Although the Carolina Hurricanes’ 2021-2022 campaign ended in a disappointing fashion, it was full of success. The Canes made their fourth straight playoff appearance and finished first in the Metropolitan division. They also tied the regular-season franchise record with 54 wins and were second overall in the Eastern Conference. However, they were unable to achieve their ultimate goal and now face a busy off-season.
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By the Numbers
Power Play: 22% (13th)
Penalty Kill: 88% (1st)
Goals For: 278 (9th)
Goals Against: 202 (1st)
While the Hurricanes finished with the second most regular-season points in the NHL, Sebastian Aho was key to their success. The former second-round pick led Carolina in goals, points, and assists. In his sixth NHL season, Aho was a force offensively and was only two points short of tying his career-high. His impact was also felt in the playoffs, where Aho remained a points machine.
In 14 postseason games, he had four goals and seven assists. The Finnish native attempted 32 shots, the second-most on the team. While Carolina was unable to advance past the second round, Aho had a resurgence. His 81 regular season points were the second-highest total of his career. In clutch situations, he thrived and recorded nine game-winning goals. As Carolina looks to make a deeper run next year, Aho will again be critical to their success.
The Hurricanes’ biggest disappointment of the 2021-2022 season was Jesperi Kotkaniemi. After signing an eight-year extension, Kotkaniemi had 29 points in 66 games. The former first-round saw his shooting percentage increase, but he only had four power-play points and attempted 81 shots. During the 2020-2021 campaign, he attempted 87 shots but appeared in more games. If the Canes lose a few pieces this offseason, Kotkaniemi will need to be more of a force offensively.
Behind the Bench Analysis
Things will remain the same next season with Rob Brind’Amour returning behind the bench. During his tenure, Carolina has posted a 174-86-28 regular-season record. The 2021-2022 campaign was his best season in Carolina as the Hurricanes finished with a .707 winning percentage. The Ontario native, however, still has unfinished work as the Hurricanes chase a championship.
During Brind’Amour’s tenure, Carolina has posted a 24-24 record in the playoffs. They haven’t advanced past the third round or won more than eight games in a single playoff run. However, with two years left on his deal, Brind’Amour has time to make up for that. While the Hurricanes have not won a Stanley Cup since 2006, they have made the postseason every year during Brind’Amour’s tenure.
Front Office Analysis
Over the last few years, Don Waddell has made Carolina a consistent contender. Since Waddell was hired, the Canes have not missed the playoffs and have improved each year. He also showed that he isn’t afraid of making moves when necessary. His task this offseason will be adding to a talented core that includes Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov, and Jaccob Slavin.
Due to the moves Wadell has made, Carolina has a bright future. They do not have a first-round pick in the upcoming draft, but there are other ways to add talent. After four years of early playoff exits, everyone’s eyes are on Wadell to add the pieces that will end the Hurricanes’ championship drought.
2022 NHL Entry Draft
With the draft only weeks away, Carolina has eight total picks. Their earliest selection will be in the second round at 60. Due to their lack of picks early on in the draft, Carolina will have to maximize their choices when adding young talent. Some players that could be available for Carolina are Sam Rinzel, Matthew Seminoff, and Matyas Sapovaliv. In the past, they have targeted players with high hockey IQ, and that is not expected to change with this draft class.
In the coming weeks, the Hurricanes will have a few hard decisions to make. Their list of unrestricted free agents includes Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter. They both played key roles last season and scored a combined 45 goals. That will not be easy offensive production to replace, but there will be options on the free-agent market if needed. The Hurricanes also have a number of talented prospects and young players such as Jesper Fast.
As the Canes look to add to their roster, the key will be adding impact pieces to complement their young stars.
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