Who will make an instant impact for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2012-13?
Two seasons ago, it was forward Jeff Skinner. Last season, defenseman Justin Faulk burst upon the scene as a first-year pro.
"Timing is everything," Carolina's director of amateur scouting, Tony MacDonald, told NHL.com. "You have to be careful, because Skinner and Faulk are the exceptions rather than the rule. It doesn't happen often. When you draft a player in the first or second round, you're not really expecting to see them in your lineup for two or three years … it doesn't happen that often where they jump in and have an impact early on.
"We might be a little spoiled by what [Skinner and Faulk] have done, but there's always a chance a player could have an impact in his first year."
There are several candidates within the pipeline expected to challenge for considerable playing time this season. Despite losing one of their more promising prospects, Boston College defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who was part of the deal that brought Jordan Staal to Carolina, the Hurricanes appear to be stocked on defense. There's also a nice stable of forwards hoping to impress at the team's training camp in September.
"It's going to be tougher for a young forward to crack the top six now [after the acquisitions of Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin]," MacDonald said.
Here's a look at Carolina's top 10 prospects:
After helping the Kitchener Rangers reach the third round of the OHL playoffs, many think the offensively gifted Murphy could be a Hurricane this season. (Getty Images)
1. Ryan Murphy, D: The No. 12 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft missed some time after suffering a concussion in November while playing for the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers. Tremendously gifted offensively, Murphy did finish with 11 goals and 54 points in 49 regular-season games and two goals and 22 points in 16 playoff matches. His play helped Kitchener reach the third round of the OHL playoffs.
"I think he could challenge for a spot on the big club," MacDonald told NHL.com. "It would not be the end of the world if he went back to junior to play another year, but I think he's ready for the challenge of stepping up and trying to win a job at the next level."
Murphy, as dynamic an offensive prospect at the position as there is, will undoubtedly one day have an impact as a power-play quarterback for the Hurricanes.
"Murph has worked with [Hurricanes athletic trainer] Peter Friesen this summer to try and get stronger and prepare himself for an NHL team," MacDonald said. "He's not a real big guy, but relies on his speed. He has to get bigger and stronger in order to compete at the NHL level, and hopefully he's ready to do that."
2. Zac Dalpe, C: A lower-body injury in training camp put a wrinkle in Dalpe's plans last season when he managed one goal and three points in 16 games with Carolina. Despite that fact, the Hurricanes haven't given up hope on their 2008 second-round pick.
"He's always had a nice balance wherever he's played and whether he skated on wing or played center," MacDonald said. "He has skill, speed and a shot, and that's what he's going to have to show us if he intends to crack an NHL lineup on a regular basis."
Dalpe, who has four goals and seven points in 31 career NHL games, did produce 18 goals and 32 points in 56 games with the American Hockey League's Charlotte Checkers last season. Carolina will need a third-line center if Eric and Jordan Staal are placed on the same line, as is expected, at the start. This could be Dalpe's chance to prove he belongs.
3. Drayson Bowman, LW: A wing with good two-way instincts, Bowman is not afraid to get his nose dirty in the tough areas on the ice.
"Drayson is a much better two-way player than he's given credit for," MacDonald said. "He spent time in Carolina last year and showed he could play a responsible two-way game. He's at a point where he's ready to take that next step to full time duty, but it's certainly going to be up to him. He'll have to impress the coaching staff enough to allow them to believe he's ready, and I believe he is."
Bowman, who signed a two-year contract in July, split the 2011-12 season between Carolina and Charlotte. The 2007 third-round pick connected for a career-high six goals, seven assists and 13 points in 37 games with the Hurricanes last season.