The big news swirling around the Caniac Nation right now is Thursday’s announcement that the team had waived veteran fourth-liners Marcus Kruger and Josh Jooris.
On Thursday evening, I posted an article that looked at the Kruger and Jooris’ moves on multiple levels.
Since the second shoe has yet to drop, you can also vote and see who other readers predict for AHL call ups on Friday to fill the slots in the Thursday Coffee Shop.
While we wait for the other shoe to drop with the announcement of AHL call ups for Friday’s game, today’s Daily Cup of Joe goes a completely different direction with a quick list of current Canes players who have at least part of their skill sets that resemble past Canes players.
Joakim Nordstrom as Kevyn Adams
My comparison of Joakim Nordstrom to Kevyn Adams in an article earlier in the week is actually the genesis of this article, so I will start there. The two actually play different positions, but what is eerily similar to me is both players’ dogged determination and even more so each’s uncanny ability to anticipate and steal passes at the blue line and then get 2-3 really quick strides to create the separation needed to fairly often generate shorthanded breakaways. As I noted previously, the unfortunate thing is that the similarities end when we get to finishing ability. Whereas Nordstrom just does not seem to capitalize by scoring as often as would be ideal, Adams had a single patented move where delayed as long as he could to hold the goalie and then quickly went forehand to backhand and took a shot for the corner of the net that the goalie had little chance of defending. Nordstrom is a single finishing move away from contributing a small but significant chunk of shorthanded goals.
Sebastian Aho as Ray Whitney
Not sure when/where, but I am pretty sure I also noted this one previously too. If I had to pick one former Hurricane who most reminds me of Sebastian Aho, Ray Whitney would win hands down. At a very basic level, both are somewhat undersized skilled wings, but I actually think the uncanny resemblance is on two levels. First is that both players get a significant portion of their offensive acumen through hockey smarts regularly making heady plays that create scoring chances for themselves and their line mates. Second is that I think both players are the variety of undersized players who play bigger than their size at appropriate times. Both are balanced and sturdy on their skates such that they fare better than weight measurements would indicate when going shoulder to shoulder with bigger players and also win more than their fair share of puck battles because of their agility and balance which enables to them to take or receive contact and then recover balance-wise to play the puck before the opposition. Also in the vein of playing bigger than their weight class, both Whitney and Aho also share a competitive nature that pushes back when someone tries to take them off their game with physical play and/or extracurricular stuff.
Warren Foegele as Justin Williams
Best guess is that there are four options for two AHL call ups, so Warren Foegele’s NHL debut may or may not be in the immediate future. But since it is at least a possibility, I will use the occasion to toot his horn a little bit. Foegele stood out to me very early in his first prospect camp at a time when he was just one of many unknown mid-round draft picks with a fairly low probability of every playing in the NHL. What jumped out at me about his game as an 18-year were two things. First was his work ethic and intensity dogging the puck in all three zones. Even in scrimmages that were light on high-end physical contact, he was just always around the puck and/or taking away skating angles or passing lanes. His game though in a less mature state, bore an uncanny resemblance to Justin Williams’ play during his first stint with the Hurricanes. Williams greatest ability and the reason he was such a great fit on Rod Brind’Amour’s checking line during the Cup run was his constant motor and ability to identify where/who to defend on the forecheck and in the neutral zone such that he was just constantly disrupting any cohesive puck movement by the opponent. Foegele’s game is similar possibly even with the potential to have a bit more of an Erik Cole physical force dimension especially if he can add a few more pounds and a bit more strength to his 6 foot 2 inch frame.
Noah Hanifin as Joni Pitkanen
My very first impression of Noah Hanifin on day one of prospect camp in July of 2015 was that he reminded me of Joni Pitkanen. Playing against similar age players, he had a propensity to keep the puck until he had something good to do with it and the skating ability to just keep making time as long as he needed to figure that out. That element of his game almost completely disappeared in his rookie season when he played a buttoned down kind of play that mostly aimed to make simple plays and avoid mistakes. Finally, almost three years later, that element of his game is beginning to pop up intermittently. Despite taking a step up offensively in 2017-18, I still think Hanifin has more to give in that regard if he can dial up the puck-carrying, roaming, freelancing Pitkanen in his game without taking too many risks in the process.
Brett Pesce as Glen Wesley
Brett Pesce is a right shot whereas Glen Wesley was a left shot, but the resemblance in terms of skill set and style of play is still worth noting. Above all else, Wesley’s game was characterized by steady and sound play and an incredibly low volume of big mistakes. Somewhere along the way, I coined the term “Glen Wesley turnover” to describe a situation when a defenseman ends up in a tough spot in his own end and under pressure and must quickly make a decision what to do with the puck. Wesley was as close to perfect as any Canes defenseman in history in terms of avoiding the bad variety of turnover that led quickly to a scoring chance against. He might chip the puck up the wall for a turnover in neutral zone, eat the puck on the side boards to by time for his team mates to double back to help defend or in those days before the delay of game penalty, he might flip the puck out of play for a face-off. But very rarely would he cough the puck up for a rush at the Canes net. I continue to think that Pesce might find a higher gear offensively, but his steady play with an incredibly small number of big mistakes very much reminds me of Wesley.
Justin Faulk as Sean Hill
Both players possess big power play point shots and the ability to contribute goals from the blue line. Both players’ level of defensive play is largely dependent on how well they are skating and moving their feet. When mobile, both players bring a physical element and solid defensive play. When having an off night mobility-wise, both players could have tough nights defensively. As such, both players are at their best on nights when they are mobile and engaged such that they constantly get a piece of players with a hip or shoulder such that the path through or around them resulted in being bumped off stride or off balance and also sometimes being separated from the puck in the process.
Jordan Staal as Rod Brind’Amour circa 2001-2002
Rod Brind’Amour’s glory days as a Carolina Hurricanes player came as a do everything scoring center on the 2006 Stanley Cup Champion team and the couple seasons that followed. But version 1.0 of Brind’Amour with the Hurricanes saw him anchoring a checking focused second line that complemented Ron Francis’ scoring line. Brind’Amour did score some too but his mid-50s point totals were not the story of his game. The story of his game was his ability to lead his line against the other teams’ best lines on a nightly basis and neutralize them. I really see Jordan Staal as filling a very similar role providing decent depth scoring but with a primary strength as a match up line to neutralize opposing scoring lines. The issue with that role right now continues to be the fact that the Hurricanes just do not have the complementary scoring line. In fact, two of the players who maybe best fit such a line (Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho) are playing with Staal.
Victor Rask as Josef Vasicek
Victor Rask and Josef Vasicek are similar in both their path to reaching the NHL and also their style of play. Both were European players who made the jump to the Canadian Hockey League after being drafted to prepare for the NHL. Both players also went suddenly from down the system depth chart to in the NHL by riding a strong summer including the Traverse City Tourney and then capitalizing on an opening in the lineup. Vasicek went from off the depth chart to win a third line center slot at least a year or two ahead of schedule, and Victor Rask did the same thing. The players are also similar in terms of skill set. Both players won their NHL roster slots by virtue of being very mature defensively as a young center, and both players also possessed good NHL size but below average speed. Finally, in leaning defense over offense both players have decent finishing ability but rate low in terms of raw playmaking ability that generates offense for line mates. As such, the tipping point for both players between being a serviceable two-way third line center versus being more than that lies with producing enough offensively. Vasicek teetered on that edge in his early years. Rask’s trajectory suggested he was headed in the right direction, but his scoring slowed part-way through the 2016-17 season and has not rebounded in 2017-18 as of yet.
Cam Ward 2017-18 as Cam Ward 2005-06?
What most people remember about the magical 2005-06 season in terms of Cam Ward is his playoff run and Conn-Smythe Trophy. But he was not the primary starter during the regular season. Rather, Ward stepped in when Martin Gerber was injured in the season opener. Ward filled in admirably as a rookie and pushed the team part-way through the season. Ultimately, he faded a bit, and Gerber returned and was the primary starter for the second half of the season. The schedule was a bit different this time around, but Ward again started as the backup but ultimately was pressed into action as a starter and had reasonable success. The burning question right now is whether Scott Darling can suddenly find his game and retake the work load for the stretch run just like Gerber did in 2005-06. If that results in a playoff appearance, I could care less if Ward repeats history in the playoffs or if Darling just keeps the job.
What say you Caniacs?
Who has more comparisons for current Hurricanes players with former Hurricanes players?