On Friday, I put up a short 2-question survey asking readers to guess who will win the open Hurricanes roster spots at forward and on defense. You can find that HERE.
With the round of cuts today, the Carolina Hurricanes enter the weekend with 19 forwards. 12 of those forwards, if healthy, are probably assured roster spots. That leaves 7 players battling for 1 roster spot plus whatever might open up due to injuries. If 1 of the 7 younger players on the outside looking in earns a spot, it would be easy enough to push 1 of the bottom half of the roster veterans to the #13 slot.
Here is what I think it takes for each player to make the team:
Skill, scoring, playmakers (Tolchinsky, Ryan, Di Giuseppe)
–Sergey Tolchinsky. The fact that he survived the AHL cut is a vote of confidence for what he has shown so far. In addition to great physical skill offensively, Tolchinsky is also an incredibly heady young player and has demonstrated a willingness to play in tight spaces and take contact which is important for an undersized player. For him to make the team, I think he needs to play a reasonably sound game defensively, and I think he needs to be head and shoulders above other options in terms of generating offense. If Tolchinsky looks to be a modest upgrade offensively, then I think it is more likely that he at least starts the season in Charlotte to develop.
–Phil Di Giuseppe. He is a bit in the same boat as Tolchinsky. The Canes do need to improve offensively, so the path to the NHL for the beginning of the 2015-16 season for Di Giuseppe comes from him showing that he can provide a significant offensive boost relative to other options on the roster.
–Derek Ryan. He is the third of 3 players whose skill set offers scoring upside to a team that needs it. He was an elite offensive player in a somewhat lesser league last season. His path to a roster spot requires that he demonstrate the ability to quickly transition his game to the smaller ice surface and better players.
Ryan might be the easiest player to track through the process. He is a natural center and that is where he has played so far in training camp. But the Canes theoretically have 4 centers already (JStaal, Rask, Nash, McClement), and that assumes that Eric Staal does not move back to center. So if Ryan plays his way into the mix, Peters will need to do some tinkering to make him fit. Either Ryan would need to move to wing, or 1 of the centers would need to move to wing. Right now, he has generally been playing on a 5th line with other fringe AHL/NHL players. Ice time at center with NHLers combined with another Canes center moving to wing would be a clue that he is truly in the mix to make the big team out of the gate.
Need to get bigger (Woods, Sutter)
–Brendan Woods. He brings a skill set somewhat similar to Brad Malone. But with the Canes heavy on undersized players and wanting to get bigger, there is an opening for a player like Woods to play his way up the depth chart with a strong training camp. To make the team, he needs to show that he can play regular shifts at an NHL pace without being a step behind. He also needs to be physically noticeable when in the lineup via banging bodies, being difficult to play against and creating havoc around the crease in the offensive zone. And he needs to bring some offense. He does not need to project as a leading scorer, but he does need to score some.
–Brody Sutter. He fits pretty neatly in the same category as Brendan Woods. He brings size and physical play to help balance out some undersized forwards. To make the team, he needs to be a physical difference-maker and also kick in some offensively.
Sandpaper and skill (McGinn)
–Brock McGinn. McGinn is a hybrid of sorts. He can bring some of the physical and difficult to play against that one would want from Woods or Sutter, but in a much smaller frame. But to go with the sandpaper, McGinn has more of a goal-scoring track record at least in juniors. The challenge for McGinn is translating the rough and tumble style that worked for him in juniors to the NHL level despite a physical frame that might be a little bit small for this style of play. And on top of that, he needs to be capable of providing good secondary scoring.
Safe and sound (Nordstrom)
–Joakim Nordstrom. If the team becomes content with their scoring and do not feel the need to select offensive upside with a last roster spot, Nordstrom might be the safest pick to fill out the roster with a player who can play simple and solid hockey. His scoring thus far is limited, but he is sound defensively, and he is the only player with significant NHL experience (54 games) entering the season. He becomes a favorite if Peters is happy with the offense on his top 3 lines and is simply looking for a safe fourth-liner or #13 forward.
Of the group, I really like Derek Ryan for his ability to provide offensive upside. The issue is how/where to fit him in the lineup. Unless someone moves, the Canes are full (and plus 1 even) at his natural center position. I also like Brendan Woods as a big young forward who can score enough and create a bit of chaos physically. Joakim Nordstrom is sort of the fallback if no one stands out and/or if the team simply wants a safe fourth-liner.
Shorter version: I am taking Ryan and/or Woods for upside and Nordstrom if Peters opts for a safe fourth-liner.