After last night’s 3-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, the Carolina Hurricanes find themselves third in the Metropolitan Division with 16 games played.
Just three points behind the division-leading New Jersey Devils and one point behind the New York Islanders with a game in hand.
The season already had its ups and downs but seemed more of a struggle compared to last season’s success.
In the era of salary caps in the NHL, a lot of things have to go your way in order to win a division and finish in the top two of the conference.
One thing is for sure, when you give a player a decent contract, you need the matching success to win hockey games. The Hurricanes are no different in this regard, having limited space on the Cap as a Stanley Cup contender.
Secondary Point Battles
The Hurricanes were led by explosive starts by Martin Necas and Andrei Svechnikov. Both players are over one point per game production.
Sebastian Aho also started the season with just over one point per game with 7 goals and ten assists.
What was problematic at the beginning of the season is the underperformance of strikers like Teuvo Teravainen and Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
Teravainen is now injured although showing signs of life, but Kotkaniemi has not been productive or conspicuous in the first 16 competitions.
That needs to change if the Hurricanes are to fight for the division title and be strong in the playoffs.
The 22-year-old Finnish forward has tremendous ability and was picked third overall in the 2018 NHL draft for that very reason.
During his brief NHL career, Kotkaniemi has shown signs of becoming a star. His biggest showcase was on the biggest stage in the playoffs for Montreal.
With 8 points in 19 playoff games, Kotkaniemi has made a name for himself. This led to his offer sheet of Don Waddell and the Hurricanes.
In his first season at Carolina, it was clear there was a lot more to come from the young forward. In just 66 games, he scored 12 goals and 29 points.
The start of this season was not ideal. In 16 games played, Kotkaniemi has only one goal and 3 points for it.
In the face-off, Kotkaniemi did well, but the necessary differentiator didn’t appear, showing the limits of this offense without him.
If it was worth signing Kotkaniemi, the player needs to start with consistency or the team will continue to run into cap issues.