfect world, but he likely projects as more in the average variety. No matter how his overall game progresses, as long as he finds a role in the league, he will line up on a first power play unit and produce top-tier counting numbers.

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5. Brian Dumoulin, Defense
Date of birth: 09/06/1991
Age: 19
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 210
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 37 GP, 3 G, 33 P (Boston College-Hockey East)
Acquired: Second round, 51st overall in 2009 by Carolina

The Good: Dumoulin has really emerged since he entered the college game and especially this year as a well above-average defensive prospect. He's a big defenseman who projects to be a plus physical player at the top level. He isn't an extremely tough player, but does the important things well physically such as winning battles, showing good strength on the puck in battles, separating players off puck in one-on-one's and closing gaps with his body well. He's a very skilled puck-mover for a man his size, showing very notable puck work and the ability to make people miss with his hands on the rush and he can move the puck around at an above-average level. His power play goal-scoring rate at Boston College was not an illusion of playing on a top program, as Dumoulin has legit offensive upside.

The Bad: Dumoulin is a below-average skater and while it's okay for a man his size, he isn't exactly a player who will be able to rush the puck in the NHL like he's been able to do at other levels. His mobility is fine and he stays with his checks relatively well when he gives the appropriate gaps. He is decent defensively, but has some fine-tuning to do in regards to some of his decisions and can be victim of ill-advised turnovers. He still has room to fill out, and while he has fine strength, he has the potential to be much stronger with his frame.

Projection: An above-average second pairing defenseman, but is a safe enough projection to be a below-average second to above-average third pairing defender.

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6. Drayson Bowman, Left Wing
Date of birth: 03/08/1989
Age: 22
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 51 GP, 12 G, 30 P (Charlotte-AHL)
Acquired: Third round, 72nd overall in 2008 by Carolina

The Good: Bowman is a solid to above-average skater who impresses with his mobility and has the speed to be a decent puck rusher. He has solid puck skills and can handle the puck well, showing good coordination in tight and he can be a notable distributor. Bowman has a solid release and has the shot tool to put up good goal numbers even though he's gone two seasons without putting up 20 in the AHL. He has a goal-scorer's mentality in his positional play and displays good awareness hovering around the offensive zone. His defensive game is decent as well. Bowman didn't produce as expected in Charlotte but NHL sources described him as a player who got a ton of chances but just didn't finish so his numbers could partially be attributed to poor luck.

The Bad: Bowman still needs a little work on his physical game, as it's not below-average but a little more bulk wouldn't hurt. While his offensive awareness is good in his position play, he could make better decisions with the puck. There isn't much to nitpick but Bowman absolutely has to take his game to the next level in his third professional season as a 22 year old.

Projection: Possibly a below-average two-way second line winger, but it's looking like he'll end up as a third line player.

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7. Chris Terry, Left Wing
Date of birth: 04/07/1989
Age: 22
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 197
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 80 GP, 34 G, 64 P (Charlotte-AHL)
Acquired: Fifth round, 132nd overall in 2007 by Carolina

The Good: Terry is an underrated scorer who has some solid skills. He has the ability to handle the puck at a decent level in tight, and he can make solid distributions. Terry is an above-average scorer who has almost always found ways to rack up impressive goal numbers with a shot that can score from way out. He's a player who goes to the net well and picks up numerous cheap markers. He can sometimes get too zealous with his shots when he gets a lane, but for the most part his hockey sense is above-average and an aspect of his game scouts rave about. Terry has a desirable work ethic and despite his size is not afraid to go into the corners for pucks or take a hit to make a play. He's also made good strides in improving his defensive game to the point where it is decent. Terry is listed as a winger, but in Charlotte I have also seen him line up at center.

The Bad: Terry is a diminutive player who despite all his efforts will probably top out as a fringe physical player. His skating tool has improved to the point where he's decent at it, but lacks that above-average gear smaller forwards usually need. His conditioning needs to improve as well.

Projection: Potenitally an average third line forward who can spot on the power play but who safely projects on a bottom-six in some capacity.

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8. Victor Rask, Center
Date of birth: 03/01/1993
Age: 18
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 194
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 37 GP, 5 G, 11 P (Leksand-Allsvenskan)
Acquired: Second round, 42nd overall in 2011 by Carolina

The Good: Victor Rask is a true plus passer and when he's on his game he has the ability to execute dishes that leave observers in awe. Rask is a solid to above-average puck protector who uses his 6'2", 200 lb. frame well to box defenders out and when he's in open space in the offensive zone, it's very hard to get the puck off him. His stick-handling is above-average, and while there are times where he may not look the most coordinated with the puck, he has the ability to make quick moves, can bring it up on the rush and make multiple players miss. Despite the notable frame, he excels on the perimeter when he can look his options down and has time to work with. He projects as an average physical player at the next level, but at the junior level he definitely was hard to handle for the opposition at times and bounced off checks rather easily and looked decent when battling for loose pucks. Rask's defensive is game is okay, and I have seen him kill penalties with moderate effectiveness.

The Bad: Rask's skating is fringe, his feet are heavy and the stride mechanics don't look great, but he does flash notable agility. While Rask is a tremendous passer in terms of ability, I'm not sold on the vision and the offensive awareness looks below-average, with Rask at times forcing the wrong decision with the puck or simply not seeing the ice well.

Projection: He could be an above-average second line center, but there are a lot of question marks on Rask that could leave him ending up as an average bottom-six player.

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9. Justin Shugg, Right Wing
Date of birth: 12/24/1991
Age: 19
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 185
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 66 GP, 41 G, 86 P (Mississauga-OHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 105th overall in 2010 by Carolina

The Good: Shugg has solid to above-average puck skills, and while he will on occasion show a good move with the puck, his game isn't of the flashy variety. He moves the puck around fine showing a solid distribution game and but is more of a give-and-go passer as opposed to being a hold-and-control playmaker. Despite these offensive skills, Shugg prefers playing a hard-nosed game and trying to get open for scoring chances. His shot is his best tool and his 80 goals over the last two OHL seasons are just some proof of his finishing ability and a shot that just explodes off his stick. Shugg shows a notable work ethic and isn't afraid to go into the corners and get his nose dirty. He has lined up at wing and center this year and looked effective in both roles.

The Bad: Shugg's skating is below-average and maybe touches average speed in a straight line, but for a sub-6'0" player, it doesn't really suffice. His frame is lean and barring a great summer in regards to bulking up he likely is going to have an adjustment period physically in the pro game but it should be noted at the junior level his strength looked above-average. Shugg's conditioning as well as his defensive game could use a little work.

Projection: Ideally, a third line forward who can spot on the power play. There's a decent chance he flat out doesn't make it, too.

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10. Danny Biega, Defense
Date of birth: 10/18/1991
Age: 19
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 205
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 34 GP, 11 G, 30 P (Harvard University-ECAC)
Acquired: Third round, 67th overall in 2010 by Carolina

The Good: Biega is a solid puck-mover who has a conservative feel to his game, yet he efficiently and effectively gets the puck up the ice with good offensive instincts. He isn't a true rusher, but has decent mobility and on occasion will join the attack. He's not an above-average skater but he has good speed and fine agility and could still use some work on his first few steps. Biega has slightly below-average size for a defenseman, but he has notably above-average strength and can win his fair share of battles while effectively fending off anyone who tries to check him. He shows a good work ethic and his conditioning is quite good for a college player.

The Bad: Biega's decision-making is quite inconsistent and there are nights where his two-way game is spot on and he looks like a top defense prospect, and then there are other nights when he's making poor pinches and not covering his assignments well and will be a liability. He also tends to be more of a stick-checker as opposed to taking the body when he should.

Projection: He could be an above-average third pairing defenseman, but I could see him being pressed to make the league if his development doesn't go as planned.

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The Sleeper: Michal Jordan, the Canes fourth round pick in 2008, has improved quite a bit in his first professional season with his above-average hockey sense and a decent all-around game and could be set to go to the next level in 2012.

Extra Notes:

Mark Alt steadily worked his way into Minnesota's lineup as a regular on defense in his freshman season and impressed with his plus physical game and good mobility for his size.

Bobby Sanguinetti had hip surgery that cut his season short. If he comes back strong, he does have good offensive tools to his game that could end up translating to being an average pro scorer if the defensive game comes around.

Former first round pick Riley Nash who Carolina acquired from Edmonton was quite underwhelming in his first professional season. He has decent offensive skills, but needs to improve his physical and defensive game to even have a shot.

One scout I talked to referred to Mike Murphy as one of the more underrated goaltending prospects in hockey. Having posted .917 and .919 save percentages in the last two AHL seasons, one NHL source believes he's on the cusp of skyrocketing up the prospect charts soon.

My report on Gregory Hofmann can be found here.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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