Top 10 Best Carolina Hurricanes Players of All Time

Top 10 Best Carolina Hurricanes Players of All Time

The Carolina Hurricanes, since moving from Hartford in 1997, have had their ups and downs. The Canes made two Stanley Cup finals appearances in 2002 and 2006, even winning the latter, but they have also had notably less Playoffs success since then. Read on to learn more about the best players in Carolina Hurricanes’ franchise history.

Who Are the Best Carolina Hurricanes Hockey Players of All Time?

  1. Ron Francis
  2. Eric Staal
  3. Rod Brind’Amour
  4. Jordan Staal
  5. Glen Wesley
  6. Cam Ward
  7. Sebastian Aho
  8. Erik Cole
  9. Kevin Dineen
  10. Pat Verbeek

1. Ron Francis

  • Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007
  • NHL 100th Anniversary Team
  • Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
  • King Clancy Memorial Trophy
  • #10 retired by Hurricanes

Ron Francis is one of the best players the NHL has ever seen. His two consecutive Cup wins with the Penguins are bracketed by his two campaigns with the Whalers/Hurricanes franchise: before and after they moved south from Hartford. Combining the stats of the Hartford Whalers and Carolina Hurricanes, Ron Francis is the all-time leader in games played (1186), goals (382), assists (793), and points (1175). When he returned to the franchise in a 1998 free agent signing, he immediately turned the team back around. This culminated in a 2002 Stanley Cup Finals appearance, their first in their fifth season in Raleigh.

With a poise worthy of his three Lady Byng Memorial Trophies, Ron Francis made his teammates better everywhere he went. Having played with Jagr and Lemieux in the 1990s, Francis is second only to Wayne Gretzky in career assists. He was also valuable as a defensive forward, winning faceoffs and playing the body without landing himself in the penalty box. His 50-assist, 77-point 2002 campaign, which put him in the MVP conversation, helped the Canes to their first Stanley Cup Finals.

2. Eric Staal

  • 2006 Stanley Cup winner
  • 2006 All-Star
  • Career Carolina Hurricanes leader in goals, assists, and points

Since the Canes began play in 1997, Eric Staal is the best Carolina Hurricane of all time. The center from Thunder Bay, Ontario is the Canes’ all-time leader in games played (909), goals (322), assists (453), and points (775). 

The Hurricanes picked Staal second overall in 2003, only a year removed from their Stanley Cup Finals run in 2002. After the NHL lockout wiped out the 2005 season, Staal helped get the franchise back on track in his second season, at just 21 years of age. He posted a clean 100 points in the regular season, then had a 15-game playoff point streak in the charge to Carolina’s first ever Stanley Cup victory in 2006.

Staal would never hit the 100-point plateau again, but he remained a consistent offensive force over his 12 seasons in Hurricanes red. As the 2006 roster thinned out from retirement, Staal developed his two-way game and took on the mantle of team captain in 2010. 

2. Rod Brind’Amour

  • 2006 Stanley Cup Championship
  • Two-time Selke Trophy winner
  • #17 retired by Hurricanes in 2011

Rod Brind’Amour, the captain of the Hurricanes for their 2006 Cup run, was one of the best defensive centers of his era. From 2006 to 2007, he won back-to-back Selke Trophies for the league’s best defensive forwards, in his age 35 and 36 seasons.

How did he keep up his play that late in his career? His nickname “Rod the Bod,” which he got in his early playing days in Philadelphia, wasn’t just for the rhyme. Brind’Amour’s workout regimen is one of the most strenuous in the entire NHL – even today, when he’s behind the bench as the Canes’ head coach. His physical fitness kept his playing career going strong for 20 seasons, even as his body took punishment from the league’s heaviest hitters. 

Today, Brind’Amour’s work ethic is reflected in the Canes team he coaches: aggressive, physically fit, and defensively stout. “Rod the Bod” isn’t done in Carolina, though many argue that he belongs in Toronto: specifically, the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

4. Jordan Staal

  • Hurricanes captain since 2019
  • 2007 NHL All-Rookie Team selection
  • Youngest player to ever score a hat trick (18 years)

Like his older brother Eric, Jordan Staal got off to a fast start to his NHL career. Drafted 2nd overall by the Penguins in 2006, Jordan made his debut the following season, the autumn after Eric lifted the Cup for the Canes. Six seasons later, with a Stanley Cup of his own, Jordan Staal was dealt to the Hurricanes, where he got to reunite with Eric. For the first time since playing on the rink their father built on the family farm, Eric and Jordan were on the same team.

To this day, Jordan Staal has made the most of his time in Carolina. Compared to Eric, Jordan has settled into more of a shutdown defensive game. Though no longer a prolific scorer at 34, Jordan Stall is an important clubhouse leader who wins faceoffs and sets the tone with clean hits. Lots of them, in fact, since he’s the Canes’ all-time leader in hits.

When Eric got traded to the Rangers for a brief stint in 2016 (joining another Staal brother, defenseman Marc), the captain’s “C” went up for grabs. And in 2019, after Jordan keyed the Hurricanes to the third round in their first playoff appearance since 2009, he succeeded Eric as the Carolina captain.

5. Glen Wesley

  • 2006 Stanley Cup Champion
  • #2 retired by Hurricanes
  • 1988 NHL All-Rookie Team selection

Glen Wesley is the best Hurricanes defenseman of all time. He doesn’t earn this title from his offensive production, which was solid but unremarkable. He was most valuable in his own end of the ice, from the first game the Canes ever played in North Carolina, in 1997. He was an anchor on that blueline for the Canes’ first ten seasons, and first two Stanley Cup Finals, with the second being Wesley’s first Cup win in four attempts.

It was a long time coming for the self-proclaimed “skinny redhead from Red Deer,” an Albertan city right between Calgary and Edmonton. He first made it to the Cup Finals in 1990, his third season with the Boston Bruins, but they lost to the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers. Fast forward 16 years, and the Hurricanes took Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on home ice, beating the Edmonton Oilers. His #2 was retired by the Canes in 2009, after 13 seasons with the team: ten in Carolina.

6. Cam Ward

  • 2006 Stanley Cup Champion
  • 2006 Conn Smythe winner
  • Leads all Carolina goalies in games started, wins, and shutouts

Cam Ward is the best goalie in Hurricanes history. With over double the amount of games started as any other Canes goalie, Ward provided stability in net for a team that now “goaltends by committee.” That stability between the pipes was the expectation when the Saskatoon-born Ward was drafted in the first round of the 2002 draft, from the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL.

The beginning of Cam Ward’s career was straight out of a dream. In the first round of the 2006 playoffs, a rookie Cam Ward got the game 3 nod over Swiss starter Martin Gerber. All Cam Ward did in his surprise new role was go 15-8, with a .920 save percentage, en route to winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP. The net was now Cam Ward’s. He held it down until 2017, and played his final season in Chicago.

Cam Ward is also one of the few NHL goalies credited with a goal. He didn’t actually shoot toward the empty net – the Devils missed a pass and it went 200 feet the other way. Ward was the last Hurricane to touch it. 

7. Sebastian Aho

  • Two-time All-Star Game selection
  • Five-time Hurricanes “team MVP”
  • 16 shorthanded goals (league-leading four in 2019-20)

On the current Carolina squad, defined by its smothering team defense more than its scoring superstars, Sebastian Aho stands out as one of their best offensive weapons. After only seven seasons, the Finn’s 218 Canes goals put him second all-time. He’s got 209 more career goals than Sebastian Aho, the Swedish defenseman for the New York Islanders, whom the Canes’ Aho has faced in the postseason.

Aho’s Hurricanes career was almost jeopardized by his own early breakout. After a 2019 season with 30 goals and 83 points in 82 games, the Montréal Canadiens tried to pry Aho away from the Canes while he was a restricted free agent. Knowing what Aho meant to the Hurricanes’ future, Carolina matched the offer, and kept #20 in Raleigh for years to come.

In 2021, the Hurricanes signed Canadiens’ restricted free agent Jesperi Kotkaniemi to a contract Montréal couldn’t match. In one of the pettiest moves by a general manager, Kotkaniemi got a $20 signing bonus.

8. Erik Cole

  • 2006 Stanley Cup Champion
  • Fan-voted 25th Anniversary Team
  • One-third of Hurricane’s famous “BBC Line”

Erik Cole, a left winger who joined the team in 2001, very nearly missed the entire 2006 playoffs. A neck injury he suffered in March of that year, when he’d scored a career-high 30 goals, was expected to keep him out for the rest of the season. But the power forward from Oswego, New York, came back for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, then played when the Canes won the Cup in Game 7.

Cole was such an emotional lift in 2006 partly because of what he’d done in 2002. As a rookie, he formed the “BBC” line with Rod Brind’amour and Bates Battaglia. In the 2002 Conference Semis, he scored the tying goal in the final minute of the third to complete a three-goal rally in Montreal. The Canes won in OT in what became known as the “Molson Miracle,” then won the next two games of the series, eventually making it to the Cup Finals.

9. Kevin Dineen

  • 544 points in 708 games with Hartford and Carolina
  • Two-time All-Star
  • First-ever Hurricanes captain

Quebecois right wing Kevin Dineen was Hartford’s best player in the 1980s. He comes from a hockey family, the son of the late NHL player Bill and brother of fellow players-turned-coaches Gord and Peter. Kevin Dineen scored 40 or more goals in two separate seasons, with his 250 total goals with the franchise ranking him third all-time.

Dineen was also an All-Star for two straight years from 1988 to 1989, leading the Whalers to six straight playoff appearances. After his play began to decline, he was traded to the Flyers in 1991, where he got his career back on track. He rejoined the Whalers in 1996, right before they relocated, and played two seasons in Carolina red. 

Kevin Dineen’s career was defined both by his longevity and his tenacity. In addition to his points, he logged over 2,200 penalty minutes across 18 seasons. After hanging up his skates, he followed in his father’s footsteps as a coach.  He led the Panthers to their first ever division title in 2011-2012, and was an assistant coach on the Blackhawks staff that won the 2015 Cup.

10. Pat Verbeek

  • Two-time All-Star with Hartford
  • Named Hartford captain in 1991
  • 522 goals and 2,905 PIM over his career

The 5’9” Pat Verbeek racked up 2,905 penalty minutes across his 20-year career, earning the nickname “Little Ball of Hate.” He scored 522 goals too, so the nickname stuck.

The Sarnia, Ontario native lost part of his thumb in a pig farming accident in 1985, three years after the Devils drafted him, but it didn’t slow him down at all. He was traded to the Whalers in 1989, and scored 44 goals and had 228 penalty minutes in his first season with his new club. He was a two-time All Star with the Whalers, with 403 points in 433 games, and was named captain in 1991 after teammate Kevin Dineen was dealt to the Flyers. Verbeek’s play in Hartford similarly declined, before his career was rejuvenated by a trade to the Rangers in the shortened 1994-95 season.

Verbeek went on to win a cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999, in the twilight of a career split between the offensive zone and the sin bin.

Honorable Mentions

  • Justin Faulk
  • Sami Kapanen
  • Arturs Irbe
  • Martin Necas
  • Jeff O’Neill
  • Brett Pesce
  • Tuomo Ruutu
  • Jeff Skinner
  • Andrei Svechnikov
  • Ray Whitney


Who is the best Carolina Hurricanes goalie of all time?

Cam Ward is the best Carolina Hurricanes goalie of all time. A highly touted first round draft pick in 2002, Ward put himself on the map in a big way by stealing the starting job in the 2006 playoffs, winning both the Cup and the Conn Smythe trophy as a rookie goalie. Ward leads all Hurricanes in starts, wins, and shutouts by a wide margin, and was a fixture in Carolina’s net for over a decade.

Who is the best Carolina Hurricanes forward of all time?

Ron Francis is the best Carolina Hurricanes forward of all time. The legendary passer holds the overall franchise records in most offensive categories, and defines an era in Hartford just as much as he does in Carolina. Francis established hockey as a force in the South, leading the Canes to a cup run in 2002.

Who is the best Carolina Hurricanes defensemen of all time?

Glen Wesley is the best Carolina Hurricanes defenseman of all time. He wasn’t known for lighting the lamp, but he stayed put on the right side of Carolina’s blue line for ten years, two Cup Finals appearances, and one momentous Stanley Cup championship. His #2 hangs in the rafters in Carolina, making him the only defenseman with a number officially retired by the team.