– Hello and welcome to a weekly feature on CarolinaHurricanes.com in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully, the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.
Let’s get to it.
Who have been the most impressive players this season? – Matt S. (@Mattchoo12)
Bear with me: this is going to be a somewhat lengthy answer, as different players impressed for different reasons.
Victor Rask has had a breakout rookie season, something that was perhaps unexpected seven or eight months ago. You can read about the 22-year-old’s growth as a professional here, but in a nutshell, he was given an opportunity which he seized with gusto. His 33 points (11g, 22a) rank 10th in the NHL among rookies, and he ranks second in the NHL among rookies in faceoff percentage (51.5 percent). Rask is the sixth first-year player since the team’s relocation to post 30 points and also one of six rookies to reach 10 goals. This kid has a bright future ahead of him, and he’ll look to take another step this summer, especially in his strength and skating.
Justin Faulk is another player that stands out for obvious reasons: he was an All-Star, and he ranks second on the team in points with 49 (15g, 34a). As a 23-year-old, Faulk is a goal shy of equaling Anton Babchuk’s team record of goals in a season by a defenseman, and he’s just a point shy of reaching the 50 mark, having already set a Hurricanes team record for points in a season by a defenseman. He logs huge minutes night in and night out, averaging over 24 minutes per game, and plays in all situations. This season, his fourth in the NHL, is another building block for what should be an incredibly successful career.
Jordan Staal has unquestionably been a crucial part of the Hurricanes’ second half. It’s no coincidence that, since the New Year, the Canes have posted a 19-17-7 record with Staal in the lineup compared to a 10-23-4 record prior. His presence in the lineup is huge – both literally and figuratively – and, paired with his brother, they comprise two-thirds of a formidable forward trio.
Perhaps somewhat quietly, Eric Staal has assembled yet another 20-goal season, something he has done in nine of his 11 NHL seasons (2012-13 was a shortened 48-game campaign, and he still netted 18 goals). He currently paces the team in points with 53 (23g, 30a).
As a sophomore forward, Elias Lindholm has taken that next step in his development. He’s nearly doubled his point total from his rookie season, as he ranks third on the team with 39 points (17g, 22a). This could be a defining offseason for both Lindholm and Rask, two Swedes who will likely be counted upon again next season.
Finally, speaking more recently, Chris Terry is a name that has jumped out. He’s totaled six points (3g, 3a) in his last seven games, but he’s also been somewhat of a consistent producer in varying roles throughout the season; in fact, he scored three goals and added an assist in the team’s first four games this season. Playing in a far-and-away career-high 55 games this season, Terry is looking to cement his role as an everyday NHLer, and the coaching staff is taking notice.
"What I like about Chris Terry right now is that it’s a competitive time of the year, and he’s a guy that’s continuing to play well and score," head coach Bill Peters said after Tuesday night’s game in Detroit. "He’s scored basically all year for us, and he’s been in and out of the lineup and on different types of lines. Now he’s playing in more of a top-six role, which suits his skill set, and against some of the best players in the league at the most important time of the year, he’s still able to produce."
What will be the Canes biggest free agent or contract priority heading into the offseason? – Eugene D. (@B_Low_)
I’m sure we’ll delve much more deeply into this once the offseason hits, when the coaching staff and front office have a chance to digest the season and properly assess the future.
With that said, Peters has already mentioned that finding a viable defensive partner for Justin Faulk is going to be one of the team’s priorities. After shipping Andrej Sekera to the Los Angeles Kings at the trade deadline, Faulk has skated alongside a couple of players, including Ron Hainsey and Michal Jordan. Completing that one-two pair, though, is likely going to require an outside remedy. Who, from where and for how much is something that will have to be decided way above my pay grade.
What’s your go-to pregame song? – Vickie (@kcracken)
This changes quite often as the season ebbs and flows, but currently I have two which I especially like to blast en route to the rink: “Who Am I? (What’s My Name?)” by who was then Snoop Doggy Dogg and “Outlaws” by Los Lonely Boys. Two completely different tunes in two completely different genres, but that’s my go-to, one-two punch at the moment.
Join me next week, the first week of the offseason, for more questions and more answers!
If you have a question you’d like answered or you’d like to discuss the significance of today’s date at 4:23 p.m. and 42 seconds, you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes (or drop an email here).