After a LLLOONNNGGGG offseason, we finally have Carolina Hurricanes hockey tonight. Sure, it is not quite the 100 percent version of a regular season NHL game that matters, but I will still rejoice that on Friday night we will get to see players in the Hurricanes system, wearing Hurricanes jerseys and battling against other teams in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament.
The puck drops at 7:30pm with streaming video available from the Detroit Red Wings organization (though I believe we will also be able to access it from the Hurricanes website).
If you missed it yesterday, part 1 of my tourney preview had some logistics and started into a ‘what I’m watching’ style preview. You can find that article HERE. The Thursday Coffee Shop also features a couple polls and discussion questions on the Traverse City tourney.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe will go player by player through about half of the Hurricanes tourney roster offering watch points for each player. The hope is to cover the other half in time for the 7:30pm start time.
Carolina Hurricanes Traverse City roster player by player
Jake Bean: Bean stood out as one of the best players on the ice in the scrimmage at the end of prospect camp in late June. But the friendly light hitting and open ice 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 play are not comparable to more crowded 5-on-5 hockey against actual opponents. I would look for Bean to bring the same offensive play from June but maybe more significantly to show that he can handle the defensive part of the job against good competition.
Callum Booth: Despite the Hurricanes winning the tourney in 2016, Alex Nedeljkovic was not great. Tracking a year behind Nedeljkovic, the Traverse City will mark an interesting first chance to benchmark Booth (in 2017) against Nedeljkovic (in 2016) in similar competitive situations.
Noah Carroll: Some time ago, I started calling him the most puzzling Canes prospect. I have been impressed by his skating, vision and puck-moving ability each and every time I have seen him live (two prospect camps plus last year’s Traverse City). I see Jake Bean-lite which is a positive. But pretty unanimously, he has received ‘meh’ at best ratings from knowledgeable hockey people who see a larger body of work during the 72-game (plus playoffs) Canadian junior season. Because of the disconnect, I sought out additional opinions, and they agree. So the next week represents yet another chance to verify and try to reconcile my opinion of Carroll with others’ views. Especially as a player looking to win a contract this season, I am looking for a big tourney from him.
Brenden De Jong: My biggest watch point on De Jong is mobility. At prospect camp which is tough because of the volume of players I am trying to watch at once, I thought his skating looked good skating forward but not quite as strong transitioning or defending skating backwards. Those are obviously critical for an NHL defenseman. So I will be watching De Jong very simply to see how he looks in terms of mobility and finding the right combination of good enough skating and his size/reach to play a game that tracks toward being a capable defenseman NHL defenseman at some point in the future.
Hudson Elynuik: With the blood lines of an NHL father and his NHL size, it is not hard to see what the Hurricanes liked about Elynuik. But at the same time, my impression of him at his first prospect camp last summer and then again to some degree in June is that he is still a bit more raw than some other players. In Traverse City play, I will be watching to see where he stands in terms of consistent, all-around play relative to the group of reasonably polished forward prospects who are a year ahead of him. If he looks to be in a similar category, that is a positive, as Elynuik is a year younger than most of the group.
Haydn Fleury: I look for Fleury to pick up where he left off at the end of the 2016-17 season which playing solid defensive hockey on an every-shift basis. He did this at the AHL level, so one would expect him to use Traverse City as a chance to showcase the fact that he has mastered this level of play. If he is NHL-ready as I hope. Put simply, he should be one of the best defensemen at this tournament.
Warren Foegele: Despite the fact that he can also play center, I noted my preference for Foegele to play wing in Traverse City simply because I think the potential opening for him for the 2017-18 NHL season is at the wing position on the fourth line. If he does play there as I hope/expect, I want to see Erik Cole-style play and three-zone disruption with his speed, tenacity and physical play. In addition, I would expect him to play on the penalty kill. Being capable of filling this role at the NHL level in 2017-18 (which would be a tall task) also makes it easier to substitute him in for one of the two players currently penciled into fourth line wing positions.
Julien Gauthier: I expect and feel fairly certain that Gauthier will muster a good number of ‘Wow! He has NHL power forward written all over him!” type of plays. The bigger thing for me is watching if/how well he is able to be a difference-maker and difficult to play against on the shifts when he is not making highlight reel plays. Both in prospect camp and in Traverse City last year, I thought he was too quiet when not impressing with the puck on his stick. Improving in that regard will be a critical part of taking the next step in his development.
Morgan Geekie: I had Geekie as a mixed bag in seeing him for the first time at the prospect camp in June. In drills, he showed every bit of the offensive ability one would hope to see from a player who scored 90 points in 72 games in the WHL in 2016-17. He showed strong hands, puck skills and finishing ability with the highlight being a breakaway goal that was among the prettiest of the week. But in Saturday’s scrimmage, Geekie got a bit lost in the play especially when the puck started going back and forth. The 5-on-5 play of Traverse City should be less wide open and better suited to Geekie’s skill set. I will be watching to see if he can match the pace of play especially in transition and also for more of the skill that gives him a high ceiling offensively.
Jeremy Helvig: In addition to the tactical grind of requesting and receiving 45-50 interview requests that are the basis of the ‘Back to School’ series, the multi-week process also results in a good number of side conversations via Twitter direct messages or quick back and forth exchanges via email. In terms of understanding the prospects’ development, these conversations often provide as much or more insight as the formal interviews that are published. One thing that jumped out from the process is the positive state of the Hurricanes goalie prospect pool. Both Jack LaFontaine and Jeremy Helvig rated highly for the their 2016-17 seasons. With Helvig and all goalies, I find it nearly impossible to evaluate their play in prospect camp with a run of drills that see shooters busting in alone one after another and even in the scrimmage which is goalie-unfriendly 3-on-4 and 4-0n-4 play. So as much as anything, Traverse City represents a chance to see the goalies in something close to real game action.