Today Derek Ryan and Brock McGinn were sent back to Charlotte. That leaves only 11 healthy forwards on the Canes roster which means we can expect at least 1 forward to be recalled from Charlotte before Tuesday’s game. I also think it is important not to read too much into the return of McGinn and Ryan to Charlotte as far as evaluations. It will be interesting to see how Francis plays the season out. On the 1 hand, he wants to evaluate a few players. On the other hand, the Checkers are still competing to get into the playoffs but need to refind a higher gear to get there.
The latest player to get a first look playing at the NHL level during the regular season is Derek Ryan. He notched a power play goal in his first game and logged about 27 minutes of total ice time in 2 games. I entered this short stint with a reasonably impression of Ryan’s game from his run deep into the preseason and the scrimmages and games from that time period.
But here are my initial impressions from his first 2 games in the NHL during the regular season:
* His instincts and ability to read situations in the offensive zone with and without the puck are a strong point. I originally pictured him as more of a pure play maker, but Ryan plays equally well without the puck on offense finding openings and being ready to shoot when the puck arrives.
* He still needs work on his defensive play in his own end. Center is the hardest of the forward positions for playing defense because of the volume of situational decisions for where to go and what to do. In 2 games, he had a couple plays where he was either a little slow or little soft defending the front of the net when defensemen left.
* The second point is a challenging 1 for winning a roster spot as a center. Even in a third line role (McClement will center the fourth line), there are a decent number of tough match ups, especially on the road which makes it really important for the center to be strong defensively. It is this uncanny and maturity in this area that made it possible for Victor Rask to jump so quickly and smoothly to the NHL level.
So when Ryan returns to the NHL level either this season or possibly in the preseason next year, this ability to sort things our situationally/positionally will be what I am watching most closely in his return.