Since the Hurricanes game on Saturday, the team has returned Brendan Woods to Charlotte and recalled Brody Sutter to replace him (for now) at the NHL level as the ongoing evaluation process continues for Coach Bill Peters and GM Ron Francis.
In 3 games in the NHL, Brendan Woods made his presence known early by dropping the gloves with long-time NHL heavyweight Chris Neil in his first game of the try out. But over the course of his short 3-game trial, I would not say that Woods did anything to stand out and significantly boost his chances to make the 2016-17 team. He logged a modest 20:52 of ice time in 3 games and did not get on the score sheet other than the fighting major. The biggest thing I was watching for with Woods was whether he could find a combination of reading plays and speed that enabled him to create some chaos on the forecheck. It never really materialized. I like Woods as an old school rugged fourth-liner who is a little bit light on mobility but heavy on physical play. The problem is that number of slots dedicated to this skill set is diminishing rapidly. My bet is that the Canes will use depth spots past Jay McClement next season to add more players who at least potentially can kick in scoring. Based on that opinion, I think Woods would need to offer more of either scoring or being disruptive on the forecheck by banging bodies and creating turnovers to stand out. As of right now, I think he represents good AHL level depth who could be called up to fill a role short-term if injuries required the depth.
Enter Brody Sutter
Brody Sutter is next in line to get an NHL try out. His skill set is a bit similar to Woods as a big rugged forward. A key difference is that Sutter is a natural center whereas Woods is a wing. With Jay McClement already under contract and expected to be the fourth-line center for 2016-17, Sutter could be evaluated as a wing possibly on McClement’s line or otherwise as a possible #5/AHL ready depth center in case of injuries. As with Woods, I think the key evaluation point for Sutter will be his ability to match the NHL pace, get around the rink on the forecheck and play a disruptive style of aggressive hockey. The challenge is having the speed and pace that makes a player look like Tuomo Ruutu or Erik Cole who could get to the puck and create turnovers versus players who are just not fast enough to do more than finish a few checks too late to impact the play. For a team that needs to find more scoring across its roster, any kind of scoring also receives bonus points in the evaluation process.