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30 in 30: Lindholm tops Hurricanes' list of prospects

by Adam Kimelman

The Carolina Hurricanes appear set on their top line, and their No. 1 goaltender is locked in.

After that, though, there are job openings across the roster, and the Hurricanes have a few young players who the club hopes will step into larger roles.

Here's a look at Carolina's top 10 prospects, according to

1. Elias Lindholm, C: The Swedish forward was taken by the team with the fifth pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, and general manager Jim Rutherford wasted little time lavishing praise on Lindholm, saying in July, "The opportunity is there for him to start with the Hurricanes. I will be shocked if he doesn't, based on all of the reports we have and what I've seen."

Ron Francis, vice president of hockey operations, told he's liked what he's seen from the 18-year-old.

"I like the way he thinks and his hockey sense is good, his hands are real good," Francis said. "He skates well and does everything at high-end speed. The fact that he played with men already [in the Swedish Hockey League] is a feather in his cap and should make the adjustment [to the NHL] a little bit easier."

Besides the offensive ability that allowed the 6-foot-1, 192-pound forward to total 30 points in 48 games with Brynas and help Sweden win the silver medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, Francis said he liked Lindholm's ability to adapt.

"The beauty of him is the versatility," Francis said. "He can play right wing like he played last year in the Swedish Elite League or center with the World Junior team. He's smart enough that if you had to ask him to play left wing he can do that too. Because of the versatility and the hockey smarts and skill level, he's a guy we feel can play coming out of training camp this year."

2. Ryan Murphy, D: Hurricanes fans got a glimpse of the future in February, when injuries forced the team to bring 20-year-old Murphy in from the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League on an emergency recall. In four games, the No. 12 pick in the 2011 draft went scoreless with a minus-4 rating and seven shots on goal averaging 21:03 of ice time.

Though his first taste of NHL action didn't produce much on the score sheet, Murphy is an offensive dynamo who had 220 points in 228 OHL games in four seasons, and he could step into the Hurricanes lineup and improve a power play that finished 27th in the NHL last season.

"The biggest thing was he got a taste [last season]," Francis said. "With injuries he got called up from junior, played four games and played well, didn't look out of place. That was a real positive for him. He sees the ice extremely well, he skates really well, he's pretty shifty."

The only knock on Murphy is his size; he's listed at 5-11, 185.

"Certainly the area you want him to continue to improve on is the overall strength," Francis said. "He's not an imposing defenseman who's 6-4, but he does a lot of things very well. With his smarts and his skating ability he can compensate for that lack of size. The four games he played were a real positive step for him and real good for the organization and our fans to see him do so well in that trial basis."

3. Victor Rask, C: A 2011 second-round pick (No. 42), Rask, 20, will turn pro this season and has a chance to earn a spot in the NHL. Rask started last season with Carolina's American Hockey League affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, but after five points in 10 games the 6-2, 200-pound forward was returned to his junior team, the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. He had 41 points in 37 WHL games, then had 16 points in 17 playoff games.

"He's gotten better every step of the way," Francis said. "Initially, like a lot of 18-year-olds, he wasn't strong enough and got some strength, especially in his upper body. He's really put the time and effort in. He's another player that I think sees the ice well, handles the puck, has a great release on his shot, understands all three zones very well. He's a guy that each and every time we see him he's gotten better and better. We think he's ready to push for a spot in our lineup."

4. Brock McGinn, LW: The 2012 second-round pick (No. 47) started the season at a bit of a disadvantage: Offseason surgery on his hand caused the Hurricanes to advise him to ease up on the physical play. He managed to have a solid season, with 28 goals, 54 points and 71 penalty minutes in 68 games with the Guelph Storm of the OHL. When his junior season ended, McGinn (5-11, 185) went to Charlotte for four regular-season and two playoff games, and though the 19-year-old didn't score, he certainly made an impression.

"I got a call from [Charlotte coach] Jeff Daniels and he said, 'Is it OK if I put this guy in?'" Francis said. "He doesn't look overly big or intimating, but I said, 'Jeff, if you put this guy in, he plays and he hits hard,' and he went in and he had the hit of the game the first night in. He skates well, he thinks the game well. He can hit hard. I think he's the kind of guy that can develop not only into that physical player, but also he's got real good hands and scoring ability."

5. Collin Olson, G: The 2012 sixth-round pick (No. 159) was behind a senior and played nine games as a freshman at Ohio State last season, limiting the 19-year-old's development. The hope is a summer that included an invitation to the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp earlier this month could serve as a springboard to a strong second NCAA season.

"The big thing is he's got good size," Francis said of the 6-3, 205-pound goalie. "He's big, he's quick, he's extremely competitive on all shots, he's willing to battle through screens and rebounds. There's certainly some areas to work on [but] he seems to be a guy that loves to play, and when he gets in those game situations, the competitiveness comes out and that's all positive for him."

6. Phillip Di Giuseppe, LW: The 2012 second-round pick (No. 38) will enter his third season at the University of Michigan, and after nine goals and 28 points in 40 games last season, the Hurricanes are hoping to see more production from the 6-foot, 197-pound forward.

"He had a little bit of an up-and-down year," Francis said of the 19-year-old. "I don't think it started as well as he would have liked last year, but that probably could have been said for the whole team at Michigan. They probably didn't start the way they wanted to, but down the stretch they were real good and Phil was a part of that. He's a guy that has good speed, good hands, can make plays as well as has a good shot. We've had discussions with him and I think he understands how important this year is for him. It's up to him to work as hard as he possibly can each and every time he's on the ice in practice and in games to continue that development."

7. Rasmus Rissanen, D: Last season, his second in North America, the 6-3, 217-pound Finnish defenseman had nine assists and 84 penalty minutes in 61 AHL games with Charlotte. It was the physical play from the 22-year-old that most impressed the Hurricanes' front office.

"What I like is he's big and he's strong," Francis said "He doesn't even know how strong he is at times. For a big guy, a strong guy, he moves really well on his feet. It's a little of a growing curve for a defenseman, they take a little longer, but he's made good strides. … He competes hard and has that little bit of an edge in his game that you always like to see, especially in big defensemen. I think he's progressing quite well."

8. Brendan Woods, LW: The 2012 fifth-round pick (No. 129) showed enough in two seasons at the University of Wisconsin to earn a contract in April, and after putting up 12 points in 41 games in college, the 21-year-old finished the season with two AHL games with Charlotte.

"This is a big guy (6-3, 215) that skates real well [and] understands the game," Francis said. "He's got a good shot as well. He's not a guy that you have to explain what his identity is; he understands what his strengths are and he plays to them. He uses that size and that skating ability and he's physical and on the battles. His dad's a hockey coach (Anaheim Ducks assistant coach Bob Woods), so he understands the game well, where to be and where his positions are. He's the type of guy we don't have a lot of in our system, so it's nice to have that size and skating ability from a guy like him.

"This is a guy that'll step in at training camp and won't look too far off."

9. Brody Sutter, C: The 2011 seventh-round pick (No. 193) is the latest member of the Sutter family (son of Duane) to attempt to reach the NHL. The 6-5, 203-pound forward turned pro last season, and after starting the season in the AHL with Charlotte, the 21-year-old was sent to the Florida Everblades of the ECHL. He had eight goals and eight assists in 37 ECHL games, which was enough for him to earn his way back to Charlotte. He showed how far he'd come in the playoffs, when he had two goals and three assists in five games.

"He made huge strides from the start to the finish of the season last year," Francis said. "He's a kind of kid that wants to learn, wants to know what it takes and what he has to do to get better. Certainly one of those guys that is willing to put in the time and effort to accomplish that. … It doesn't hurt to have a guy that's willing and wants to work at it. He'll get stronger, and as he gets stronger he's only going to get better."

10. Keegan Lowe, D: Another second-generation hockey player -- his father is Edmonton Oilers president Kevin Lowe – the 20-year-old finished his junior-hockey career last season by adding an offensive element to go with the physical style that impressed the Hurricanes enough to draft him in the third round (No. 73) in 2011.

In his fourth season with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, the 6-2, 195-pound defenseman had personal-best totals of 15 goals and 31 points, along with 148 penalty minutes, in 64 games. He had eight points in 22 playoff games as Edmonton reached the WHL final.

"He made huge strides from two seasons ago to this past year," Francis said. "When we first drafted him everyone was thinking more defensive-type defenseman, but he's certainly showed more offense to his game and I think that's an area he can continue to develop. He's an extremely competitive guy, he's more than willing to stick up for himself or his teammates if need be. He's going to work hard in the defensive part of the game, but the thing that's interesting is he's making the commitment and trying to learn the offensive part and jumping up in the rush and handling the puck and moving it to the right person. Those are all positive signs for his development."


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