If you are checking in looking for trade deadline coverage, part 3 of Canes and Coffee’s trade deadline preview will be up sometime on Monday. In the meantime, Sunday offered a Sunday Canes Chronicle heavy on links to trade deadline coverage. And Sunday also provided an article addressing a rumor that Justin Faulk might be available.
Now 2 games post-Ron Hainsey, today’s Daily Cup of Joe has early thoughts on player evaluation and development aimed at the 2017-18 season based on what we have seen so far.
Phil Di Giuseppe
If it is not obvious from the raving in my game recaps. I really like Phil Di Giuseppe and what he has done since being recalled from Charlotte. In a word, I would describe him as “active.” In 4 games he has taken 27 shots and collected 17 shots on goal. Maybe even more significantly, Di Giuseppe has matured to the point where he is a going concern every single shift. He finishes checks when possible. He competes for and wins lose pucks. He skates hard and closely ground as quickly as possible on the forecheck and also backchecking through the neutral zone. And he makes bunches of little plays that add up.
I think the base version of his game fits nicely on a fourth line and provides more scoring upside than a run of the mill fourth-liner. But if he can find a higher gear in terms of point production, I think he could play his way up the depth chart. Not in terms of scoring proficiency but in terms of style of play, (as I said in Sunday’s game recap) Di Giuseppe reminds me of Justin Williams for how he skates hard to take away time and space, passing lanes and whatever else he can forechecking and backchecking. Those type of little plays put pressure on the other team and help drive changes in possession.
I think the next step forward for Di Giuseppe is to be able to slow things down a bit when he finds the puck on his stick with a chance to score such that he can transition from simply trying to get the puck on net to shooting to score when the opportunity presents itself.
Even before the Hainsey trade, my hope was that Noah Hanifin would get a run in the top 4 and that hopefully it would spark his game and help accelerate his development. I thought he played very well alongside Brett Pesce in Friday’s win but that he struggled quite a bit in the loss on Sunday. (The game recap spells out the details.) That got me to thinking about specific areas of improvement for Hanifin’s game. Off the top of my head, here is a short list:
1-Improve his attention to detail on body position especially off the rush. He needs to become better at staying between the opposing player and the net. This was the big one from Sunday where he had a couple occasions where he was in front of the player coming at him but too far outside such that it was too easy to just cut to the inside on him.
2-Improve his awareness of where the dangerous passing lanes are (usually to the front of the net) and better utilize his stick to defend those. Too often Hanifin has been roughly in the right place defensively only to see the puck go right through him to a dangerous place on the ice.
3-With the puck on his stick in the defensive zone, have a better sense of when he has time and space to carry the puck and/or look for passing lanes up ice instead of always settling for the pass across. I continue to believe that there is significant upside in Hanifin’s game when he gains the ability to slow things down and consider options to quickly pass or carry the puck north-south to put pressure on the defense in transition.
4-Learn to be more physical and play with a greater sense of urgency around the crease. Hanifin has too often been the player in the picture when an opponent scores from in close. He could learn a thing or 2 from Glen Wesley video. As much as any Hurricanes defenseman Wesley dialed up the urgency in front of his own net always doing some combination of tying up a stick, making body contact, fighting for position or doing whatever else would keep opponents occupied with something other than scoring goals from in front of the net.
I think the next step forward for Hanifin is to tighten up positioning when defending players off the rush or in the offensive zone such that he starts to more consistently take away options to get the puck to the middle by both the player (body position and angles) and the pass (using stick to defend passing lanes).
I think Eddie Lack is very much playing to earn a spot on the 2017-18 roster right now, so playing well is obviously critical for him. He has 2 consecutive starts that were at least decent if not better. This is a step in the right direction and a building block. I think he needs to put together a solid 6 weeks of hockey to build trust with Francis, Peters and the team.
I think the next step forward for Lack is just a longer run of more of the same. An NHL backup does not to be stellar every single outing, but he does need to play well enough to give his team a chance to win regularly. Lack’ streak in that regard is 2 right now.
His almost goal on Sunday night was unfortunate. If you missed it, he beat the goalie only to have shot hit a Calgary player who accidentally fell into the crease after a collision and never even saw the puck coming at him. Had Murphy netted that goal, it might have changed the complexion of Sunday’s game and people’s rating of him. I thought he played well on Friday. I rate Sunday as a mixed bag with a couple tough shifts, but I also thought that he had a solid game with the puck on his stick for the most part. I wrote about the options for Ryan Murphy in more detail last week. My best guess is that he is likely to be traded before the start of the 2017-18 season, but that he might be around to serve a purpose for the expansion draft if he can collect the necessary games played down the stretch. Regardless of stay or go, a strong last quarter of the season helps both him and the Hurricanes.
I think the next step forward for Murphy is to rekindle his puck-carrying ability and generate more offense. As I said in my recent article on Murphy, the path to becoming an NHL regular for Murphy is not morphing into a stay-home defenseman. Rather, it is by leveraging his natural skill skating and carrying the puck.