With players freeing up with their Canadian juniors seasons ending, the Hurricanes teetering out of the playoff hunt and the Checkers sitting right at the playoff cut line, things have been busy in terms of player transactions.
Today the Hurricanes announced that they were recalling Andrew Poturalski and Bryan Bickell from Charlotte and returning Lucas Wallmark and Phil Di Giuseppe to back fill the openings. In addition, the Checkers announced that Jake Bean who had wrapped up his WHL season would be joining the team.
In the Monday Coffee Shop polls put up late last night, I included a Bryan Bickell return in the possible choices for best games of 2016-17. Then 40 minutes before it was announced, I tweeted, “Who thinks we ee Bryan Bickell in #Raleigh for #Canes game on Thursday and/or Saturday?”
And voila…The Hurricanes recalled Bryan Bickell this morning setting up what will be a special return to the ice in the NHL. He seems slated to play Tuesday in Minnesota, but I would not be surprised to see the Hurricanes give him a couple days of practice before returning at home on Thursday instead especially with the focus on Eric Staal’s 1,000 game festivities on Tuesday.
Regardless, Bryan Bickell’s return will be another phenomenal story in a season that has been full of them with Chase Bass and Jorge Alves.
Poturalski’s 2016-17 season
Andrew Poturalski will be the latest to receive at least a short trial at the NHL level. Poturalski was signed as an undrafted free agent coming out of the University of New Hampshire and with ties to Brett Pesce. Poturalski is a skilled, somewhat undersized (5-10, 180 pounds), playmaking center somewhat like Derek Ryan. After acclimating to his first season as a professional in the AHL, Poturalski has progressed nicely. He is currently of the offensive leaders of the surging Checkers. His 48 points in 69 games represents solid. He has slowed a bit recently but was on fire from the beginning of February through mid-March.
My impression of Andrew Poturalski from training camp
Poturalski stayed long enough in Raleigh in the fall to make a reasonable impression. Competing against AHL/NHL-level players, he showed a decent ability to play with the puck on his stick and create shots/scoring chances and also decent ability to be smart without the puck in the offensive zone to similarly help create offense. His play was a bit like Derek Ryan’s at the time in that he stood out as a fairly refined player offensively with the bigger questions being whether his defensive/2-way play could be capable of being a regular at the NHL level.
Thoughts from Jordan Futrell on Andrew Poturalski’s 2016-17 season with the Charlotte Checkers
Jordan Futrell offered his first impressions of Poturalski in this November 14 article.
Thoughts on Andrew Poturalski from Jordan Futrell on April 3:
Andrew Poturalski’s call up on Monday is a just reward for the excellent rookie season he has had in Charlotte for the Checkers this year. He has lead the Checkers in scoring for almost the entire season, tallying 16 goals and 32 assists in 69 games for Charlotte. As I stated earlier in the year, Poturalski has a similar playing style to former Hurricane Ray Whitney. He has solid vision on the ice and he does a tremendous job of finding his teammates in the offensive zone for high quality scoring chances to the net. He also has a quick release on his snap shot, which allows him to get off scoring opportunities in close quarters situations where the defense is almost on top of him. He has a little bit of an unorthodox skating style which allows him to be agile and weave in and out of defenders while skating the puck into the offensive zone. Poturalski will need to get stronger and improve his acceleration to consistently compete at the NHL but if he can do those things, then there is a good chance he will find a spot on the Hurricanes roster in the future.
My watch points for Andrew Poturalski
To stick at the NHL level, he must first be able to transition his strengths creating offense to the NHL level. In addition, he must prove capable of being at least ‘good enough’ defensively. His path to being an NHL regular is actually similar to Derek Ryan’s as an undersized, somewhat older player past the young prospect stage. Poturalski must be a plus scoring-wise at the NHL level and be good enough at everything else. He must also show that his size does not limit his ability to compete in all 3 zones at the NHL level.
With the conclusion of his WHL season, Jake Bean has joined the Charlotte Checkers. He joins fellow WHLer Hudson Elynuik who headed south last week but has yet to see AHL action. With Checkers in the bell lap of its playoff chase, Bean’s ice time will be determined primarily by whether he is capable of making the current roster better.
Phil Di Giuseppe and Lucas Wallmark return to the AHL
I would not view either player’s return tot he AHL as a demotion. The Hurricanes have seen enough of Phil Di Giuseppe at the NHL to have a good idea of what he brings and where he might fit heading into the 2017-18 season. The same is true to some extent with 8 games of NHL action. My best guess is that hte moves are aimed at doing the right thing for Bryan Bickell, seeing a couple more players in NHL action and importantly stocking the Checkers with as much talent as possible for the stretch run. The move to add veteran AHL goalie Tom McCollum when Michael Leighton was injured was a clear indication that Ron Francis wanted to go aggressively after an AHL playoff berth this season.