I have a partially-written goalie article, but life got in the way on Wednesday such that I ran out of time and energy before I finished it, so hopefully that will be ready for Friday.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers a handful of player observations with the aim of seeing if readers see things similarly or not.
Phil Di Giuseppe
Is it just me, or does Phil Di Giuseppe seem to be on the same page as and mesh with Jeff Skinner as much as any role player on the Hurricanes? That is not necessarily to say that he should be on Skinner’s line because ideally Skinner fits with another higher-end player or two capable of creating a true scoring line that runs three players deep. But as far as seeming to complement Skinner, Di Giuseppe seems to stand out in that regard whereas many other players just seem lost.
Is it just me or does every player the Carolina Hurricanes have available to play center (other than Aho) just look like another of the good version of Victor Rask? I think Lindholm has been solid in his on and off audition at the center position, but he too much looks to be another defensively capable but offensively light center who is third-line-ish in terms of possessing playmaking ability that will boost scoring for two line mates. That is not to say Lindholm is not capable, but I think it only works if the team either adds or finds internally a true first line center who can boost a scoring line. On a more positive note, Lindholm continues to make strides as a low forward on the power play. He has become incredibly consistent at parking in front of the opposing goalie as a screen and has been right in the middle of a number of goals because of it. Combined with his playmaking ability from the side of the net and decent face-off ability, and this is an area of Lindholm’s game that has become a strength.
Does Brock McGinn have a higher gear, or has he simply matured and developed into a capable depth forward which is his ceiling? I am on record as being impressed with Brock McGinn’s 2017-18 season and also admitting that when I pegged him as a #13-ish type depth forward that I underslotted him for this year. But that said, the 2017-18 version of McGinn is basically that of a great fourth line forward who brings consistent energy, physical play, more than enough goal scoring for that role and the ability to at least fill in on a higher line. The question is whether he has another higher gear yet. He has 11 goals which is respectable in its own right, but in leading the league in clanging the post, is it possible that he could be on pace for 20 or more goals right now? If so, that is incredibly impressive given that he averages only 14:02 of ice time and has received scraps of power play ice time. My gut instinct is that he is a great #10 type forward, but I underestimated him once and acknowledge that he is at least worth watching.
What is his role next season, if any? Lost in the team’s struggles and the broader issue at the goalie position again during the 2017-18 season is the fact that Cam Ward made a very successful transition to a backup role and has exceeded expectations if evaluated specifically for that role. His .908 save percentage is not spectacular, but his 17-9-4 is more than good enough for a backup. The issue with Ward is not whether he is good enough to return as a backup but instead whether the Hurricanes can afford to slot him there given the broader situation.
Is he ready to fill a depth forward slot at the NHL level, or is he still a year or two away? Of all of the players in Charlotte, he is the one I would most like to audition in Raleigh down the stretch if the team officially reaches the ‘AHL audition’ stage of the season. The reason is not because I think he is necessarily the best player in Charlotte but rather because I think the readiness of a player or two with his skill set could dictate if and/or how much depth Francis adds at forward this summer. A player like Foegele who is defensively responsible and capable of filling a penalty kill slot is the kind of player who eliminates the need for safe and sound veterans who mostly do not score enough. Whereas players like Aleksi Saarela, Martin Necas, Valentin Zykov and others could potentially fill top 9 slots, Foegele is the type of player who can replace an underperforming depth forward like Marcus Kruger or Joakim Nordstrom out of the lineup.