I had notes and good intentions of posting a recap and notes from the Hurricanes finale in Traverse City on Tuesday afternoon, but life got in the way. I will hopefully put them up in the next day or so.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks more broadly at the entirety of the tourney and offers ‘likes’ and ‘room for improvement’ from what I saw over the four-game set. My comments do also consider my assessment of the players coming into the tourney, so they are more of an update than an assessment on a very small sample size. In addition, all of these players are still fairly early in their development with the potential to improve and reach higher levels of play.
Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas as a duo
Like: Both players had their moments and looked every bit NHL-capable. Svechnikov showed the sniper-like capabilities of a goal scorer and Necas had his share of times where he seemed to cover 30 feet of ice in an eighth of a second. So individually, each player did enough to impress.
Room for improvement: As much as I tried to find it, I would not say that the duo exhibited great chemistry as defined by players making each other better. They did combine for one really pretty goal late in Tuesday’s game when Necas found Svechnikov with a nifty pass between the circles and Svechnikov made a pretty move and then finished with a laser for a goal. But in total, I did not see the two as being a 1+1=3 as often as I had hoped for entering the tournament.
Like: The seven goals allowed by invitee Mario Culina in the finale maybe highlighted some of the team’s struggles defensively. But in three games prior Helvig held up really well allowing only eight goals in three games and regularly holding the fort when the team in front of him was being outplayed. So there was a lot to like in Helvig’s game. What stood out most to me was that Helvig was a really, really good first save goalie. He did a great job of anticipating shots and playing into them with his big frame and showed athleticism when that was not enough. As I have said before, it will be interesting to see if he is playing his way into some AHL ice time sooner rather than later.
Room for improvement: As is often the case for young goalies, Helvig has a ways to go on rebound control. Even on a decent number of routine saves, he seems to be mostly just trying to stop the puck without much ability to control where it goes after that.
Like: Kuokkanen is a heady read/react type player who thinks the game well. He gets positioning, puck support, making passing lanes and just generally how to consistently make good decisions. That combined with having enough skill gives him the ability to be a good complementary player on a scoring line.
Room for improvement: As much as I like the headiness in Kuokkanen’s game, the current iteration of him does not seem to have a ton of dynamic maybe somewhat like Elias Lindholm. But being a good all-around complementary player could still make for a serviceable middle six forward.
Like: This might sound odd, but one of the things that stood out to me about Svechnikov was how good of a player he was without the puck offensively. Somewhat from a James Neal mold in today’s NHL or possibly a Jeff O’Neill mold from Hurricanes history, Svechnikov has a really good knack for working and thinking without the puck to be a receive and finish type player. That fits well on a scoring line with other players who are more puck handlers/distributors (think Aho/Teravainen). So while his laser of a shot garners more headlines, that is what jumped out about his game in Traverse City.
Room for improvement: Call me greedy, but I would have liked just a bit more dynamic and dominating against this sub-NHL competition. Svechnikov’s point total was fine, and he had his share of ‘that’s and NHLer’ moments, but I would have liked to see more stretches where he just dominated at this level.
Like: During the tourney I compared him to Victor Rask in terms of quickly reading situations and then using his size to take away passing lanes, angles or whatever else. Roy’s defensive play is good, and his game is mature and well-rounded for his age. The result is a player who projects to be at least a capable depth center.
Room for improvement: But based on where he is at right now, I have a hard time projecting Roy as more than a checking line forward best suited for a fourth line. He lacks too many of the tools that generate offense. He does not possess quick three-stride acceleration/jump that can make for scoring chances and his puck skills are below average for a center. More basically, I would ideally like to see more offensive upside from Roy.
Like: If I had to pick a few players whose stock rose most with from the tourney, Henman would make the short list. His hockey IQ impressed me. He reminds me a bit of the young iteration of Brandon Sutter who just made a lot of good small plays. Henman’s offensive ceiling might be higher, but regardless, his hockey sense with enough skill projects well.
Room for improvement: Even at this level, Henman had times where he was overmatched physically. But he is 18 years old and has time to add size and strength.
My tentative plan is to do similar analysis for each of the Hurricanes prospects who played in Traverse City. Stay tuned for more.