Coming out of the Traverse City tourney yesterday, I started into a series of ‘like’ and ‘room for improvement’ for the prospects who played in the tourney. Yesterday’s article included Andrei Svechnikov, Jeremy Helvig, Janne Kuokkanen, Nicolas Roy and Luke Henman.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe continues with similar comments/notes on a second set of Canes prospects who played in Traverse City.
Like: I think Bean’s vision, puck handling and poise on the point of the power play are good enough to play at least on a second unit on the power play in the NHL today. With a bit of room to assess the situation and take a couple strides, Bean also looks capable of advancing the puck up and out of the defensive zone. Considering that skill set alone, Bean projects to be an offense-oriented third pairing defenseman in the right situation.
Room for Improvement: But the problem is that is exactly what I project for Bean right now. To become more, his game will need to mature defensively, and to be honest, I question whether Bean is on the right trajectory make the necessary improvements. The biggest issue I have with his play is his tendency to just keep backing up and backing up when facing players coming at him with speed. That issue with gap control is problematic in today’s NHL where even bottom half of the roster players can convert time and space quickly into scoring chances. In the name of full disclosure, I have not been as high as the consensus on Bean for some time now, so I admittedly have a bit of a bias with Bean.
Like: In Traverse City, Morgan Geekie centered a line with Luke Henman and Stelio Mattheos. The line was arguably the team’s best early in the tourney before maybe fading a bit. What I liked about Geekie was his propensity to play in straight lines and attack the defense straight on. The result was a good number of chances off the rush and a pretty clean game in terms of not turning the puck over in bad places. That simple but effective game projects well as he continues his development.
Room for improvement: One of the raps on Geekie from the beginning was his skating. Giving credit where it is due, he has made progress in this regard, and his efficient point to point style of play works well for a player without skating as a strength. That said, he still has room to improve in this regard.
Like: In Traverse City, Julien Gauthier had two power play goals from the top of the crease and a couple other chances to boot. His willingness to go to the front of the net and finish is promising. The Hurricanes need more of this, and his 6 foot 4 inch and 230-pound frame is built for this style of play.
Room for improvement: My issue with Gauthier is mostly unchanged since first watching him in prospect camp a couple years back. With the puck on his stick, even the slightest head start and a head of steam, Gauthier projects to be an elite power forward at the NHL level. But he continues to be too quiet in between those peaks. In Traverse City, he had a decent number of times when he carried in over the blue line off the rush, but he was mostly thwarted on the way to the net and converted exactly zero of these opportunities into goals. As of now, I am still watching closely to see if Gauthier can find an ignition switch that converts him into an every shift force. So far I am skeptical.
Like: When Aleksi Saarela mounted a small burst in the first period of the final game, he was impressive. He collected a goal and at least two near misses in first period alone. Fans will have to see if it translates to the NHL level, but Saarela possesses the tool kit of a goal scorer.
Room for improvement: I put him a bit in the same category as Gauthier. Saarela could likely make enough good plays to stick at the NHL level, but the question is whether he could make enough small good plays otherwise. There is usually room for a mid-20s or 30s goal scorer on most NHL teams, but if a player’s contribution is minimal otherwise, it is tough to win and maintain an NHL roster spot with only depth level scoring and minimal contribution other than goal scoring.
If my count is correct, today’s article makes for 13 prospects considered. The last four should find their way into a Daily Cup of Joe post soon.