Noah Babin -- Stand up and cheer for Notre Dame graduate Noah Babin, an All-CCHA Honorable Mention member of the NCAA's top defensive unit. The Fighting Irish allowed only only 1.63 goals per game while going 32-7-3. Babin led ND defensemen in scoring with two goals and 20 assists and finished plus-10. Babin is the first NHL prospect out of Florida since the establishment of the Lightning and Panthers. Playing for the Florida Selects at a Michigan tournament, Babin was recruited by Compuware. He played a year from them and a year for Little Caesars. He played for the U.S. Jr. National Team and a year in the USHL before playing for Notre Dame.
"Noah was a free-agent signing out of Notre Dame," Karmanos said. "He joined our AHL team at the end of the year and did very well. He's another player in the Bret Hedican mold. He's a very good skater who moves the puck well. While he's not necessarily a power-play quarterback, with the way the game is played and with the emphasis on skating, he has those characteristics. We're encouraged by the way he finished up the season and expect he'll have a good training camp. He's likely to play in Albany this season, but he'll be on our short list of call-up guys, if he has progressed from last spring."
Casey Borer -- While Babin took an unusual path to the doorstep of the NHL, Borer is a mainstream Minnesota product from Brooklyn Park who won a national Midget AAA title at Shattuck-St. Mary's prep, played for the U.S. National Junior Team and spent four years at St. Cloud State, the past two as captain. He also played for the US Under-19 and Under-18 teams. Borer had 11 points in each of his last three seasons. While he doesn't score much, he makes them count. St. Cloud won all nine games in which Borer scored as a freshman. Borer is a big, solid body who plays the defensive defenseman's role well. He played late in the season for Albany and will probably return there. Borer is expected to have a long career on Carolina's blue line.
"We like Casey," Karmanos said. "He's definitely a defensive defenseman, a hard-working, solid, stay-at-home type. We brought him in to Albany at the end of the year. The concern is with his foot speed. He's making progress by working hard. Casey is a big enough kid, a strong enough kid and he has good hockey sense. Borer should develop into a solid defenseman. He has to work on his quickness and speed. But we're not worried. He has high character and works hard."
Jamie McBain -- Ditto McBain, a product of Minnesota's hockey hotbed, Edina, birthplace of Anaheim Ducks President Brian Burke. McBain also played at Shattuck-St. Mary's and the USNTDP before playing last season for the University of Wisconsin. He had three goals, all on the power play and one a game winner, and 15 assists to lead Badger defensemen in scoring. McBain in that rare player who defies scouting analysis, which consistently ranks him as having average skills. But he was voted top defenseman at the Under-17 Four Nations Cup and he led a top NCAA program in defensive scoring as a freshman. The Hurricanes looked past the negative scouting comments when they took him with their second pick a year ago.
"He'll be a sophomore at Wisconsin this season," Karmanos said. "He was our second-round pick a year ago and we thought he had a really strong freshman year at Wisconsin. Jamie is a very good skater and his body is filling out. He handles the puck extremely well. He could develop into a Bret Hedican-type player because he has the same type of character and work ethic, the same skill level and skating ability. We like his progress. We'll see how this year goes. Jamie will be on the United States World Junior team again this year. Let's see how he has developed by the end of the season."
Brett Carson -- Carson, 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, is another that has been on the hockey radar for a long time. He was part of an impressive defensive corps with the WHL Calgary Hitmen that included Jeff Schultz, Andy Rogers and Karl Alzner. In 268 regular-season WHL games with Moose Jaw and Calgary, Carson scored 28 goals and added 82 assists for 110 points and accumulated 204 penalty minutes and a plus-45 rating from 2001-02 to 2005-06. He was named to the Eastern Conference First Team All-Star in his final junior season. Carson had two goals and 18 assists in 63 games last season in Albany.
"Carson's a big body at 6-foot-5 and he skates well for his size," Karmanos said. "Brett has some offensive ability. He came on strong at the end of year. He didn't start well because he went through the transition to the pro game. By the end of the year, Brett was playing a big role and getting a lot of power-play time. He brings the puck up the ice well and he has a good shot. For a first-year pro, we're really encouraged by his progress."
Bobby Hughes led the Kingston Frontenacs in scoring with 96 points.
Bobby Hughes -- Hughes was a fourth-round pick in the OHL and a fourth-round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, not strong indicators of professional success, but he kept putting up points in juniors and was signed to a pro contract in April before playing one game with the Albany River Rats.
Hughes, 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, had 40 goals and 96 points to finish first in Kingston Frontenacs' scoring and 10th in OHL scoring. He's also a good penalty killer, finishing eighth in shorthanded goals. Hughes was very successful while playing with Chris Stewart and Cory Emmerton and continued to do well after Emmerton was injured. He tends to be a streaky scorer, often producing multiple-point games, like his three-goal, three-assist performance last New Year's Day.
"We just signed him to a contract," Karmanos said. "Bobby is a highly skilled player who has to learn the professional game in terms of conditioning and his approach to the game. His skill level is pretty exciting for us. He's a smart player with the puck. He thinks the game well and he can score. He's one of those guys with the rare ability to put the puck in the net and produce high scoring totals. We're looking for him to make an impact in the AHL in his first professional season."
Nicolas Blanchard -- Blanchard has some growing to do at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, but he has a terrific work ethic and is a good skater. He's not much of a scorer, posting 22 goals and 57 points in 62 games with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens last season. He had 140 points in 191 QMJHL games over three seasons. Blanchard skated second- and third-line duties in juniors and projects to a fourth-line NHL center when he grows into his body. Carolina signed him to a three-year deal in April and he played seven games last spring with Albany, posting a goal and two assists.
"Blanchard is coming out of the Quebec league. He played some games in Albany last spring," said Karmanos. "He's a tall, lanky kid who skates well and projects as a solid checking-line player at the NHL level. He's physical and aggressive, the type of player who looks good in the energy-line level in the NHL."
Harrison Reed -- Reed does a lot of things right without being spectacular. He is very fast and is an excellent passer. He has an exceptional work ethic and in the lingo of the day, he plays well with others. Reed got a couple extra days in training camp last year after several others were returned to their junior teams because of his easy integration into Hurricanes' lines, his preparation, hockey sense and fitness. Reed is still kind of tall and thin, so there's a strong possibility that he'll have another strong camp but be returned for a third season with the OHL Sarnia Sting.
"Reed has a very good skill level and we like his versatility because he can play all three forward positions," Karmanos said. "His skill level is very good and he has a lot of speed. Harrison's defense has a ways to go but we're happy with his progress. He has another year left to play in Sarnia. He keeps improving each year and we expect the same thing to happen again this season. He certainly has NHL potential."
Justin Peters -- The Hurricanes have good depth at goaltending with young Cam Ward backed up by John Grahame. Veteran Michael Leighton and AHL sophomore Peters are expected to handle the River Rats' nets this season. Peters, 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, is a butterfly goalie who fills a lot of net and has good technical skills. Peters went 10-18 with a 3.26 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage last season in Albany. In 189 regular-season OHL games with St. Michaels' and Plymouth from 2002-03 to 2005-06, Peters posted a 2.88 goals-against average and a 88-70-16 record.
"Justin is a great athlete, maybe the best-conditioned goalie we've ever had in our system," Karmanos said. "He's technically sound, but he had an up-and-down year, dealing with the increased level of play. At this point, Peters is still working on his consistency. He's a big goalie who fills out the net well. We think of him as a good prospect."