Right now the Carolina Hurricanes are sitting on two open roster spots at forward (assuming the team carries 13). While there is a decent chance that Ron Francis will ultimately add one more forward maybe right when the final closeout sale will occur, there should be an open competition for one or more forward spots.
There really are no sure things to claim a spot or even a pure front-runner. Zach Boychuk who I wrote about in yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe which you can find here, has the most NHL experience (almost the only NHL experience). There are multiple other younger players possibly led by Brock McGinn who just completed his first season at the AHL level. But there really is no incumbent or expected winner.
Enter Derek Ryan. He is a bit of an odd entry. He is 28-year old rookie who has not played hockey in North America in years. He worked his way up from some pretty low ranks step by step. Last season he led the Swedish Hockey League in scoring. He is smallish at 5-10 170, but is reported to be a skilled playmaker. A meaningful side note is that he played hockey for two years for Bill Peters many years ago in the WHL.
Odds are that someone like Ryan would need some time to acclimate himself to the North American game and NHL competition which would suggest that he is destined for Charlotte. But a couple things make his situation interesting to watch in September:
1) There is clearly an unclaimed opening or two at forward to be won in September.
2) I continue to think that the Canes need to add at least a sprinkle of playmaking to the top 6. I believe that a significant contributor to Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner’s light scoring in 2014-15 was lack of help getting high quality shots.
3) He is 28 years old. There is no big commitment with the two-way contract that he signed, but you have to figure that Ron Francis and his staff thought there was a least a chance he could play at the NHL level and do it soon. It is not like you sign a 28-year old for a 3-4 development project.
If he can make a light speed adjustment, his playmaking could fit at his natural center position feeding scoring chances to either Eric Staal or Jeff Skinner. Or if he could move to right wing, could he provide playmaking from the wing for EStaal/JStaal or Skinner/EStaal?
Again, most likely is that he starts in Charlotte and gets some time to adjust, but it is at least worth seeing how comfortable he looks in early scrimmages and whether Peters gives him any ice time with roster players.