In case you missed it, the first set of articles in a summer series that looks at the newest Hurricanes prospects went up quietly yesterday afternoon. Finnish forward Lenni Killinen who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL Draft was up first. You can find an article with short interviews from two scouts based in Finland HERE, and you can find a short reading list of external articles on Killinen HERE.
In writing the two most recent Daily Cup of Joe articles that looked at roster battles for training camp, I could not help but look forward to the start of the regular season just a bit. Over the course of a long NHL season, the roster, line combinations, defense pairings and many other things will shift multiple times. So getting too bogged down in opening day combinations can sometimes be overdone. But in thinking about the front part of the year, there are a few things that I would like to at least take a look at.
1) Valentin Zykov with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen
Micheal Ferland, who was obtained in the trade with Calgary, possesses a skill set that could fit well with Aho and Teravainen. Like Zykov, he brings a crease-crashing style of play and an ability to score in close. But where Ferland could be superior is as a forechecking disruptor who turns the puck over and creates quick transition opportunities. So it would not surprise if Ferland eventually lands on that line. But I really think the team needs to give Valentin Zykov a reasonable run of games in that slot to see what he can do. Zykov put up seven points in 10 games late in the season and showed decent chemistry with the Finnish duo. He also posted a league-leading 33 goals in the AHL despite playing only 63 games. Could Zykov be on the brink of becoming a legitimate scoring force in the NHL? There are obviously no guarantees, but I think the team must at least invest a run of games to give it a chance. Players cannot rise up the depth chart and become impact players with being given a chance to do so. Zykov should get that chance.
2) Pairing Martin Necas with Andrei Svechnikov initially
I do not think hitching these two players together for the entirety of the 2018-19 season is required. They should be part of the rest of the mix as adjustments are made during the season. But with both players being brand new to the NHL, I like the idea of playing them together to start the season in a somewhat sheltered role that expands as the season progresses and they earn and are comfortable with more. To be clear, I think both players (especially Necas who could start in the AHL) should earn their roster spot, so this wish goes out on a limb in predicting that both do make the opening day roster.
3) Dougie Hamilton with Calvin de Haan and Jaccob Slavin with Brett Pesce
I recently discussed this one elsewhere recently. I believe that Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce are a good example of 1+1=3 where players have chemistry and make each other better. Because of that, I would be inclined to at least try de Haan/Hamilton together first. If that does not work after allowing some time to get acclimated, then I would be all for shuffling things and breaking up Slavin and Pesce if necessary. But my starting point would be Slavin/Pesce and de Haan/Hamilton hoping that de Haan and Hamilton mesh well and become another 1+1=3.
4) Victor Rask with Justin Williams
Things are subject to change because of trades before the start of the season, but if the lineup ultimately includes Sebastian Aho still early in his transition to center in one slot and rookie Martin Necas in another, the team will need a second trustworthy line to play behind Jordan Staal’s line. With the aim of giving Victor Rask an assignment in hopes of jump starting him out of the gate, I would like to see him get some time with Justin Williams on one side and speed on the other. Williams and Rask are both heady players who understand angles and assignments and are good read/react players. But neither is fleet of foot. As such, I think pairing the two and then adding a left wing who can/will pin his ears back and forecheck like made could make for a sound defensive line that also generates opportunistic offense off the forecheck. The team is brimming with players who could bring some speed to the left wing with returnee Brock McGinn, newcomer Micheal Ferland and rookie Warren Foegele who should push for a place in the NHL lineup.
5) Alex Nedeljkovic with a short audition in net at the NHL level
To be clear, I am NOT advocating for Nedeljkovic to supplant one of Scott Darling or Petr Mrazek. Rather, if an injury occurs, I would vote for not just calling Nedeljkovic up to be the backup but also getting him a little bit of work. As I wrote in my article discussing dark horse roster candidates, Nedeljkovic has not so much proven he is ready for NHL action, but based on his pedigree, I wonder if could be the type of player who just rises to the occasion when given the chance. Again, I would intend to start the season with Darling and Mrazek, but if there is an opening I would like to see Nedeljkovic get a few games to see where he is. Even if the audition goes poorly, that would be good to know in terms of gauging his schedule and probability for filling a backup role in the near future.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of my five initiatives do you agree with?
2) Which do you question or disagree with?
3) Do you have anything that you would add to a list of initiatives for early in the 2018-19 season?