Hockey fans have officially survived the first half of August. The Olympics definitely helped which makes the second half look like a bigger challenge.
Now is the time to look forward to exciting things to watch at the opening of training camp. When I think forward to mid-September and a group of 30+ Hurricanes players on the ice, here are the things I most look forward to at the outset of training camp.
For me, it is impossible to get a true read on his NHL readiness until we see him in game-like action in scrimmages and preseason games. I think he is still more likely to play the 2016-17 in juniors simply because it makes sense in an either/or scenario because of the ability to push back his entry-level contract another year. But because of his unique skill set as a power forward and the Canes lack of players of that type, I also think that Gauthier can control his own destiny.
It will be exciting to see how his game translates against NHL-level competition and also if he is ready to match the pace yet.
With a full season under his belt and a summer off to digest it, recover physically and work on areas for improvement, I am excited to see what Hanifin 2.0 brings to Raleigh for his sophomore season in the NHL.
It will also be interesting to see where Bill Peters’ head is for slotting him in the lineup and where Hanifin ultimately settles. Early indications are that Peters might try Hanifin/Pesce as a second pairing. That situation will be worth monitoring. I did not particularly like that combination last season and slotting that duo as a second pair and therefore putting them in the line of fire for other teams’ top lines would be a big challenge for the young defensemen.
Nedeljkovic’s chances of making the NHL team out of training camp are even slimmer. Only an injury to Cam Ward or Eddie Lack would make it possible. Even then, I think it is more likely that the Canes would promote Daniel Altshuller if the open NHL job was simply to sit on the bench and watch.
With Nedeljkovic it is not the try out aspect or the prospect of him playing October hockey in Raleigh. Rather, I am excited to see how he looks in preseason game action.
Arguably more than any other player on the Carolina Hurricanes roster, the time is now for Ryan Murphy. I actually thought he made progress as an NHL defenseman last season, but that it was overshadowed by the rookie phenoms. His raw speed and ability to navigate the first half (or more) of the ice with the puck on his stick fits with Bill Peters’ style. I will be excited to watch if he can take the last step upward, seize a more regular role at the NHL level and establish himself as a ‘today’s NHL’ #5 defenseman for the Hurricanes.
Jaccob Slavin and Justin Faulk
If preseason does not steer regular partners Ron Hainsey and Justin Faulk back together, this seems to be the first try to ice the first pairing of the future for the Hurricanes. We will not get a real read until the regular season starts, but I will be excited to see how the duo looks in terms of chemistry and cohesion. With Faulk out of the lineup when Slavin was lifted into the top half of the blue line corps, they saw minimal ice time together. If paired together, I will be excited to see how they look together in game action in the preseason.
The late Finnish – Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen
Two of the most exciting newcomers will delayed arriving Raleigh because of their participation in the World Cup for their native Finland. The mid-September look at Aho and Teravainen will be on TV. My hope is that they play together which would make seeing them compete against NHL-level competition even more interesting. It will also be interesting to see how comfortable they look in the Canes system in the last few preseason games parachuting in cold at the end of September with minimal time to get ready for opening night.
The volume of interesting stories for training camp is probably at an all-time high for Hurricanes hockey. What else would you add to this list?