If you have not stopped by in a couple days, you can catch up on this short “first impressions” series below:
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe continues on the previous theme and turns to the rookies. Though technically all of the players remaining except Andrei Svechnikov have played for the Hurricanes, they are all still more or less new players still just breaking into the NHL.
As the #2 overall player in the NHL draft, he came with scouting reports from just about everyone who covers the NHL. As such, there was going to be no ‘Wow! He’s good!” type of surprise with Svechnikov, but a few things still jump out in watching him live for preseason and now a handful of NHL games.
First and significantly, past having a great shot, his game and thought process are very mature for figuring out how to make scoring chances both with and without the puck. With the puck, he has demonstrated the ability to generate a good shot even when defended well 1v1 with the ability to change angles/position just slightly at the last second to create a shooting lane often with a screen to boot. Without the puck, he gets that receive/finish type chances are partly about positioning but oftentimes at least equally about timing in terms of stepping into the right place at the right time instead of just waiting and waiting only to be covered.
Second, his passing ability has impressed me. This is not so much a surprise based on scouting reports that had him labeled as a well-rounded offensive player, but I still think he rates a notch or two better than I expected. This bodes well for helping boost an entire line instead of just being the finishing element.
Third, his skating ability and agility in small spaces is impressive. At 18 years old and only 183 pounds, he is still 3-4 years away from true power forward strength. Yet he fares incredibly well playing along the end wall or in tight spaces. The reason is his ability to maneuver quickly and efficiently in small spaces. I encourage people to hone in on his ability to protect the puck in small spaces not so much with strength but rather his ability to quickly generate a small amount of separation by virtue of his feet.
In total, I would say that Svechnikov rates about as expected in terms of looking like a capable 30-goal scorer but also an 18-year old rookie, but the positive upside for me has been how well-rounded and mature his game is offensively besides having a sniper skill set.
Watch point: With Svechnikov, I think it is all about schedule. I like his start, but he is still a long way from his potential ceiling. They for him is to look better in November and then better in December and so on. Canes fans need to look no further than recent players Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm to remember that there is no guarantee or automatic time line for high draftees pushing up to a high ceiling.
The more I watch Wallmark, the more he reminds me of the good version of Victor Rask. He lacks high-end physical ability in terms of speed, acceleration and flashiness. But he thinks the game well in all situations both offensively and defensively. The result is a player whose ceiling is a bit lower than some of the other young stars but also a player who has a high floor because of decent two-way ability.
I think the upside for Wallmark is potentially higher-end finishing ability if paired with wings who advance and pass the puck well. As demonstrated by his strong season in the AHL in 2017-18, Wallmark has decent finishing ability. Maybe more significantly, when appropriate, he is diligent at lurking near or between the face-off circles looking for chances to put the puck on net.
I think in an ideal world, Wallmark is the type of capable player that a skilled lineup keeps trying to push out of the lineup. But because of his all-around ability, he is capable of playing in a variety of situations if needed.
Watch point: I think the burning question for Wallmark is what his ceiling is offensively. The medium version of him is a capable depth forward with better than fourth line offensive ability. That, in itself, is a valuable player to have around. But based on his 17 goals and 55 points in only 45 games at the AHL level in 2017-18, is it possible that he is the kind of new NHL player who converts a fourth line into another offensive weapon?
Of all of the rookies in the lineup, Valentin Zykov has arguably been the most underwhelming thus far. He figured to possibly start the season alongside Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen where he played well late in 2017-18. Instead, he landed on a line with rookie centerman Martin Necas. After a strong preseason that saw him produce from his cubicle at the top of the crease, Zykov was incredibly quiet through two regular season games and found his way to the press box for game 3. I would not say that Zykov was horrible in those two games, but he just was too much of a non-factor.
The sample size is tiny, but also considering his previous play perhaps the early and tentative conclusion is that he is more of a complementary player than one who can thrive in any situation. First off, that is not a horrible thing. The one thing I really like about Zykov’s game is that he 100 percent understands his role, his skill set and his way to make a difference. So just maybe he is not the type of elite player who can just produce regardless of situation but still brings a very defined skill set that Brind’Amour can use as needed to fill holes, jump start the offense or back fill injuries.
Watch point: When Zykov returns to the lineup, I will be watching to see if he can catch a spark in terms of his strength of finishing around the net but also if he can find a way to make more happen in between net front plays.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What, if anything, jumps out about Andrei Svechnikov’s game that maybe you did not expect even with his high ratings on the way in?
2) What do you see as the ceiling for Lucas Wallmark? Is he just a decent serviceable player who can provide solid depth scoring? Or can he be more than that?
3) What do you make of Valentin Zykov’s slow start? Is it very simply just a random two-game sample size, or is there information to be gleaned from his first two games in 2018-19 alongside Martin Necas?