Today Canes and Coffee’s reader and guest website takeover moves forward into day three.
If you missed Monday and Tuesday, reader articles include David Miller with a deep dive on the Canes salary cap through 2019-20 and Randy Yale’s top five plays of the 2016-17 season.
Guest writer articles include Bob Wage from Canes Edge writing about the potential attendance benefits of an ownership change and Ben Pope sharing the incredible cool start to his writing career as Mark Jones at the age of 12.
Today’s reader article rewinds about one month and provides another viewpoint on individual players at the the Hurricanes’ prospect camp.
About the Author
Brandon Stanley (Twitter=@brandon_stan63) is a Raleigh native dating back to 1994, which also happens to be his birth year. He is also Carolina Jr. Hurricanes alum and massive stats/prospects/all things Canes nerd. Hockey has been a huge part of his life since about 5 years old, and he really enjoys in-depth looks at whatever is available, such as the Hurricanes’ prospect camp.
Scouting day two of the Hurricanes’ prospect camp
My pop was in town and we had an open afternoon, so we hit PNC Arena to have a look at day two of the Hurricanes’ prospect camp practice. This is a write-up I put together that day, and I hope it helps give a little insight from one (self-proclaimed knowledgeable) fan as to what is in store for the future of our Carolina Hurricanes.
Count me as excited about the group of talent GMRF has put together. The size, skill, and competition at this year’s Carolina Hurricanes’ Prospect Development Camp is as impressive as I have seen at one of these events. So, while starting off with the disclaimer that optimism runs high here and, similar to how a wide receiver in an NFL minicamp or OTAs can look excellent running around in shorts and t-shirts only to get abused when the pads come on, some of these players may have looked better in this skill-driven, wide open drills than they will when facing the highest level of competition or playing in a real game setting. I tried to get a reasonable read on as many prospects as possible, and broke them down into three categories: the “clear positives”, the “promising”, and the “works in progress”. Lastly, I will touch briefly on the goalies. Again, none of this is meant to bash anyone, and it was hard to point out anyone who looked out of place in this environment anyway. All of these guys are here for a reason. There is a long way to go for most of these young men, but it was easy to see at least some positive traits in them all.
The Clear Positives
Janne Kuokkanen (Drafted 2nd round, 43 overall, 2016) – This kid is silky smooth. The hands and ability to drive possession are the first things that stick out. He has the puck on a string, in total control. He had one particular line rush where he deked the defender and goalie out of their skates and easily finished, drawing “ooohs” and “aaahs” from those in attendance. He has solid vision and a nice release as well. He may have stood out more than any other player. One of the most exciting kids on the way in my opinion, I think he can give the ‘Canes top six a big lift in the not-too-distant future, possibly even in a cameo as early as this year (but probably best for his development to get at least one year in the AHL). Immense offensive upside.
Max Zimmer (Drafted 4th round, 104 overall, 2016) – Was noticeable throughout the day, largely thanks to his skating. He has great speed and made multiple plays when he got in around the net both as a passer and with his hard, accurate shot. Doesn’t necessarily have the flash of a Kuokkanen or Necas, but definitely a guy that, by all appearances, I can see scoring some goals in the Canes’ middle six – especially in the possession and forechecking heavy system like the one the Canes employ under Bill Peters. He will take some more time to develop at the University of Wisconsin but is a player I really like.
Noah Carroll (Drafted 6th round, 164th overall, 2016) – Carroll was steady. He had solid gap control and maintained good positioning with his stick to impede passing lanes on a regular basis. Made crisp, tape to tape passes and skates smoothly. He has not performed especially well thus far in junior (mostly on an atrocious team), but improved his numbers from 3 goals, 11 assists, and a -48 in ’15-’16 to 5 goals and 20 assists with a +17 this past year, split between Guelph and Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL. He is not a high-level prospect according to most, but between last year’s camp, his performance in the Traverse City tourney, and what I saw today, there’s a lot to like. He could be one of the rare late round picks who goes on to earn an NHL contract and at least provide steady depth at the AHL level.
Nicolas Roy (Drafted 4th round, 96th overall, 2015) – Roy was one of the players I was most intrigued with seeing. His skating seems to be much improved from when he was first drafted. It was seen as a major concern then, but now seems at least adequate to me. He has a big frame, uses it to protect the puck and gain position well, and has a great shot to go with it. It was also noticeable that he, Warren Foegele, and Kuokkanen seemed to regularly be at the front of the lines, taking on some slight leadership roles and showing the young guys the way. He has obviously turned a ton of heads in the QMJHL with his two way play, winning the Guy-Carbonneau Award for best defensive forward while scoring 80 points (36 G, 44 A) in 53 games. He is one of the guys I think will look even better in a real game setting. Definitely a big part of the Hurricanes future, it is easy to see the Jordan Staal comparisons, though at his best I think he might be a better scorer. He will probably need one year of AHL hockey before he is ready to make the jump though he could be a mid-season call up if injuries strike.
Julien Gauthier (Drafted 1st round, 21st overall, 2016) – He is one big dude. So is Nicolas Roy, but I think Gauthier uses his size even better (at least offensively). He consistently drove wide with good speed and used his massive, strong frame to keep the defender on his hip while cutting to the middle to create a good scoring chance. He will not be able to do this quite so easily against bigger, better NHL defensemen, but the size, skating, and shot play at the NHL level right now. He can absolutely rip a puck. He also made a few nifty feeds on line and 2v1 rushes, and the passing is definitely an improving quality after he more than doubled his assist total this past season (16 to 34). While the goals were, incidentally, dramatically cut, I am not worried about his finishing ability once he comes into his own.
Martin Necas (Drafted 1st round, 12th overall, 2017) – The hockey IQ and skating ability are the two obvious quality traits that jump out. His speed, edgework, clever acceleration and deceleration to get the defender off balance, and offensive creativity are already at very high levels. He showcased his vision with some nice passes and has a deceptive shot that gets on the goalie quick thanks to a lightning quick release. As we all know by now he has to fill out his frame before he will jump to the NHL, but with his 6’1 frame (and possibly another inch or two, go back and watch the video of GMRF drafting him. Ronnie was listed at 6’3. Necas is at least his height on that stage), skating, and offensive upside, he could absolutely grow into a top-six center. I know I’d love to see him and Kuokkanen on a line with say, Julien Gauthier some day, driving the offense and creating space and opportunities for each other.
Jake Bean (Drafted 1st round, 13th overall, 2016) – As with just about every other defenseman that the Canes have drafted recently, he can really skate. He transitions from forwards to backwards and vice versa seamlessly, and has great puck control and passing ability even as he’s pivoting or skating at full speed. He also showcased his shot, as he shelved a couple from the top of the circles. The offense has never been the issue for Bean, but rather the defensive end where he loses positioning from time to time. He needs to be stronger in the corners where he can be pushed around by bigger players. This isn’t an area we can take a ton from today, though Matt Filipe gave him a bump along the boards that he recovered nicely from and got the puck up the ice to a teammate. He made a few nice plays with his stick in passing lanes and disrupting attacking forwards in 1v1’s. He did have some trouble with outside speed/power moves, but he made some nice recoveries to poke the puck away at times. He is still probably a few years away as he continues to work on his defensive play and strength, and he needs to stay healthy and dominate the WHL this year, but I love his offensive capabilities and future outlook.
Morgan Geekie and Stelio Mattheos (3rd round, 67th overall and 73rd overall, respectively, 2017) – These two were pleasant surprises for me that I was excited to see. Geekie showed some offensive creativity, and while I did not notice Mattheos quite as much, he had a couple nice shots and looked good at times. I think both of these guys can grow into quality middle six forwards at their best, which are hard-working, frustrating to play against, and have some offensive capabilities on top of it.
Warren Foegele (Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2014) – Foegele’s game is not based on skills and flair, so he surprisingly did not stick out all that much to me. His skating, passing, and shooting all seemed fine, but he certainly was not sniping the goalies or deking defensemen out of their jockstraps. He will not play a role similar to this on the Canes anyway. He just was kind of out there, an average guy. Then, at the end of practice, they did a small 2v2 game with the nets between the blue lines, and Foegele was shot out of a cannon, hounding the puck every shift he got. He will probably never be a top six, scoring forward in the pros, but the OHL Playoff MVP will be a valuable penalty killer and energy guy who forechecks hard scores a decent amount of dirty goals. He probably isn’t far off from being able to fill that role, by the way.
Brendan de Jong (drafted 6th round, 166th overall, 2017) – You cannot teach size and reach. Good luck beating him wide. He also seemed like a decent skater to me. He must fill out from his current 192 pounds (on a towering 6’5 frame) and work on his puck skills, but he was a nice pickup for a sixth rounder who will be interesting to track.
Luke Martin (Drafted 2nd round, 52 overall, 2017) – He is another big-bodied defenseman that is much more likely to play a shutdown, stay-at-home role than be a consistent threat to jump in the rush and score from the blueline. You could just tell he was young and maybe a little nervous or caught up in the moment. He would have one rush where he would use his 6’4, 220-pound frame to wall off an attacking player and shut the play down entirely, only to give up an inside-out move or get beat wide thanks to poor gap discipline or awareness when timing his transition on the next rush. He also needs to get a little better with his breakout passes, as he had a handful that were not as crisp as a guy like Carroll or Bean delivered them.
David Cotton (Drafted 6th round, 169th overall, 2015) – He has size and showcased his finishing ability in around the net. This is how most of his goals were scored during his solid freshman season at Boston College. If he continues to round out his game, getting to the dirty areas and being a pest in front of the opposing net is something the Canes seem to be in constant need for. He just needs to smooth the edges, and he is a good ways off, but the tools are there.
Eetu Luostarinen (Drafted 2nd round, 42nd overall, 2017) – Has good size, clean stickhandling, and good vision and passing ability. He was able to corral poor passes that were off target or in his feet smoothly without decelerating or breaking stride and get up the ice quickly. The game just needs to slow down for him. He looked hesitant at times and too rushed at others. However, the skill is definitely there for him to be a solid two-way, middle six center once he develops.
Ville Rasanen (Drafted 7th round, 197th overall, 2017) – I liked the smoothness in his game, a lot. He skates well (a must for a defenseman his size), and clearly showed offensive upside with both his slap shot (I watched him skim the crossbar from the blue line at least 6-7 times in a row at the end of the session, it was impressive) and authoritative passes, even if a few of them were off target. He needs to work on his physicality and positioning on rushes, from what I saw. As with any 18 year old 7th rounder, he needs a significant amount of development and polish, but you could certainly do worse in a late-rounder than Rasanen.
This is the hardest evaluation for me until scrimmage day, because the majority of shots faced are in breakaway or odd man rush situations. However, I felt the need to commend the overall performances of all four goalies on the ice. Jack LaFontaine, Callum Booth, Eetu Makiniemi, and Jeremy Helvig all really battled all afternoon, never giving up on a rebound or backdoor pass. Booth and Helvig both made a few solid, square saves where they played tall in their nets and did not allow a shooter to go high (something Eddie Lack never seemed to be able to do). Makiniemi showed his athleticism and made a few desperation saves where he got side to side in a hurry. LaFontaine was the goalie I probably saw the least, but in the time I did see him he seemed to have solid positioning and stopped just about everything he faced. I think goalie is another spot this team has built a decent amount of depth and competition, and I would not be surprised at all to see a starter emerge from this exact group (smart money is on Booth).
A couple years from now I could read this again one day out of the blue and laugh at how poor my evaluations were, but oh well. At least it was fun. This is just one guy’s opinion of a practice that had a lot going on, so take it all with a grain of salt. If I did not mention someone, it does not mean they had a bad session, but I think it would have been impossible to evaluate them all in the one hour time frame. Prospects Camp brings hope and promise, and these feelings certainly abound within the organization and fan base. Over the next few years it will be a ton of fun to watch this talented group develop, and maybe help form the core that brings the Cup back to Raleigh.