Today the Carolina Hurricanes named their roster for the NHL Prospects Tourney in Traverse City on September 16-20. The tourney has become a regular event for Hurricanes prospects. The roster is primarily made up of prospects who are just entering the AHL or are younger. It does not include college prospects because they are already off at school when the tourney starts. You can find the full roster at the team site HERE.
The roster is mostly what one would expect. I think the biggest surprise, which is a mild one, is the inclusion of Sergey Tolchinsky who completed a full year in the AHL last season. Only Andrew Poturalski who is a rookie at the professional level after completing his college eligibility and unsigned invitee Mike Ferrantino are older.
Speaking of invitees, Ferrantino is joined by defensemen Ben Gleason and Alex Peters who are also both unsigned free agents. Gleason and Peters also participated in the summer prospect camp, so getting a second look in game action might suggest that 1 or both could be on their way toward at least an AHL contract in the organization.
Alex Nedeljkovic’s debut
Despite being drafted 2 years ago by the Carolina Hurricanes, Alex Nedeljkovic will be making his debut in this tourney after missing both of the past 2 due to injuries. He has shown a knack for playing his best hockey in tourneys bigger than this for the United States in international tourneys, but he is still one to watch. Does he use this tournament to make his first big statement in a Hurricanes uniform?
Key tourney for Warren Foegele
As a player headed to play in the NCAA when drafted 2 years ago, the Hurricanes were not forced to make a sign or lose decision on Warren Foegele this summer. The team still maintains his rights but as 20-year old, the clock is ticking on him. It is not clear if he will get a spot as an overage player in juniors this season. If not, he would need to jump to the ECHL or AHL level. Francis has 2 contract slots left, so there is a chance that a big Traverse City showing by Foegele wins him a contract, though Francis might prefer to save those slots. Regardless, this tourney could be a fork in the road for Warren Foegele’s hockey career.
Interesting mix of veterans, youth and newcomers
The roster also features Traverse city veterans Haydn Fleury, Roland McKeown, Nicolas Roy and others. It also features 5 2016 draftees (Jake Bean, Julien Gauthier, Janne Kuokkanen, Hudson Elynuik and Jeremy Helvig) and 2 players (Valentin Zykov and Aleksi Saarela) who were obtained at the trade deadline last winter.
Hurricanes tradition of using this tourney to build momentum heading into the NHL training camp
The Hurricanes have a storied history of seeing young players use September rookie tourneys to build momentum heading into the NHL training camp and ride it all the way to an opening day roster spot. The original was Josef Vasicek who entered September as a relatively unheralded prospect not even close to the NHL on the depth chart. He proved solid defensively at the prospect tourney and then again in preseason for the NHL and ultimately won the third line center slot entering the 2000-01 season. A strong September and NHL preseason made it impossible to send Eric Staal back to juniors in his draft year. And more recently Victor Rask converted a solid Traverse City tourney into momentum that helped him win an NHL slot for the 2014-15 season from off the depth chart at the start of training camp.
I think there is a reasonable chance that 2016 first-rounder Julien Gauthier will at least play his way into a 9-game NHL trial this fall, but perhaps the player to really watch in Traverse City is Nicolas Roy. Like the other prospect tourney risers, he is a center. My limited read from prospect camp (he missed a number of days due to illness) is that Roy is still a year or maybe 2 away from the NHL. His skating and mobility were improved this summer compared to last, but it is not clear he is quite ready for NHL pace yet. But at the same time, he seems to have some of Victor Rask’s knack for being sound positionally and in terms of decision-making which is a critical component of being an NHL center with average-ish skating ability. Could Roy follow in the footsteps of Vasicek, Staal and Rask? It is at least worth tuning in to find out.