Below is a quick hitter list of 10 Carolina Hurricanes players to watch in early preseason action with an eye for finding dark horse candidates for roster spots.
With Victor Rask’s injury, I would probably not call Wallmark a dark horse anymore, but he was definitely a player on the outside looking in just before training camp started. He had a phenomenal year at the AHL level in 2017-18. At the NHL level, he looked competent but not really impressive. I will be curious to see if Brind’Amour flanks him with NHL wings in preseason action to gauge his ability to step in at the NHL level.
Kuokkanen is another player who could step into Rask’s slot as a center, but I think Kuokkanen could also be a dark horse to win a roster spot at wing. His heady two-way play with a bit of offense actually projects to fit on Jordan Staal’s line, but as with all of the young players, the question is whether they will reach projections/ceilings and when. Seeing if Brind’Amour plays Kuokkanen at wing or center early on would give some idea of where he possibly fits, and seeing if he gets ice time with NHLers would also be a clue for where he currently sits on the depth chart for consideration to start the season at the NHL level.
To be honest, I am still unable to gauge how close Fora is to NHL-ready. He looked capable against younger competition in prospect camp and in Traverse City. But that level of play is well below NHL pace, so I will be watching how he looks against near NHL level talent in preseason games to see if he could play his way into consideration for a depth defense role (currently #8 slot but subject to be bumped up if Faulk is traded).
Somewhat similar to Sora, Maenalanen is an older European prospect signed as a free agent this summer. Though new to North American hockey, he is a bit more seasoned than many of the players competing for the last couple roster spots. The simple scouting report on Maenalanen is that he has good size, skating ability and two-way acumen. That coupled with at least some ability to contribute offensively could fit on more of a safe and sound version of a fourth line if Brind’Amour decides to go that route.
After a good audition in late March last season, Zykov would figure to enter training camp as a front runner to play with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen if the Finnish duo stay together. But there are other possibilities, so Zykov needs to play well in preseason just like everyone else to emerge from September with an NHL roster spot. Though it might not happen until a couple games into preseason, who plays with could offer a clue to what Brind’Amour is thinking. If he sees ice time with Aho and Teravainen, that would suggest that Brind’Amour too was impressed by Zykov’s role with that line last spring, but if not it could suggest that Brind’Amour has different plans.
Foegele maybe as much as any other prospect in the organization projects to be what a team wants in the bottom half of its forward group in today’s NHL. Foegele is defensively sound, tenacious and a pain to play against. He skates well and though probably not with the same ceiling as a few other players offensive, can contribute. His aggressive, hard-skating style of play should ring true to what Brind’Amour wants as well. As such, Foegele figures to be a player to compete for NHL ice time, so seeing how he plays and who he plays with will be interesting.
What say you Canes fans?
1) I actually had four more players on this list but just ran out of gas/time. Who wants to take a shot at profiling another player possibly in a dark horse role who fans should watch in preseason action?
2) Which of the players identified above plus other rookies will make the team for opening night on October 4?