When the Hurricanes drafted Haydn Fleury 7th overall in 2014 fans, media and the team immediately lauded him as the future of the Hurricanes defense. Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin were college hockey players, Noah Hanifin and Jake Bean were undrafted, Ryan Murphy was still a highly regarded prospect and Roland McKeown was an LA King. Oh how times have changed.
Its easy to see how first-round selections Noah Hanifin and Jake Bean along with the emergence of Slavin and Pesce, the glamour of trending prospects Nicolas Roy, Julien Gauthier and Aleksi Saarela coupled with the acquisition of Roland McKeown have overshadowed the long-awaited arrival of Haydn Fleury to the Carolina Hurricanes. He’s become sort of an afterthought, seldom mentioned in conversations about the Canes defensive future, and is frequently talked about in trade rumours. So what’s gone wrong?
What has gone wrong with Haydn Fleury? The honest truth is, absolutely nothing. The swift emergence from Slavin, Pesce and Hanifin has spoiled and maybe clouded the judgment of Canes supporters. Fleury just turned 20, is in his first professional season and he’s having success. He wore the “A” in his 2 previous seasons for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL and was part of the Team Canada squad at the 2016 World Junior Championships. Safe to say, he’s been progressing nicely.
Fleury, at 6’3 and 220lbs, is a big bodied defenseman who excels in both ends of the rink. His breakout passing, offensive awareness and shot helps him contribute offensively and put up solid point totals (46 in 70 GP in draft year, 41 in 56 games last year) and plays with confidence. In the defensive aspect of the game he’s just as good. He uses his size to be physical on the puck carrier, isn’t afraid to throw and good hit and can box forwards out in front of the net. He’s got solid speed and a long reach to help him disrupt the opposition on the forecheck. Overall, it’s hard to find flaws with Haydn Fleury as a player. My AHL insider, Ryan Sommerville, has stated all year that Fleury has been the best defenseman on the Charlotte Checkers, which is saying a lot considering AHL veterans Trevor Carrick, Keegan Lowe and Dennis Robertson are also on the squad.
So why is Haydn Fleury still in the AHL while the Canes trot out guys like Matt Tennyson, Ryan Murphy and Klas Dahlbeck regularly? There’s a few reasons I can offer. First off, adding Fleury to the Canes roster right now doesn’t make us more of an immediate threat – he has no NHL experience, and there’s no point rushing him out of an environment where he’s really excelling and growing as a player, we don’t want to rush his development. Secondly, the Canes will have to expose an NHL defenseman to Las Vegas – Pesce, Slavin and Hanifin are exempt, Matt Tennyson and Ron Hainsey aren’t under contract for next season & Klas Dahlbeck/Ryan Murphy are unlikely to meet the minimum games requirement, which leaves Justin Faulk as the only exposable d-man right now. You can bet your ass that wont happen, so the likely scenario is that Tennyson or Hainsey will be resigned and left available for Vegas. Tennyson is likely the better option – he’s an adequate 7th defenseman and we sure as hell don’t want to be stuck with Ron Hainsey for another year – but Tennyson still needs to get some games in to be eligible. And lastly, Fleury benefits more right now playing top minutes in a big role for Charlotte than he would in a 3rd pairing/6th defenseman role for the Canes. His development and what’s best for him in the long term is key, so there’s no reason to rush the process.
So when will we see Haydn Fleury in a Canes jersey? That really depends. If the team falls out of the playoff hunt and becomes sellers at the deadline, Hainsey could be a moveable piece (maybe) and/or the team could look to give the youth from Charlotte (guys like Andrew Poturalski, Sergey Tolchinsky, Valentin Zykov, Phil Di Giuseppe, Lucas Wallmark, Roland McKeown and of course Fleury) a look at the NHL level. Fleury is probably the most NHL-ready prospect the Hurricanes have, so I’d expect him to get a look sooner than later with the Canes defense currently reeling. I would expect him to make the team out of training camp next year, or be a top call-up from Charlotte and eventually lock down his spot as a Carolina Hurricane.
NHL comparables: Hampus Lindholm, Marc Methot, Jacob Trouba
NHL Arrival: 2017-18 Season
NHL Potential: Top-4 defenseman
Thanks for reading, and Go Canes.
article written by Alex Ohari of weliveforhockey.com Follow Alex Ohari on twitter @FutureCanes.