The Carolina Hurricanes have missed the playoffs for nine consecutive years and will be hoping to break the postseason duck this year.
It's a young core in Carolina, with a bunch of rookies joining the likes of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, or new acquisition Dougie Hamilton. The team is clearly not going for it this year. They have $18M in cap space and let players like Jeff Skinner and Cam Ward go... however the young players might be motivated to prove themselves and could be in the running for the wildcard spots.
Crazy prediction #1
Hurricanes make the playoffs!
The first and least probable of the predictions is that the Hurricanes will cut down the 14-point difference between them and the playoffs from last season.
There is a case to be made for the Hurricanes though, as their young stars like Aho and Teravainen should improve, as well as their new shiny rookies Andrei Svechnikov, Valentin Zykov, and Martin Necas can provide some scoring.
Will it be enough to close the gap and overtake the likes of Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils?
Crazy prediction #2
Goaltending will sink Carolina's hopes!
The Hurricanes made a big move last season, getting Scott Darling, who had a horrendous opening in Carolina. The 31-year-old is on a $4.1M contract but only played half the games with worse numbers than Cam Ward.
Petr Mrazek was brought in for more competition for the No. 1 spot and possibly take the starting job over in Carolina. The Czech goalie can be exceptional at times, but his erratic performances have meant that he has slipped into the role of a backup who can go on a string of good games.
This goalie combination could go really badly for the Hurricanes, and even if everything else goes well, poor goaltending will sink the ship that is Carolina's playoff hopes.
Crazy prediction #3
Andrei Svechnikov wins the Calder trophy!
Carolina has two plausible Calder candidates, Svechnikov and Zykov. Their stories are quite different, as Svechnikov was drafted at No. 2 last year, while Zykov is 23-years-old and took his time to ripen in the AHL, showing his dedication to the franchise by staying in North America as opposed to a return to the KHL.
Svechnikov is more likely to push for the Calder though, his main opponent being the No. 1 pick Rasmus Dahlin. The Russian winger would have to score somewhere in the range of 70-80 points to match the winners over the past few years, and taking his team to the playoffs for the first time in a decade would definitely set him apart.
Crazy prediction #4
Aho and Teravainen both step up, combining for 150 points!
There is no doubt that the young Finnish duo are the best players on the Hurricanes, but can they step up and become two of the best players in the league?
Aho and Teravainen improved their production by 16 and 14 points respectively, so if they get anywhere near that improvement this season, they should clear the milestone of 150 combined points easily. They both punctuated their year of improvement with great performances at the 2018 IIHF World Championships. Teravainen scored 14 points, Aho got 18, finishing second in scoring, both played just eight matches.
Crazy prediction #5
The rookies flop and Carolina finish nowhere near the wildcard places!
A factor that could keep the Hurricanes from competing for a wildcard would be if their numerous rookies on the team struggled to assimilate to the 82-game grind of the NHL.
If their main men-to-be Svechnikov and Zykov struggle to break 20 goals, Carolina might find themselves in the running for the lottery rather than the playoffs. This is especially true if depth rookies like Necas or Saku Maenalanen, who is finally coming over from the Finnish Liiga, do not live up to the hype and waste their roster spots.
Do you agree with the predictions made in this article? Where do you think the Carolina Hurricanes will finish this season? Let us know in the comment section below, and make sure to give us a follow on Twitter (@VAVELNHL_ENG) for more updates!