After another spin reminiscing about the magical 2018-19 season yesterday, today’s Daily Cup of Joe charts a course forward into training camp.
Below is a series of player quick hitter watch points for the upcoming training camp.
Trevor van Riemsdyk
Trevor van Riemsdyk’s schedule is still a bit of an unknown following shoulder surgery and rehab. But if he returns earlier rather than later, whom he plays with could be worth watching as it could offer insight into what Rod Brind’Amour is thinking and where his head is for building a third pairing for opening night. If he is healthy and ready to go, van Riemsdyk is nearly certain to be half of the third pairing, so ice time and even better chemistry with van Riemsdyk could suggest who the other half will be.
After being a top 10 draft pick, Fleury has made only modest, step-wise progress in his development. Fleury has now logged a decent amount of NHL ice time and at least in terms of playing down it showed when he looked to be a notch above the competition in the AHL. My watch point for Fleury is a higher level of aggressiveness. With the puck, he errs so much on the side of safety and caution that he is prone to chipping pucks out and giving up possession at a high rate and is lacking in terms of any ability to generate offensive situations by pushing pace out from the defensive zone and through the neutral zone. Similarly on defense, his game errs too much on the side of not getting beat. The result is that he has a tendency to sit back, leave gaps and give forwards too much time and space. Fleury avoids big ‘oopses’ in the process but good NHL players are too good at exploiting any amount of time and space they are given.
My first impression of Aho early in the 2018-19 season was that he looked a step or two faster especially in terms of acceleration and also just stronger as a skater. As he gets older, the potential gains for him physically will decrease, but having just turned 22 in July could he realize significant gains physically again for the 2019-20 season? As someone who was a point per game player in 2018-19 and has at least modest upside remaining anyway, hitting yet another gear physically could be a game changer.
Mrazek started ‘meh’ in 2018-19 as a new Hurricanes player, but by the end of the season he was contributing with his play and grew to become a heart and soul player in terms of energy, emotion and vibe. I will be curious to see if he nets a carry over in terms of having the swagger of a true #1 goalie or if will instead need to sort of build a game like he did last season.
Like Mrazek, Hamilton started slow in 2018-19 as a new Hurricanes player but then caught fire in the second half of the season. For a team that needed a bit of help offensively, Hamilton’s ability to opportunistically be a fourth forward helped boost the offense. He has historically been a slow starter, but I will be watching for crispness in his game that suggests he will be able to find the higher gear in October for the 2019-20 season.
If Necas starts at right wing at the NHL level as many now expect, I will be watching to see if he looks comfortable and effective in more of an F1 type role on the forecheck where he can mostly just pin his ears back and pursue the puck. He struggled mightily trying to play center at the NHL last fall with just not enough awareness of what to do and where to go when he was in a typical center role as an F3 sitting behind his two wings who were hounding the puck. His skating is a good fit for more of a puck pursuit role, so I will be watching to see if he is effective in this different role.
My watch points for Svechnikov are threefold. At a fuzzy level, I will be watching to see if he looks more dynamic. In 2018-19, Svechnikov was productive and reasonably effective, but his fits of dynamic were infrequent. Now in his second year, I am hoping to see a higher gear in that regard. At a more specific level, I will be watching two things. First is to see if he can maintain late season improvements in defending with his feet rather than too much using his stick and picking up too many obstruction penalties. Second, I will be curious to see if he has an changes in approach or tactics on breakaways. For a skilled scorer, he did not seem to have working move for beating goalies when in alone. His best bet was to pick a spot and shoot early which is a strength of his, but ideally he will add some things in terms of being able to finish in close to stay reasonably unpredictable.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What are your thoughts on these players and watch points?
2) Who has other player watch points for training camp?