This new mini-series will offer first impressions on Hurricanes prospects who are new to the Charlotte Checkers (or had limited AHL runs at the end of previous seasons).
Valentin Zykov is projected to possibly be a high-scoring forward in the NHL someday. The Los Angeles Kings drafted him early in the second round of the 2013 draft. While in junior he played in the QMJHL for Baie-Comeau Drakkar. During the 2015-16 he posted 14 points in 43 games for his first season with Los Angeles’s AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, before he was traded at the NHL trade deadline to the Hurricanes.
Early in the season Zykov has been playing in the first offensive line with Derek Ryan and Brock McGinn. He has also been put out in power play situations with the same two players on his line.
Zykov has displayed an excellent ability to fore-check in the offensive zone. Multiple times a game, the puck will end up in the corner while the Checkers are putting pressure on their opponents and the first player to go in and get the puck to fight it out of the corner is Zykov. He can do this because he knows how to use his size to his advantage when going up against opposing players by shielding the puck away from people using his body. He has also illustrated some nice stick handling skills that have lead to him setting up his teammates for quality chances in front of the net.
Areas of Improvement
Zykov’s biggest detriment is his skating ability. His line mates are noticeably faster than he is at times and sometimes he gets caught behind a play on a fast break heading down the ice. Even with his offensive skill set and ability to defend in his own zone, it will not translate to the NHL if he does not improve his skating and get faster.
With his combination of size, offensive skill, and ability to defend in his own zone, Zykov is a fair comparison to former Hurricane Andrew Ladd, who plays a similar type game but is a bigger player.
In 8 games, Zykov has recorded two goals and four assists for six points. Since he is playing his first year in the Hurricane’s organization and is still adjusting to playing with some of his teammates, I believe that he has had a tremendous start to the season and is progressing as a player in a healthy manner.
When Haydn Fleury was drafted he was projected by most to be a solid puck moving defensemen that could make the breakout pass out in his defensive zone. He was drafted by the Hurricanes 7th overall in the 2014 draft. In junior he played in the WHL for the Red Deer Rebels. In 2015-16 he participated in his last year with Red Deer putting up 41 points in 56 games.
Fleury has been playing on the third defensive pairing with Keegan Lowe for a majority of the season. He has been put out on the penalty kill unit for most of the season along with his regular defensive partner.
There has not been much outstanding about Fleury’s game up to this point in the season. He has done a good job of protecting the puck when in the defensive zone and he has also displayed the valuable skill set of being able to make a solid breakout pass. He has also done a solid job on defense by not letting anyone get around him in one on one situations. Despite these qualities, he has not been one of the fastest players on the ice nor displayed anything that has stood out in his offensive skill set.
Areas of Improvement
While he is a good skater, Fluery will need to work on his first step to get a faster acceleration. He will also need to work on fine tuning his offensive game so he will be able to contribute in that facet of game more for the Checkers.
If he can improve his offensive game and skating ability, he could be comparable to former Hurricane Joni Pitkanen, because they are both able to make excellent break out passes which is an extremely valuable asset to a team.
In seven games played, Fleury has only one assist tallied on the season so far. Even though his stats do not look spectacular, it is only fair to give him more time to adjust to the pro style game before making any hard assessments about his game.
Andrew Poturalski went undrafted in 2012 and was not projected by many outlets to be an NHL player. The Hurricanes would go on to sign him late in the 2015-2015 season after he had just finished his second year at the University of New Hampshire.
Poturalski has been playing second line minutes along with Patrick Brown and Connor Brickley for a majority of the season. He has also been playing on the second power play unit with Sergey Tolchinsky and Lucas Wallmark.
It looks as if he has gained more confidence in his offensive skill set from the 16 games he played in last season. He has displayed a deadly accurate shot at times and good vision when looking for teammates to whom to pass. He has also illustrated exceptional speed when skating back between the offensive and defensive zones.
Areas of Improvement
Poturalski will need to bulk up more in order to play on an NHL level. He already suffers from a constant injury in the same leg, so he will need to gain muscle to avoid being prone to further injury.
Because of his offensive skill set and his height, Ray Whitney is a good comparison for Poturalski. They play a similar type games and both can initiate plays on the offensive end when needed.
In the eight games he has played, Poturalski has four goals, four assists and is second place on the team in points. If anyone on offense gets hurt for the Hurricanes, look for him to be one of the likely call-ups to fill the empty spot.