The Metropolitan Division is one of the more intriguing segments of the NHL when it comes to prospects. No one expected the Hurricanes to be the last team standing in the Metro this season, but here we are. But the Canes also have some solid layers to their organization that will allow them to continue to be competitive regardless of what happens this offseason.
Beyond them, most teams are in various stages of either rebuilding or retooling, but then there are also two long-term contenders that lack the prospect depth of their division rivals and another team regrouping from a go-for-broke run that ended earlier than hoped. And two Metropolitan clubs have the opening two picks of the 2019 NHL draft. Here's a look at where things stand for each Metropolitan team as we close out 2019.
Note: "A" prospects have a higher potential of being impact NHL players, while "B" prospects are more likely to be everyday players and contributors on NHL rosters, based on what I've seen to date.
The Hurricanes have done well in loading up their NHL roster to make this run to the Eastern Conference final, but they have a second wave of prospects that is particularly strong. Necas has taken a nice step forward in his first full season of North American pro hockey, and Bean is looking like a fringe "A" prospect based on his first professional season. Saarela and Geekie should also have a shot at pushing for roster spots next season depending on how the offseason shakes out, and Nedeljkovic is looking more and more like an NHL goaltender. It's more likely he's a No. 2, but he could still develop into a starter.
The Hurricanes may not have a ton of elite prospects, but they have a large number of players developed in the AHL who could help filter into their lineup over the next two seasons or be possible bargaining chips in trades. Carolina is in a really good spot right now.
Breakout prospect: Jake Bean