Fantasy Puck Preview: Carolina Hurricanes

Scott Cullen

9/24/2009 8:25:33 AM

The Carolina Hurricanes return a veteran-laden roster, a team that experienced some playoff success last season and has enough depth and talent to expect a playoff run again this season.

Leading the way for the 'Canes, Eric Staal may never be the 100-point scorer he was in 2005-2006, but he's put up at least 30 goals and 70 points in every year since, so there's still a lot to like about the consistent level at which he's been performing.

For leagues that count power play points, 37-year-old Ray Whitney is gold. Last year's 77 total points represented the second-highest point total of his career and he tallied 30 points with the man advantage, something he's done in six of the last seen seasons.

Coming off knee surgery last year, veteran warrior Rod Brind'Amour struggled early, particularly on the plus-minus scale, going minus-29 through the end of January. However, Brind'Amour was a respectable plus-6 the rest of the way and, since last year was the second double-digit minus in 19 NHL seasons, Brind'Amour is much more likely to have a rebound in that category this year, along with at least 50 points, as he's produced for each of the last four seasons.

He was a flop in Edmonton, but Erik Cole resurrected his 2008-2009 season with a trade back to Carolina, scoring 15 points in the final 17 games. Cole also brought out the best in Staal, so expect prime ice time for Cole, alongside Carolina's best player.

Matt Cullen has established himself as a valuable third-line centre, who can also man the point on the power play, if necessary. He's put up between 41 and 49 in each of the last four seasons, so he's likely a draft day consideration in the deepest leagues, but if he's getting PP time, he'll provide some value.

One of the more intriguing Hurricanes is hard-hitting winger Tuomo Ruutu, who put up a career-high 54 points last season. If Ruutu can stay healthy, something that has been happening more in recent seasons (156 games played over the last two years), he could be a 50-point scorer who also provides a penalty minute per game.

It takes a strong stomach to call out the name of Sergei Samsonov on draft day, as his streakiness makes him difficult to own, but he did score 48 points last year, his most since 2001-2002. Take him at your own risk.

Carolina's blueline has improved in recent seasons, though they could miss Anton Babchuk, who emerged late last year as a productive scorer.

Joe Corvo has a heavy shot and good mobility on the point and scored 22 of his 38 points on the power play last season. He's not a high-end fantasy defenceman, particularly when considering his 18 penalty minutes, but Corvo is useful as your second or third option.

Joni Pitkanen runs hot and cold, so it's good to have him when he's on. He's been recovering from knee surgery during training camp, so he may start the season slowly, but Pitkanen has been good for at least 30 points in three of the last four seasons.

Perhaps the most valuable fantasy commodity in Carolina is goaltender Cam Ward. The 25-year-old has proven that he can handle a heavy workload, playing 137 games over the last two seasons (winning 76) and he has improved every year he's been in the league, culminating with last year's 2.44 goals against average and .916 save percentage. Those numbers over approximately 70 games put Ward just a hair behind the top tier of fantasy goaltenders.