The Carolina Hurricanes training camp roster that started at 59 players still stands at 53 players heading into Friday’s practice. The only cuts thus far have been six of the seven players slated for Canadian juniors in 2017-18. To no surprise, Jake Bean is sticking around longer as the lone Canadian junior player still in training camp trying to win an NHL roster spot. The players returned to juniors were WHLers Hudson Elynuik (Spokane) Morgan Geekie (Tri-City), Stelio Mattheos (Brandon) and Brenden De Jong (Portland) and OHLers Jeremy Helvig (Kingston) and Noah Carroll (Sault Ste. Marie).
The group is likely to become significantly smaller between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. The Hurricanes depart Saturday afternoon for a nicely-spaced three-game road trip, and the Charlotte Checkers’ training camp starts at 10am on Monday. Those combined events make this weekend the annual I-40 commute and move in weekend for the AHLers.
I would expect the NHL roster to be cut to about 35 players which will keep players still in consideration for roster slots, bring along a couple extras to help fill the lineup and give the Checkers roughly a full roster for its early preseason games. If Peters chooses to get down to business early in terms of focusing on the NHL core, the cuts could take the roster as low as 28-30 players.
The Hurricanes have 22 players either on one-way contracts or nearly certain to stay in the NHL despite being on a two-way contract, so by default those players stay. That leaves 8-10 slots for players who started training camp penciled in for Charlotte plus a few wild cards.
I think the situation is reasonably straightforward at the goalie and defenseman positions, but what Coach Bill Peters does with the forwards is worth watching and will provide an early indication of his depth chart at the forward positions right now.
Here is my breakdown of how it should all shake out tomorrow or Saturday.
All of Martin Necas, Jake Bean and Gregory Hofmann are likely to hang around longer, as none are likely in consideration for Charlotte. If he does not continue his rise and win an NHL roster slot, Necas seems most likely to land in the Czech Republic or Canadian juniors which will cause his entry-level contract to slide forward a year. Bean is not eligible to play in the AHL this season because of age/Canadian junior rules, so I think he will stay at the NHL level until the very end to absorb as much higher-level competition as possible before ultimately returning to juniors. And Hofmann is not signed, so his tryout will continue in Raleigh. If he impresses, he could earn either an AHL or NHL contract.
Stays: Martin Necas, Jake Bean, Gregory Hofmann.
With Scott Darling dinged up but likely to play Friday, I would expect the Hurricanes to take an extra goalie on the road trip as an insurance policy. That means two of Alex Nedeljkovic, Callum Booth and Jeremy Smith will be headed for Charlotte. I have no idea if the team will reward veteran Jeremy Smith with a little more time with the big club or prefer to get him started on day one in Charlotte.
This one could go any which direction, but I will guess that the team keeps Jeremy Smith around a bit longer to work with the team and goalie coach Mike Bales since he is effectively the #3 goalie if someone is injured.
Stays: Jeremy Smith.
Cuts: Alex Nedeljkovic, Callum Booth.
The group ultimately headed to Charlotte is mostly a veteran group not likely in competition for an NHL slot to start the 2017-18 season. I would expect the Hurricanes to keep Trevor Carrick who is in the mix for the #6 and/or #7 defense slot, and Roland McKeown makes sense to keep another right shot for practice pairings. Past those two there is a chance that another veteran AHLer from Jake Chelios, Philip Samuelsson, Dennis Robertson or Brenden Kichton is rewarded with a little more ice time with the NHL group.
Stays: Trevor Carrick, Roland McKeown.
Cuts: Dennis Robertson, Philip Samuelsson, Jake Chelios, Brenden Kichton, Josh Wesley, Keegan Kanzig, Tyler Ganly.
This group is much more wide open and harder to figure out. There are so many higher-end prospects of all varieties who could still push for an NHL slot especially if an injury makes room. Best guess is that Peters keeps a slightly larger group than necessary to continue evaluation, but how aggressive he is with cuts here will tell how rapidly he wants to shift the focus to 90/10 in terms of getting ready for opening day versus evaluating options.
Player by player on the tough decisions
Patrick Brown: He is a relatively known quantity with a decent amount of NHL action, and he played on Tuesday. He is also the reigning captain of the Checkers. My best guess is that he is sent to Charlotte early to lead the young group.
Phil Di Giuseppe: He has not been bad thus far in preseason, but he has not finished even with some good chances and has not impressed to the point where he must stay. The advantage of sending him to Charlotte early is that it can be easier to clear waivers at this early juncture when teams are mostly inwardly focused. I think he stays for now out of respect after being forced to sign a one-way deal.
Warren Foegele: I still think he has the potential to bring young legs and more offense to the fourth line and that he will get a bit longer to make a case.
Julien Gauthier: I think he is ultimately bound for Charlotte, but it is a wild guess as to whether he heads there now or gets a bit longer in Raleigh first.
Janne Kuokkanen: I had him as a top dark horse entering training camp, but that title now goes to Martin Necas. He could get a little more time in Raleigh but could also depart early.
Andrew Poturalski: He has seen a good amount of ice time which suggests the coaching staff is taking notice, but his skill set is similar to that of Derek Ryan’s, and Ryan is killing it right now. I think he made a favorable impression but likely departs on the first bus to Charlotte.
Nicolas Roy: I have not seen a report on when he might be cleared to play. If he is close, I think there is a good chance that he stays to get into a preseason game. If not, he could be on the first bus to Charlotte.
Aleksi Saarela: As a relative unknown making his first appearance at PNC Arena, my wild guess is that the team keeps him, so the coaching staff can gain a bit more familiarity.
Lucas Wallmark: He has played well. Despite the fact that there really is no room for him as a center, I would be surprised to see him be part of the first cuts based on his play. He gets at least a few more days.
Valentin Zykov: He is a bit in the same boat as Roy. If he is close to ready, perhaps the team tries to get him into one of the upcoming preseason games, though I could easily see him just starting fresh in Charlotte on day one.
Wild guesses for what happens
Cuts (in order of mostly likely to be cut): Nick Schilkey, Clark Bishop, Spencer Smallman, Steven Lorentz, Sergey Tolchinsky, Andrew Miller — Valentin Zykov, Andrew Poturalski, Julien Gauthier.
Stays: (in order of most likely to stay): Lucas Wallmark, Warren Foegele, — Phil Di Giuseppe, Janne Kuokkanen, Nicolas Roy, Aleksi Saarela.
Who is left?
Goalies (3): Scott Darling, Cam Ward, Jeremy Smith.
Defensemen (10): Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Haydn Fleury, Klas Dahlbeck, Trevor Carrick, Jake Bean, Roland McKeown.
Forwards (21): Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Teravainen, Victor Rask, Justin Williams, Jeff Skinner, Derek Ryan, Lee Stempniak, Joakim Nordstrom, Marcus Kruger, Josh Jooris Brock McGinn, Lucas Wallmark, Martin Necas, Warren Foegele, Janne Kuokkanen, Aleksi Saarela, Gregory Hofmann, Nicolas Roy, Phil Di Giuseppe.
Most interesting will be the cuts at forward. The large group of 21 that I kept could easily be pared down by 3-5 more depending on Peters’ sense of urgency.
Who else wants to go out on a limb and take a wild guess at the next round of cuts?