Hockey is back!!!! As I said on Twitter shortly after joyfully scampering into PNC Arena for Friday’s practices:

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looked at the possible roster battle and/or depth chart positioning for the forward position.

And below are notes from Friday’s two practices.


First impression – Erik Haula

One of my watch points for the first practice was newcomer Erik Haula. As a former Western Conference player, my watch points on him were minimal prior to joining the team, so the start of training camp is a chance to start matching up my assessment to my impressions of him prior largely from research. In the drills as lines, he skated with Warren Foegele and Martin Necas. Both of those players skate well and can push pace. Haula looked every bit the part of a player who could match pace which is encouraging given that his 2018-19 season was cut short by a serious leg injury. Two other things that stood out…First, he showed the hands of a finisher in close on multiple occasions. Second, he seemed to be pretty vocal especially for a player new to the group. During the line skating at the end, he spent some time barking at/encouraging one of the players in the group who was struggling a bit. I could not get a helmet number, but thinking is that it might have been fellow Finnish player and youngster Eetu Luostarinen. (If anyone can confirm or deny that Luostarinen was the skater on the bench side, let me know.)


Catching up with Martin Necas

Martin Necas’ 2018-19 season was a mixed bag in that he just was not ready for the NHL in his seven-game tryout, but then he rebounded strongly, mostly playing right wing, at the AHL level. Being waiver-exempt, I do not see Brind’Amour gifting an NHL spot to Necas, but there is no doubt he will be given every opportunity to stick at the NHL level in a right wing slot for the start of the 2019-20 season.

As I said on Twitter

I do not consider Necas to be a sure thing for the 2019-20 season like many, but I do see him as a can’t miss as at least a good middle of the roster player long-term. More significantly, I think his ceiling is as high as anyone in the Hurricanes organization not yet established as a true scorer at the NHL level (so that excludes Sebastian Aho). This includes Andrei Svechnikov not because I discount Svechnikov’s potential but just because I think Necas’ is as high. The road between potential and results for 18-20 year old hockey players is paved with failures who just never made it, but the Holy Grail for the Hurricanes organization is if both of these two young players can play up close to their ceilings sooner rather than later.

As I touched on, I think what separates Necas from other players of a similarly high potential is his skating. He has a Jeff Skinner-like ability to go any which direction in a hurry regardless of what his starting direction is. And he has a Sebastian Aho-like ability to seemingly defy physics by picking up speed while turning corners.

After an NHL start last year that gave me some pause, watching Necas again in person has me just as high on him as my first impression two years ago. Again, timing is uncertain. There are no guarantees. But the potential ceiling is incredibly high.


An early look at where Rod Brind’Amour’s head is with the forwards

As I noted with a leading disclaimer with both of my Twitter posts on the same topic, day 1 of training camp is not the time to declare anything even remotely close to final, but at the same time, the lines put together for the first practice are not pulled out of a hat. Including Necas, all 12 of the most likely opening day NHLers were grouped together. So while things will inevitably change over the course of the next few weeks, there is something to be gleaned from the line combinations which were.

Ryan Dzingel / Sebastian Aho / Nino Niederreiter

Teuvo Teravainen / Jordan Staal / Andrei Svechnikov

Warren Foegele / Erik Haula / Martin Necas

Jordan Martinook / Lucas Wallmark / Brock McGinn

At the most basic level, I think the lines show Brind’Amour’s seeming preference for balance over specific function. If I had to list players with the greatest risk defensively, I would probably go with the two youngest in Svechnikov and Necas and maybe include Dzingel who leans offense over defense. So if you take my short list as accurate, the lines are balanced in terms of spreading out similar players. At least with the Hurricanes current roster, I lean toward more purpose-built lines that group players with similar strengths (i.e. surrounding Staal with players who lean safe and sound defensively and building an attacking line that maybe needs to be shielded a bit because of defensive limitations), but I think Brind’Amour leans toward balanced which is what the current lines are. It will be interesting to see how things work in preseason and if/how Brind’Amour adjusts as he sees the group in game action.


Meet Billy – You will learn to not like Billy

Both practices concluded with two sessions apiece for two groups skating a short shuttle from blue line to end line repeatedly for one minute each. After an hour of practice with a pretty good pace to it, the short but intense rounds of skate three strides-stop-skate three strides-stop torture literally had a few players on all fours or even in one instance just laying on the ice.

As someone not subjected to it personally, I just laugh to myself whenever Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Bill Burniston meanders out of the locker room tunnel out onto the ice in gym shoes and a hoodie. As I said on Twitter:



Most exciting to me at this early stage of seeing the 2019-20 team is how incredibly fast it will be. I am on record as preferring that Justin Williams return, and I stand by that. But swapping out Williams, Ferland and Maenalanen and swapping in Necas, Haula and Dzingel makes a team whose strength was speed and aggressiveness in 2018-19 into a team that has upgraded in that department for 2019-20.

This team is going to be absolutely overwhelming to opponents at times and has the potential to be the fastest team upfront in the entire NHL.



Go Canes!

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