Hot on the heels of a great 2-0-1 start to the 2018-19 NHL season for the Carolina Hurricanes, todays’ Daily Cup of Joe offers first impressions on a first set of Canes newcomers.
Important disclaimer: Three regular season games is a tiny sample size and not enough to draw any kind of final conclusion…hence the title “first impressions”. But especially when also considering preseason and watching the players prior to joining the Hurricanes, I think timing is right for at least a first check in on the newest Hurricanes players.
Of the newly-added players, Jordan Martinook is the player whose first impression most diverges from what I expected.
To be honest, I viewed the trade for Marcus Kruger as just doing the best possible to move on from Marcus Kruger. Both have only 2018-19 on their contracts. Both are fourth-liners who can kill penalties. So while the trade to get someone who at least might fit in the NHL lineup made sense, I figured Martinook for being no more than a physical fourth-liner who ideally gets pushed out of the lineup to #13.
I am not changing his fourth line status based on three games nor am I projecting some massive point total based on his three points in three games, but I do have a different impression of him. Martinook is what I call a 2020 fourth-liner in the sense that he does bring the old school physicality and kill penalties. But he rates higher than I would have expected for skating, skill and smarts. Somewhat like Joakim Nordstrom, he is not a fourth-liner because of limited mobility. He can match NHL pace. And he has shown more puck skills than I initially anticipated. Finally, Martinook has a decent knack for finding open areas of ice in scoring areas.
When I net it out, I can see the potential for Martinook scoring 10 or so goals if he plays with enough skill/playmaking on his line. Maybe more significantly, I think he brings enough offensively that he can be a decent complementary player on a line with the young skill in the Hurricanes lineup.
My original estimation for Martinook was for him to be a serviceable #12/#13 forward who skated in 40-50 games depending on how healthy the Hurricanes were and how well the rookies performed. But I now could see him being a regular and offering higher-end depth scoring (10-12 goals) given his role.
Watch point: Continued offensive production. 12 goals and 25-30 points would be huge for his role.
My expectation for Micheal Ferland when acquired was based on his role with Calgary in 2017-18. In 2017-18 at least until he faded a bit in the second half of the season, Ferland was a solid complementary power forward on a top scoring line. That skill set at least on paper fit well with the Aho/Teravainen combination. For a team that needs more scoring, I would gladly have accepted the 21 goals that he had in 2017-18 even though reports are that he faded down the stretch.
So my impression of Ferland on the way in the door was that of a power forward who played a simple game but also possessed enough speed to hang with a faster line and enough skill to finish around the net.
Through three games, that assessment is basically on target. This might sound odd given his two goals and two assists in only three games, but I am still holding judgement for how well he fits with Aho/Teravainen. For me, he rates as expected or better for matching pace, bringing a power forward element to the line and having finishing ability. But in watching him with Aho/Teravainen, there are times when he has not been on the same page in terms of how to move and advance the puck. At this very early juncture, I have this as a watch point not a conclusive evaluation. It might just be that the three need a little more run time to get on the same page. Or it might be that Aho still adjusting to the center position and Ferland is in that mix.
Regardless, his quick start with two goals and two assists is promising and a tremendous pace obviously. And the way the lineup has shaken out so far such that every line has some bang, grit and intensity on the left side is interesting. It could also make it pretty easy to use the left wings interchangeably if/when the lineup needs a spark.
Watch point: Development of more chemistry/cohesion with Aho/Teravainen.
I received a pretty consistent assessment of Dougie Hamilton from a couple different check ins with knowledgeable hockey people who track the Calgary Flames similar to how I track the Hurricanes. The general consensus was that Hamilton was a top-tier offensive defenseman, a capable or better defensive defenseman and all-around a legitimate top pairing defenseman. The only rap on him was a few too many stick/obstruction penalties, an occasional lackadaisical moment and some question as to whether he looked a bit better than he was from playing with a high-quality partner.
From that and also seeing a decent amount of Hamilton over the years especially when he was still in Boston, my expectation was a little bit of Joni Pitkanen in terms of size, skating and physical ability but with a better shot and maybe someone like a Jay Bouwmeester or Ryan Suter in terms of being a big skating defenseman who was decent or better defensively.
Thus far, that is about on target, but I do have a couple notable things that have jumped out in Hamilton’s game thus far.
First is his shot. Obviously his 17 goals in 2017-18 suggested he could shoot and score, but despite the fact that he has yet to score a goal, I think I underestimated his shot. He does two things really well. First is that he has a sniper forward’s like ability to get the puck on and off his stick in a hurry such that he will occasionally catch goalies still moving and/or not ready. Also, he has a crazy good ability to get pucks on net from different angles and/or when a puck is not in his wheelhouse. That too has the potential to surprise goalies. Shorter version is that at least based on first impression, his shot does look the part of a 17-goal defenseman.
Second is that in Joni Pitkanen fashion, Hamilton has a tendency to wander a bit when his team has the puck in front of him. No doubt this contributes to his scoring, but the downside can be (and has been here and there) getting caught a bit out of position when the game transitions quickly from offense to defense. I think Jaccob Slavin is an interesting partner in that regard. On the positive side, Slavin has the acceleration and speed to chase down a mistake here and there. On the other hand, I would say that Slavin’s greatest strength is attacking/defending the puck in front of him more so than defending situations, passing lanes, etc. (As an aside, I think this has a ton to do with how Slavin mostly excelled as an even strength defender in 2017-18 but was on the ice for nearly every power play goal against.)
Long story short, I think Hamilton is as advertised. Key is for Brind’Amour to figure out how best to deploy him to realize the 15-20 goal capability that he has.
Watch point: His goal scoring. The Hurricanes were light on blue line goal scoring in 2017-18. Hamilton should be a nice boost, but with the change of team situation, I would not take it for granted.
What say you Canes fans?
What are you first impressions of Jordan Martinook, Micheal Ferland and Dougie Hamilton?