The Carolina Hurricanes have made shock waves over the past 12 months by having such a young roster. Only six players on the active roster are 30 years of age or older and on the opposite side of the spectrum six players are 22 years old or younger.
Out of the six players 30 years or older, three of them were acquired this off season (Lee Sempniak, Bryan Bickell, and Viktor Stalberg). This was not by mistake, GM Ron Francis knows that a key part to success is having guys that have been around the league and who have been to the playoffs before.
The other three players Cam Ward, Ron Hainsey, and Jay McClement have acted as the veteran leadership for the young team. Hainsey and McClement were among the teams top penalty killing players on the team, an area where young players tend to struggle.
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Veterans that can help develop the younger players on the team for a year or two can be very valuable for a young team. Many people look at the Oilers as an example of what happens if there isn’t a solid group of veterans to help a young team. Players get frustrated easily and there is often play inconsistent hockey leading to poor results.
Veterans have Mentored Prospects to help them Adjust to the NHL Life
This team might not have a captain in the traditional sense, but the veterans that they do have, have stepped up in a big way. As the team continues the rebuild, the organization will continue to lean on the small core of leaders.
The Carolina Hurricanes have one of the youngest defensive units in the league. However, the oldest player on the team, Ron Hainsey plays a large role on the defense. He has played significant minutes with blue line mainstays Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin. He proved to be a valuable mentor to both players on the ice.
His level head and experience can help team his partners the position at the NHL level. Once those players are comfortable, Hainsey takes the next player under his wing. He has proven to be one of the most valuable leaders on the team wearing an “A” and also playing significant powerplay time.
Francis wants to make sure the team still has the correct vision. Francis made this clear by signing veteran Lee Stempniak and acquiring Byan Bickell.
A player like Bryan Bickell who hasn’t performed to his abilities over the past few years still holds value to a younger team. He was part of multiple cup runs for Chicago in 2010, 2013, and 2015.
Francis also re-signed veteran goaltender Cam Ward. Ward is the only remaining player on the team from the 2005-2006 Stanley Cup winning team.
Due to playing in goal, Ward is unable to wear a letter on his jersey. However, he has always been one of the most important players on the team. Ward will continue to be the on ice leader, and lead from the back line this season.
Young Players stepping up in a big way
The Carolina Hurricanes are looking to younger players for leadership. Jordan Staal is one of the biggest leaders on the team and is only 27. He has been on the team since 2012 and is seen as the de facto captain of the team.
Jordan Staal has a decade of NHL experience and is one of the longest tenured players on the team. The Carolina Hurricanes need a large contribution from Staal if they expect to make the playoffs this season.
The youngest leader on the team is defenseman Justin Faulk. At 24 years old he is one of the major candidates to become the next captain of the Carolina Hurricanes. Faulk was named an alternate captain during the 2015-2016 season and will be a mainstay for years.
Faulk now has four years of NHL experience, and has international experience including the Olympic Games. Though he is young, he has been named an all-star the past two seasons, and has proven to be a top defenseman at the NHL level.
The Carolina Hurricanes will rely on him to take the reigns of the defense from Hainsey. This year he will prove to be a pivotal one for Faulk and the Hurricanes as a whole. This season could bring an end to the playoff drought if the team lives up to their potential.