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Tweetmail No. 182: Youth, Adjustments & Priorities

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

Hello and welcome to Tweetmail, presented by our friends at Tijuana Flats! Wear your Canes gear to participating Raleigh locations on Wednesdays throughout the season and receive 50% off any entrée.

Tweetmail is 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.

Tweet from @evanmjohnson1: With Zykov and Foegele���s success over the past few games, what has impressed you the most with the recent call ups?

What has impressed me most about Valentin Zykov and Warren Foegele in their limited time up with the big club has been their ability to draw into the lineup and be just as effective as they have been all season in Charlotte. Roland McKeown, another who has stepped in and played well, summed it up best after the Canes' 4-1 win over Ottawa on Monday.

"I've been seeing it all year. The best part about it is it's exactly what they've been doing," he said. "Z's been scoring around the net, just like he's done in Charlotte, and Foegele had a lot of nice cuts tonight, good on his edges and a quick release on his goal."

Video: ARI@CAR: Zykov battles to punch home his second goal

Zykov is a big, physical presence who can barrel towards the net with the puck and, if you give him time and space, can make you pay with his quick release. We've seen both on display. Against Arizona last week, he scored his first goal with a blistering shot while driving the middle of the ice, and he banged home his second goal after refusing to be shoved off his positioning at the top of the crease.

Foegele is a speedy skater, who mixes in strength and tenacity. Again, we've seen this on display. In his NHL debut, he won a battle along the boards, skated toward the net and scored on a shot from a tough angle. The next night in New Jersey, he again outworked a pair of defenders along the boards to come up with the puck behind the net and score on a wrap-around.

Video: CAR@NJD: Foegele slips puck home on a wraparound

Encouraging signs for what's to come for these two, for sure.

Tweet from @Josh_van019: What adjustments do you see the Hurricanes do during the off-season, both on the bench and the front office??

This offseason is going to be an interesting one, for sure. First and foremost, the Hurricanes will be hiring a new general manager. Intrinsically, that brings along a wealth of fresh ideas and perspectives that will shape this organization moving forward. What kind of management staff will this person assemble around him? What input will this person have in regards to the coaching staff? The new general manager will essentially lead any and all adjustments that will be made this summer; once that domino falls, you'll begin to see the rest fall as well. 

Speaking of …

Tweet from @Mybugfromroblox: Top priorities for the Canes this offseason.

The on-ice priorities are two-fold.

The first is goaltending. Scott Darling has underperformed in his first season with the Hurricanes, while Cam Ward is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. What to do?

Transitioning from the role of a back-up to a starting goaltender in the NHL is a process, and it's been one that Darling has wrestled with for much of the season. His numbers across the board have not been what the Hurricanes expected, but there have been some encouraging signs along the way - his performance in Calgary on Oct. 19 was dazzling, he stole a win for the Canes against Columbus on Dec. 16 in an incredibly tough back-to-back coming off a grueling, two-week road trip, he shut down a potent Capitals team in D.C. on Jan. 11 and most recently on Tuesday night in New Jersey, he turned in one of his most in control performances (result aside) while facing a barrage of 45 shots. Knowing what he knows now, I have no doubt that Darling can develop an offseason strategy to position himself for success come October.

Ward, who was re-signed to a two-year deal in 2016, was positioned as the veteran back-up coming into this season, but the Canes began to lean more heavily on him when Darling struggled to find a rhythm. Ward has recorded 22 wins in 40 starts this season, tracking for his best season from a win percentage standpoint since the 2008-09 campaign. As a back-up goaltender, he's done exactly what's been asked of him.

But the Hurricanes, in all mathematical likelihood, will not be a playoff team for the ninth consecutive season, and the underwhelming netminding plays a role in that. Unveiling the same goaltending duo for the 2018-19 season would be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. So, at the very least, I think the Hurricanes will be in the market for a goaltender.

The second priority would be adding a piece to the top six. Ideally that piece is a center, but 30 other teams in the NHL have the same exact wish list. Landing this piece via free agency is going to be a challenge, but it can be done through a trade - and won't come cheap, either.

Tweet from @tgtonygarver: Do we have any goalie prospects in the pipeline?

I received this question a couple of weeks ago, and now it's even more timely with Tuesday's news that the Hurricanes agreed to terms with goalie prospect Jeremy Helvig on a three-year, entry-level contract.

Helvig, a 2016 fifth-round draft pick, posted a 31-16-9 record in his fourth season with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League. The 20-year-old netminder recorded a 2.68 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage, ranking second in the league in both categories. Helvig will begin his professional career next season.

Already in the pipeline are Alex Nedeljkovic and Callum Booth. Playing in his second professional season, Nedeljkovic set the Checkers franchise single-season record for wins with 28. He's now up to 31 on the season, which leads the American Hockey League. He's also tallied five shutouts, good for third in the league. Booth has spent the majority of his first professional season in Florida of the ECHL, where he has compiled an 18-6-3 record, a 2.39 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage and one shutout.

Draft picks Jack Lafontaine (2016) and Eetu Makiniemi (2017) are also in the Canes' system.

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Join me next week for more questions and more answers!

If you have a question you'd like answered or you'd like to discuss the charming intimacy of "Togetherness" (I'm binging everything HBO right now), you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes or drop an email here.

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