In case you missed it late last night, notes from the Hurricanes 6-1 win over the Lightning are HERE.
The Hurricanes were to enter training camp with a healthy helping of roster spots open to be won in preseason. Then just before the start of training camp, the team announced that Victor Rask would be out long-term with a finger injury that required surgery.
My count is eight healthy forwards on one-way contracts plus Sebastian Aho who is on an entry-level deal but obviously an NHLer plus Andrei Svechnikov who is a more or less a certainty to remain at the NHL level. That leaves three forward slots to be won in training camp assuming there are no injuries and no players on one-way contracts are demoted. Further, I do not see Martin Necas as a player guaranteed an NHL slot regardless of preseason/training camp, but he too projects to be on the opening day roster.
That still leaves two forward slots to be won by rookies in training camp.
Based on a small sample size of two games, today’s Daily Cup of Joe handicaps the battle for those two roster slots.
In so far or at least making a case to be in
1) Lucas Wallmark
He impressed in his first preseason action on Tuesday. One of the openings is the center slot vacated by Victor Rask. The team does have options to move a player to center in Jordan Martinook and possibly Teuvo Teravainen, but I really think that slot is Wallmark’s to win. He did all he could in the AHL in 2017-18 and could be lost on waivers returning to the AHL. At least so far, the team does not seem to be interested in trying either Warren Foegele or Janne Kuokkanen at center. If that remains the case, as long as he continues to play well in preseason, I think Wallmark enters the regular season as the fourth line center.
2) Janne Kuokkanen
I detailed why I thought Kuokkanen could be a good fit for Staal’s line in Wednesday’s game recap. He won a roster spot last fall, had a strong 2017-18 AHL season especially in the second half and started off the current preseason with a three-point night. By a small margin over Wallmark, I think Kuokkanen’s game is the most well-rounded and mature of the players battling for roster spots.
3) Warren Foegele
More than any other player, I think Foegele is a Brind’Amour type player. If he continues on his current path, I think he stakes a good claim to a roster spot with only waivers and contract math as potential obstacles. With Brind’Amour trying to effect a change for how the team plays, I think Foegele is just too good of a fit not to make it.
With an injury to make for one more open slot, I think all three of these players make the opening day roster. Even without an injury, I think all three will press for NHL ice time even if it is at the expense of a veteran.
On the outside looking in
4) Saku Maenalanen
Maenalanen looked competent but nothing more in Wednesday’s game playing on a line centered by Sebastian Aho. My thinking early in preseason is that the team has better options in the youth and that Maenalanen will start the season in the AHL
5) Julien Gauthier
Gauthier potted a sniper-like goal and was the screen on another goal on Wednesday. The offensive part of his game is there, but I think he still has some way to go in terms of his play without the puck. I therefore think Gauthier will start the seasoni Charlotte.
6) Aleksi Saarela
A bit like Gauthier, the curent version of Aleksi Saarela is a player who just does not do enough in between scoring chance plays. I will be watching to see if he does more in the remainder of preseason, but my impression of Saarela during the Traverse City tourney and also in the first preseason game is that he is a one-dimensional scorer who does not do enough otherwise.\
7) Nicolas Roy
By virtue of being a center, Roy could theoretically fill the slot that I put Wallmark in. I do not see Roy as being as well-rounded and advanced as Lucas Wallmark which means Roy would be destined for another season in Charlotte.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you agree with my current rankings for probability of making the opening day roster? If not, what do you see differently?
2) Which of these players will have the biggest impact on the 2018-19 season?