If you were unable to stay up late on Sunday to watch the Hurricanes game in Vancouver, you can find my recap/notes from the game HERE.
The current 23-man roster for the Carolina Hurricanes features 8 players who are new to the Hurricanes for the 2016-17 season.
Two regular season games is a small sample size and definitely not enough to draw final conclusions, but especially when combined with the preseason, it is enough not first impressions.
Through 2 games, I do not see how you could rate Lee Stempniak as anything short of a brilliant under the radar addition by Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis. My initial expectation for Stempniak was that he could be a decent complementary player with some ability to both generate and finish scoring chances. From what I have seen thus far, I think I underestimated him. His 3 scoring points obviously speak for themselves but bigger than his unsustainable scoring pace is how I now see his game. First and most importantly, he is not just capable of playing along but rather has been the primary driver of the offense for his line primarily in the role of playmaker setting up his line mates. Second, I think Stempniak and Rask are an incredibly good fit. Rask is not a flashy playmaking type center nor is he a dynamic offensive force with the puck on his stick. But what Rask is is a heady player who is incredibly good at reading situation and positioning. My rough count is 4-5 times when Victor Rask stepped into the right open area on the ice with the puck on Stempniak’s stick and sure enough received the puck for a pretty good scoring chance. Time will tell, but I really like Stempniak’s chances to fuel a much-needed scoring line.
I think Sebastian Aho is still getting his feet under him in terms of playing at NHL pace, feeling comfortable, possibly shaking off jitters and/or rust and getting to the point when his natural ability takes over. For a player with great hands, Aho has had many more than his fair share of times where he whiffed on a pass or had a puck roll off his stick receiving it or handling it. I chalk that up to either jitters or maybe just simply early-season rust. And after some dynamic shifts in preseason, his line has been mostly quiet through 2 games in the regular season at 5-on-5. But with the ability to show things down a bit and let his natural ability and vision take over on the power play has offered a glimpse at his natural ability which should eventually permeate the rest of his game. He has quietly collected 2 assists in 2 games both on the power play and shown a heady ability to move the puck effectively from the half wall with the man advantage. A little bit of a patience is in order, but he should be able to translate more of his natural ability to the broader game as he settles in.
Teuvo Teravainen has shown flashes of his skill, speed and offensive ability on an intermittent basis in between stretches of fairly quiet play. From watching him through 2 games, I can see where he is still trying to take the next step up to be a top half of the roster forward. The skill is there, but the every shift level of engagement in all aspects of the game has not. In Thursday’s game, there were long stretches where I did not notice him on the ice. But on Saturday, it only took a single fortuitous bounce on a rebound for Teravainen to quickly retrieve and snap home a shot to notch his first Carolina Hurricanes goal. I think the key for Teravainen is going to be ratcheting up his level of play such that he does more on the shifts when offensive opportunities do not arise.
I voted awhile back to add a player capable of playing center or wing. But Francis went the route of signing Stalberg instead. He comes as advertised thus far as a strong skater with size who is sound defensively. His scoring will likely be limited, but if the goal of the fourth line is ‘safe and sound’ then Stalberg fits the bill so far. He has played sound hockey, been aggressive on the forecheck and helped the fourth line stay out of trouble defensively.
I continue to like Bryan Bickell’s play thus far for the reasons I noted previously. Bickell adds some size to the lineup in the form of a player who might also be capable of providing some depth scoring. In addition, he fills another small but important role as a net front presence on the power play. It will be interesting to see if Bickell can make himself a fixture in the lineup or if he is destined to share playing time with others, but thus far I have been pleasantly surprised with his seeming ability to contribute at the NHL level.
Dahlbeck has not done anything to stand out in a huge way in playing the first 2 games on the right side of the third defense pairing next to Noah Hanifin, but he also has not stood out negatively. That is mostly a good thing for a depth defenseman. There is some variability and luck to it, but right Dahlbeck is the only Carolina Hurricanes player who has been on the ice for more even strength goals scored than allowed. The stat that is admittedly from a tiny sample size looks even more impressive when you consider that his primary defense partner, Noah Hanifin, is minus 2 over the same 2 games.
Jakub Nakladal & Martin Frk
Neither Jakub Nakladal nor Martin Frk have played a game (preseason on regular season) in a Carolina Hurricanes uniform, so my first impression of them is still pending.