The much-improved 2015-16 season for the Carolina Hurricanes is the result of many improvements. Credit goes to many of the players and also the NHL coaching staff.

Maybe overlooked is the unsung role played by new Checkers coach Mark Morris. Too often in the past AHL call ups have looked out of place like a deer in the headlights upon stepping into the NHL. Too often good offensive AHL players just did not have a well-rounded enough game to be sound in a lesser role at the NHL level. And too often, call ups just did not look mentally or skill set ready.

Amid the many good stories for the 2015-16 season has been an uncanny ability for AHL call ups to step right into the NHL and look capable and ready if not better.

Brett Pesce: He spent only a short period of time in the AHL, so his story might simply be the case of him being ready ahead of schedule coming straight out of college.

Jaccob Slavin: He is another young defensemen who arrived ready to go from Charlotte. He was serviceable as a depth defenseman in his first short stint and then looked even better when he returned later.

Brock McGinn: He arrived hot from Charlotte, stepped straight onto the top line and had a phenomenal debut with a goal on his first shift and also an assist in his NHL debut. McGinn ultimately returned to Charlotte to round out his game, but he too seemed to arrive with the right mindset and energy to play a strong first game.

Phil Di Giuseppe: Di Giuseppe is quite possibly the best story of the season in terms of having AHL players ready to go. The Canes had an entire class of offensively skilled, promising forwards before him mostly miss when they could not translate their offensive ability to the NHL level in lesser roles and were not good enough in other areas of the game. Di Giuseppe offered much more of a well-rounded game than I expected. He does have skill and has contributed some offensively, but the reason he stuck at the NHL level is at least equally because of the rest of his game. Hopefully, this represents the beginning of a new future that helps players with offensive skill round out their games in Charlotte.

Trevor Carrick: He is the fourth NHL defenseman to make his NHL debut for the Hurricanes this season, and like the others he looked ready, in the right frame of mind and not overwhelmed in his couple NHL games.

The March try outs at forward – Derek Ryan, Sergey Tolchinsky, Patrick Brown, Brody Sutter, and Brendan Woods: In looking the group of forwards from March, the first 2 (Ryan, Tolchinsky) who are offensive-oriented players have produced 2 goals and 1 assist in 6 games which is a reasonable scoring pace. The last 2 (Sutter, Woods) have played exactly the physical game that 1 would hope from them as fourth-liners. And the middle man, Patrick Brown, has perhaps been the most interesting in his small sample size of NHL games this season with 2 points in 4 games, equally importantly with pretty solid play defensively.


From the eye test, the most striking thing to me is that Canes call ups have looked ready to play at the NHL level. A significant part of this is Coach Bill Peters using players correctly, but I think another part of it is Mark Morris’ work to get players ready and in the right frame of mind to just step in at a higher level and just keep playing at the same level that they were at the AHL level.

In a sport where the season is long and injuries are a factor each and every year, having an NHL system that can provide serviceable depth below the #13 slot at forward and below #7 on defense is critical being able to win even when injuries pile up at the NHL level. Early returns on hiring Mark Morris to lead this effort in Charlotte look promising.


Go Canes!

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