Earlier this week, I jumped the gun a little bit to help get through another week of August when I posted two sneak peek articles that previewed potential roster battles at the forward position and then offered a similar preview of the one potential battle on the blue line.
When I do a deeper dive on building the lineup for the 2017-18 in a few weeks, it will undoubtedly be heavy on figuring out forward combination and defense pairings from among the 14-16 players who are pretty much locked into the lineup. And it will surely feature some handicapping of which young prospects could surprise and jump up into the opening day lineup.
The focus of these discussions will be the players in the lineup and the high flying prospects who bring a newness and optimism for high upside.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe will look at the other end of the spectrum and players who could be forgotten heading into training camp.
Phil Di Giuseppe
By virtue of a lackluster 2016-17 season that say Di Giuseppe start at the NHL level and ultimately find his way to Charlotte after decent play but a complete disappearance of his scoring touch, Di Giuseppe starts training camp at #14 on the forward depth chart with a pack of young prospects breathing down his neck. His two-way contract would suggest that he is more likely to land in the AHL than the NHL, but he brings some things to the battle as an underdog in September. He has added a physical, power forward type edge to his game over time. He has 77 games of NHL experience. Though it may have been lost a bit in a ‘meh’ 2016-17 campaign, he also proved that he could be part of a decent scoring line when he road shotgun next to Jeff Skinner during the second half of the 2015-16 season and put up 17 points in 41 games.
What he needs to do: At the most basic level, he needs to stand out and make a big impression. Starting at #14 on the depth chart, he will not back his way into an NHL slot unless the team encounters a bunch of injuries. He needs to be a difference-maker in preseason and ideally re-find his scoring touch to have a chance at cracking the NHL roster.
McGinn enters training camp a notch higher than Di Giuseppe on the depth chart and more certain to at least stick at the NHL level because of his one-way contract. But with the addition of Marcus Kruger and Josh Jooris, the depth forward slots are suddenly scarce. McGinn also has the upper hand on the rookies with 78 games of NHL experience. He finished the 2016-17 season at the NHL level which makes him a known quantity to Bill Peters and an incumbent in the lineup which at least gets him a fair shake during training camp. Also like Di Giuseppe though, McGinn mustered only 16 points in 57 games which is pretty clearly a depth forward scoring pace.
What he needs to do: McGinn needs to be noticeable in a physical sense in preseason game action and ideally find a scoring touch that suggests he brings more scoring-wise than the more experienced options.
With the younger Hurricanes forward prospects making a bunch of noise in the Canadian Hockey League playoffs and then again in prospect camp in July, expectations are rising quickly for Julien Gauthier, Janne Kuokkanen, Nicolas Roy, Warren Foegele and Aleksi Saarela. But Wallmark who will just have turned 22 years old when the season starts has a leg up on all of these younger prospects with a full year at the AHL level and even a few NHL games to boot. The trade for Marcus Kruger filled the C4 slot that might have been Wallmark’s to lose, but he could still push Derek Ryan for the other center slot. Wallmark boasts a strong 2016-17 season at the AHL level that saw him start modestly and find a goal scoring burst in the second half of the season.
What he needs to do: Very simply, he needs to outplay Ryan and also the younger prospects. That requires being safe and sound defensively as a foundation and then showing that he can generate offense at a level at least equal to Ryan.
Many, including me, have Haydn Fleury penciled into the final slot on the blue line to start the 2017-18 season. And though I think that is the most likely outcome from training camp, it is far from a sure thing. When Fleury plays in a regular season NHL game, it will be his first, and the transition from the AHL to the NHL can be challenging (despite evidence to the contrary from Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce). Meanwhile, with the departure of Matt Tennyson and Ryan Murphy, Dahlbeck enters training camp as the only player competing for the sixth defense slot with any significant NHL experience. He has 137 games of NHL experience, and maybe more significantly, he finished the 2016-17 season on a higher note returning to his natural left side and looking better down the stretch.
What he needs to do: Put simply, he needs to look like the safest option for the last defense slot and hope that the players with less experience look shaky and raise doubts in preseason action.
Entering the summer before the start of the 2015-16 season, Carrick would have been fairly high on at least the short-term depth chart for cracking the NHL roster. Since then, he has been passed on the depth chart by Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin and has a good chance of seeing Haydn Fleury be the next to rise above him. Carrick is very clearly a dark horse at this point, but he should also be a hungry one who has mostly done what he can to prepare at the AHL level.
What he needs to do: He needs to stand out in a positive way to even push into the discussion. Be it big hits, offensive production or just assertive and solid play defensively, Carrick must do something in September to significantly shift what the coaching staff is planning right now for the blue line.
Rightfully, Scott Darling is the big news in net this summer. The Hurricanes needed to improve in net, and Darling was an aggressive move by General Manager Ron Francis to do exactly that. But even if things go as planned with Darling moving into the starting role and staying there, it is not as if Cam Ward does not matter. One would figure the backup for 20-25 starts which is maybe not enough to make the playoffs happen, but is certainly enough to break any playoff chances.
What he needs to do: Most significant for Ward is to play a small part in helping Darling settle in. From there, a strong start that suggests that Ward can be at the top of his game in a much different role would also be a big positive.
What say you Caniacs?
Do you think any of these players could have bigger roles than anticipated right now?
Does anyone think that Lucas Wallmark could leverage his full year of AHL experience in 2016-17 as a spring board to compete for Ryan’s slot before the prospects below him are ready?
Will an injury or two open the door for Trevor Carrick, or is he destined to remain AHL depth until he can find his way team whose pool of defensemen is shallower?