Real (at least practice) hockey by Hurricanes players on PNC Arena ice. The vast majority of Hurricanes preseason practices are open and free to the public. Except for when the team is away for preseason games or a couple of practices only open to season ticket holders or not at all because of NC State football, the PNC Arena doors will be open to fans many mornings. The practice schedule is HERE.
The biggest event is Sunday’s annual Caniac Carnival complete with a scrimmage, kiddie inflatables, autographs in the morning, a state of the union with John Forslund and Ron Francis and food trucks. You can find the schedule and details for Sunday’s Caniac Carnival on the team web site HERE.
Yesterday, I wrote about the training camp roster which was released on Wednesday and also took a shot at what the group splits might mean for line combinations and defense pairings.
Here is my quick checklist for what I will be watching for Friday and through the weekend:
Line combinations and defense pairings
Best guess from what we saw last season, what we heard this summer and simply who is grouped with whom for practice, I would expect to see forward lines of Skinner/Rask/Stempniak, Nordstrom/JStaal/Nestrasil and ____/McClement/Stalberg. I would also expect to see defense pairings of Slavin/Faulk and Hanifin/Pesce. At forward, the rest of the picture comes into play when Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho return from the World Cup and likely join Elias Lindholm to form another line that was talked about this summer. It will also be interesting to see who gets ice time on McClement’s left side. Front runners would be newly-acquired Bryan Bickell and also Phil Di Giuseppe. On defense, most interesting will be to see what happens over the next few days with Ryan Murphy, Ron Hainsey and Matt Tennyson who are the most likely bets to round out the seven defenders.
Playing for a contract
I note 3 players who in different ways are playing for a contract during preseason. First is Ben Gleason who is an undrafted 18-year old defenseman who was an invitee at the Hurricanes prospect camp in the summer and again helped out and played solid hockey wearing a Hurricanes uniform in Traverse City. It is possible that he just reenters the draft and maybe is considered by the Canes next summer, but I believe it is also possible to sign him as a free agent if the Hurricanes are willing to spend a contract slot on him. Warren Foegele is another player playing for a contract. He is a 2014 Hurricanes draftee who would have been required to be signed already had he not been drafted as an NCAA player. He is slotted to return to Kingston in the OHL as an overage player, so where he plays in 2016-17 is not in question, but it is possible that the Hurricanes make the move to get him under contract. Important to note is that not signing him this fall does not mean he is not part of the plans. The Hurricanes still maintain his draft rights and can sign him later. Finally, there is the curious case of Raffi Torres who is a controversial sandpaper type veteran who is a couple years removed from playing much NHL hockey. It will be interesting to see what kind of look he gets.
Watching for dark horses to emerge
On the blue line, I think it takes an injury or someone completely blowing the doors off in training camp for a surprise defenseman to make the roster. I think 5 are set in Faulk, Hainsey, Slavin, Hanifin and Pesce. Murphy is no longer waiver exempt, so he seems destined to stay at the NHL level. If at some point he does not fit there, I think he is more likely to be traded than demoted to Charlotte.
But at forward there could be room for someone to rise up and seize a roster spot. My short list of dark horses at the position would be Julien Gauthier, Valentin Zykov and Sergey Tolchinsky. My best guess before seeing him against NHL competition is that Gauthier will ultimately end up back in juniors perhaps after the 9-game trial at the NHL level. Zykov is an interesting option to compete for a fourth line slot, and though my best guess is that Tolchinsky is destined for more growth in Charlotte, the Canes do need to boost scoring. Slightly older AHLers including Brock McGinn, Brendan Woods and others should also be past the point where they are just happy to be there and be hungry to win NHL ice time.
Who managed to block a chunk of their Friday morning schedule to watch Canes hockey at PNC Arena?
What will you be watching most closely in the first few days of training camp?