For anyone who is on hockey break for the summer or just honed in on the NHL conference finals, another hockey tourney wrapped up today. The IIHF World Championship concluded on Sunday with Canada defeating Finland in the gold medal game by a 2-0 score, and Russian trouncing the United States 7-2 in the bronze medal game.
The tourney had a number of Carolina Hurricanes stories:
Coach Bill Peters wins gold: A big congratulations to Canes coach Bill Peters for leading his Canadian squad to the gold medal. Especially for coaches who do not risk injury by participating in these post season tourneys, I think they are a great opportunity. Peters gets the ability to work with a different coaching staff from whom he can pick up some new things and also gets the ability to see more players up close which can be beneficial for recruiting free agents and also coaching against them when opponents in the NHL.
Up close and personal with Matt Duchene: Matt Duchene seemed to be at odds with Colorado coach Patrick Roy and was rumored to be on the trade block during the 2015-16 season. I have the Canes top 2 needs pegged as a second goalie capable of being a #1 or at least a good 1A/1B and at least 1 top end player, ideally a playmaking center, to anchor a scoring line. Matt Duchene and the 30 goals and 59 points that he scored during the 2015-16 season would definitely fit the bill. Duchene played for Canada who was coached by Bill Peters. Who knows for sure if Duchene is even available and if so what the cost is, but if he does hit the trade market, Peters should have an even better read on where he would fit on the Canes roster and maybe even the start of a relationship from the 10 games together in Russia.
Sebastian Aho rising: Probably the biggest story from a Canes standpoint is the continued surge by Sebastian Aho. On a team filled with young stars, Aho was 1 of silver medal-winning Finland’s best. He scored 2 goals in a big 3-1 win over Russia in the semifinals and finished the tourney with 3 goals and 4 assists. The decision by Francis and his team taking him perhaps at little bit early at #35 in the 2015 draft continues to look smarter by the day. And though I am on record as preferring to see Aho get a 2016-17 roster spot AFTER he earns it, not before, the probability of that happening seems to be increasing every day.
Noah Hanifin gets a taste of a bigger role: On a young US team, Hanifin logged a ton of minutes in a top 2/top 4 type of role and even played on the penalty kill. His tournament was solid on the whole. His skating and ability to carry the puck with more room to the outside on the bigger rinks was on display throughout the tourney with some impressive plays. He had some challenging moments defensively but overall was good and will only be better for the experience of another 10 games of 20ish minutes each including a regular turn on the penalty kill.
An outside of the box option for playmaking help at center: I touched on this in my weekly Sunday edition Canes Chronicle from this morning. The leading scorer for the entire tourney is 29-year old Russian center Vadim Shipachyov who is said to be exploring NHL options for the 2016-17. The idea of adding a veteran playmaker without having to give up trade assets to get him is obviously appealing. Such a move does come with risk that increases with the size of the salary and term of the contract however. Calder Trophy finalist and scoring phenom Artemi Panarin is the upside, but Sergie Plotnikov who entered the NHL with significant fanfare only to miss with both Pittsburgh and then Arizona last season is the reminder that it KHL/international success does not automatically translate to the NHL. With the Canes needing to add 3-5 forwards, seeking scoring help and limited budget-wise, no stone should go unturned and Shipachyov should at least be considered.
Regular work for Michal Jordan: Jordan made his third consecutive appearance for the Czech Republic who was ousted from the tourney by the United States in the quarterfinals. Jordan’s strong play at the 2015 tourney with coach Bill Peters watching played a significant role in him earning a 1-way contract and nearly certain roster spot for the 2015-16 season. Jordan is a restricted free agent among a growing volume of Canes blue line options. I am on record as only being willing to offer Jordan a 2-way contract that affords the Canes the ability to send him to Charlotte (would need to clear waivers) if he does not win an NHL roster spot.