The Carolina Hurricanes have been active this offseason, inking star forward Sebastian Aho to an eight-year extension, bringing back both Freddie Anderson and Antti Raanta in net, and signing the likes of Dmitry Orlov, Michael Bunting, and Tony DeAngelo.
Stanley Cup expectations reside in Raleigh heading into the 2023-2024 campaign, but not every spot among the forwards or maybe even the blue line has been secured. Which Hurricanes prospects, or PTOs, could find themselves in Raleigh at the end of training camp?
As a former first round pick, Ryan Suzuki is one of two players on this list that have a realistic shot of not only landing on the roster, but finding themselves on the fourth line for Rod Brind’Amour and company.
Injuries have hampered Suzuki since his selection in the 2019 draft, but a high upside remains for the 22-year old.
Suzuki showcased his potential in Carolina’s three-game slate in the Southeast Rookie Showcase, finding the back of the net on three occasions and recording one assist.
There is denying the offensive ability of Suzuki, whether it be playmaking for teammates or taking the scoring opportunities into his own hands.
Before a breakout showcase ahead of training camp, Suzuki appeared in 50 games with the Chicago Wolves, tallying 13 goals and 19 assists in 50 contests during the 2022-2023 campaign.
Out of every player vying for one of the final spots on the roster, Suzuki may have the highest ceiling, but an injury history and plethora of depth could find him on the outside looking in.
Vasily Ponomarev joins Suzuki as a potential fit for Carolina as a fourth line center. With a strong defensive mindset and having shown growth on the offensive end, there is certainly a path for the 21-year old to find himself penciled into the Hurricanes’ lineup.
Over 64 games with the Wolves this past season, Ponomarev recorded 24 goals and 22 assists, his second highest point total since the 2019-2020 campaign with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebes Major Junior Hockey League.
Ponomarev, a 2020 draft pick of Carolina, continued his offensive output in the Southeast Rookie Showcase, amassing one goal and four assists in just three contests.
With the lack of progression or expected growth of Jack Drury, for reasons that can be debated, there certainly remains an opening for a fourth line center in Raleigh. Drury could overtake that role, but Ponomarev and Suzuki will certainly have something to say about how the roster shakes out.
I will preface this decision by addressing that, yes, Carolina may have three players vying for different spots on the fourth line. There is certainly no guarantee, but with just 13 forwards under contract heading into camp, Aston-Reese may not be on the outside looking in.
Carolina brought in an abundance of PTOs for a doubleheader on Sept. 29th against Florida and Tampa Bay, but Aston-Reese has likely the best chance to make some noise in training camp.
The 29-year old appeared in a career-high 77 regular season contests with Toronto during the 2022-2023 season, recording 10 goals and four assists in 10 minutes of ice time per game.
Aston-Reese has appeared in 307 career games, recording 42 goals and 38 assists across six different seasons.
Last season, both defenseman Calvin de Haan and forward Derek Stepan earned spots on Carolina’s opening night roster after coming to training camp on a PTO.
With Brendan Lemieux signing a one-year, $800,000 deal in the offseason, his position could be in jeopardy as Aston-Reese heads to Raleigh.
Aston-Reese has experience and could play a role similar to his time in Toronto. However, at the age of 29, he likely is who he is at this point, leaving Suzuki and Ponomarev holding the potential card heading into camp.
It is highly likely that one of the three aforementioned players find themselves on the opening roster. With Drury and Lemieux holding on to non-guaranteed spots in the lineup, the Hurricanes fourth line could see two of Ponomarev, Suzuki, and Aston-Reese in the lineup.