Who knows on the pandemic prognosis, but as of right now the NHL continues to chart a course toward playoff hockey when the calendar flips to August. The timing is ironic since August is normally the deadest time of the hockey season.
The Hurricanes are slated to play the New York Rangers in a best of five with games scheduled for August 1, 3, 4, 6 and 8.
With that, the team also announced its 31-player roster.
That roster is the subject of today’s Daily Cup of Joe.
An interesting starting point is to note that the Hurricanes are using only 26 of the maximum 30 skater slots. Other teams are below 30 too, but most seemed to be closer to 30. I am not sure if this means that the Hurricanes could add players later in which case, you have a weird trade-off. On the one hand, the Canes gain flexibility for position depending on what is needed. On the other hand, you would be throwing rusty players who are basically months deep in the off-season straight into playoff hockey without time to get up to speed even in practice.
As one would expect, the Hurricanes are carrying all four NHL-experienced goalies in Anton Forsberg, Petr Mrazek, Alex Nedeljkovic, and James Reimer. Because it is not a position where you can just figure something out (except for that one MASSIVE and magical night in Toronton), it makes sense to carry four goalies for just in case with injuries and the threat of COVID-19 lurking. Technically teams are allowed unlimited goalies, so I believe the could later reach deeper if necessary. The back-to-back set for games three and four makes it reasonably likely that Mrazek and Reimer both see play in that first-round series.
One tiny blessing from the 2019-20 NHL season stoppage is that the Hurricanes went from having a depleted group on the blue line to being incredibly deep at the position with players who have legitimate NHL experience and generally could slot at #5 or higher.
The group of 10 includes Jake Bean, Joel Edmundson, Haydn Fleury, Jake Gardiner, Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei, Jaccob Slavin, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Sami Vatanen.
Most notable maybe is Brett Pesce’s inclusion. Before the season was derailed, he was aiming for a mid-August return that gave him time to be up to speed for the start of the 2020-21 season. Though he is unlikely to play on August 1, his inclusion on the roster suggests that he could in fact draw back into the delayed 2019-20 season.
Jake Bean garnered the only call up slot which was a modest surprise. With Pesce maybe a question mark, the Canes really only have nine defensemen available. I would have expected Roland McKeown to be an eleventh.
More interesting (and something I will save for tomorrow) is how to build a lineup from this group. As noted above, even with Pesce out and Bean most certainly a reserve to start, the team has eight defensemen who could stake a claim to a slot.
The roster includes 16 forwards — Sebastian Aho, Ryan Dzingel, Warren Foegele, Morgan Geekie, Steven Lorentz, Jordan Martinok, Max McCormick, Brock McGinn, Martin Necas, Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Staal, Ryan Suzuki, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen, Vincent Trocheck and Justin Williams.
The group includes the obvious in 12 proven NHLers and Morgan Geekie who staked as big of a claim to that status as is possible in only three NHL games.
The other three players are interesting. The team opted to include 2019 first-rounder Ryan Suzuki. Per comments from Don Waddell, the team is using this as an opportunity for his development in an NHL setting. For a player who could have to return to juniors again in 2020-21, the odd circumstances represent a chance to get Suzuki early exposure to the NHL even if it is just practice, watching and absorbing and working with the coaches. Max McCormick brings depth with 71 games of NHL experience. And Steven Lorentz stands out as the most notable forward included rising above a few other AHLers with NHL experience to nab a spot.
Most interesting will be how Brind’Amour builds his forward lines from this group.
My quick thoughts
The decision to use only 26 slots is interesting. I have not had time to hunt down rules for if/how the unused slots can be used later which plays into this decision, but I feel like the team could be light on the blue line. Depending on when Brett Pesce will be ready, the team has only nine players. Roland McKeown who as a bit of NHL experience and has a track record of rising to the occasion whenever wearing an NHL uniform would be the logical choice for additional depth.
Steven Lorentz’s inclusion really says a lot about his development. As a seventh-round draft pick, odds were long in 2015 that he would earn an NHL contract and even see the AHL. Almost exactly five years later, Lorentz has played his way up the depth chart. Even if injuries do not push him up into the lineup, his inclusion on this roster is a testament to what the organization thinks about him.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What, if anything, do you make of the Hurricanes using only 26 of a possible 30 skater slots?
2) Which players’ inclusion and exclusion from this roster most surprise you and why?
3) Free discussion of anything else related to Canes Return To Play roster.