I have a half-written article on Martin Necas’ and his potential to make the 2017-18 Carolina Hurricanes opening day lineup, but after a hectic start to the work week, I am out of gas and do not have the energy to finish that tonight.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe will instead collect up a few player notes from training camp that have not yet made it into other articles.
I like where his game is right now. This might sound strange, but my positive on Hanifin is not so much about how well he has played in preseason action but rather HOW he has played. He looks to be significantly more comfortable and patient with the puck on his stick. From the very beginning I have been adamant in saying that the ceiling version of Noah Hanifin would include a Joni Pitkanen element in terms of using his skating ability to carry the puck, freelance a bit and use it to generate offense. The first days of Hanifin’s NHL experience almost 100 percent abandoned carrying the puck in favor of staying out of trouble and quickly making safe, simple plays to get the puck off his stick. So even if it comes with some growing pains, I take Hanifin playing with the puck a bit more to be a significant step in the right direction for his development.
Lucas Wallmark for Marcus Kruger
Lucas Wallmark has had a pretty solid training camp thus far and should have boosted his standing in an increasingly croweded Hurricanes depth chart. With Marcus Kruger added and Derek Ryan playing lights out, there is no room for a center right now, but I really like the way Wallmark has positioned himself to be the first call up if the Hurricanes encounter an injury at the center position. Especially if Kruger were injured, Wallmark would be a steady fill in.
Martin Necas compared to Julien Gauthier without the puck
When watching Martin Necas play without the puck, two things jump out at me. First is how much ice he covers and how easily he does it. Second s noting how consistently and aggressively he moves to engage the puck on the forecheck and in the neutral zone. The result is that he is a nuisance to play against somewhat similar to Nathan Gerbe and is always around the puck. Julien Gauthier’s game without the puck is generally focused on positioning. Staying in position is obviously not a bad thing, but overdoing it can lead to passive play that does not engage the puck enough. Back to a 2-3 instead of an umbrella with one full-time point man: There are elements to each player’s game that project well but as a core foundation, I prefer a puck hound like Necas as a starting point. Gauthier can get to where he needs to as well, but I think the adjustment will be more challenging and therefore could take longer.
Power play tinkering
With a penalty heavy preseason due to the emphasis on slashing and face-off circle violations, power play coach Rod Brind’Amour has had ample opportunities to work on the Hurricanes power play. Below are a couple observations.
A large chunk of it was during the 5-on-3 power plays on Monday, so it is not clear if the tinkering with positioning is specific to 5-on-3 or if it will also apply for 5-on-4 opportunities. In a nutshell, the setup had two traditional point men and then the three forwards all lined up across. On a 5-on-3, I do not like the idea of giving the player in the center of the ice to have the decision-making flexibility to stay at the front of the net or depart to look for a pass. I want a player whose sole responsibility is to park in front of goalie for as much time as possible and to play 4-on-3 outside of that.
Another thing that has been noticeable with at least the one unit is playing Staal and Lindholm in sort of a high/low setup that sees Lindholm up near the top of the face-off circles and Staal down by the net. I do not like it. The single place where Lindholm looked most in his element offensively was playing at side of the net on the power play. Why take that away?