In a fit of “I really miss Hurricanes hockey!” this weekend, I actually started writing training camp preview stuff (which will stay under wraps for a bit longer) despite the fact that I should have been doing more to collect interviews and tee up remaining ‘Back to School’ articles.
A little later in the day than usual on Monday, Eetu Luostarinen’s feature was posted as the seventh out of eight for the 2017 draft class.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe will start into a short series that aims to offer small “bites” on the vast majority of players either under contract with the Hurricanes or drafted and still controlled by the Hurricanes. The players will not be in any particular order and the comments will not necessarily follow a certain theme.
Landing in a good place
At the end of the day, players’ success largely depends on how well they play. But there can be an element of opportunistically landing in a favorable position that helps. The Hurricanes players and prospects listed below enter the 2017-18 season in favorable positions.
From the category of ‘work hard and you will be rewarded with an opportunity’, Ryan is in a great spot entering the 2017-18 season penciled into an NHL center slot in a role that should lean offense/scoring which fits his skill set. He needs to play well to stay ahead of the young competition, but a little over two years ago when he was still playing in Switzerland, he could not have wished for a better opportunity just over two years later.
For a player whose physical skill set maybe seems a little bit ahead of his development thus far, he too landed in a very good spot when he was traded to Sault Ste. Marie. The coaching staff there leans blue line with Head Coach Drew Bannister who played 164 games as a defenseman in the NHL and also Associate Coach Joe Cirella who had a long 14-year NHL career as a blue liner. In a year in which Carroll must impress to earn a professional contract, he should have tutelage that gives him the best possible chance to do so.
The Hurricanes deepening prospect pool includes a variety of players, and it takes all kinds to build a good hockey team. But winning in the playoffs generally requires at least a handful of elite players who win games. There is an element of risk vs. reward with these players, but this set offers the greatest upside.
His combination of size and strength but significantly also with skating, speed and agility is 10 out of 10. That does not assure him of success, but in today’s NHL where big and slow is a no go, true power forwards who can play in the top 6 forwards are rare. He needs to improve on his ability to contribute when he is not making breathtaking plays with the puck on his stick, but one has to love his upside.
He is another player whose strengths are built for today’s NHL. Scoring 5-on-5 in the offensive zone with three forwards doing the work and two defenseman parked at the points continues to become more challenging as players across the board become better defensively and teams have fewer weak links. Defensemen who can generate offense from the back end are one of the most valuable commodities in the game. Bean still has significant work to do to round out his defensive game, but if he can do that and carry his offensive skill set up two levels, he has the tools to be an offensive catalyst from the back end.
Like most Hurricanes faithful, my view time for him is pretty limited. But what stood out to me in prospect camp was how quick he was not just in long straight lines but anywhere on the ice. On top of that he demonstrated some ability to handle, pass and receive the puck at full speed. In today’s NHL, I think that is the one skill most common to elite scoring forwards. Sidney Crosby has it. Connor McDavid clearly has it. Patrick Kane has it. As do most top scorers in today’s NHL. The transition from being top of the class as an 18 year old to being a top NHL scorer is a significant one not to be underestimated, but I like Necas’ starting point in terms of showing the potential to attack offensively with speed.
His development since being draft a few years back has seen a few injury setbacks including another in his short stint in the AHL level at the tail end of the 2016-17 season. But in only a handful of games in Charlotte, Saarela made a strong statement with a quick goal scoring burst. He might not be quite as heralded as the trio of first-rounders also named in this category, but his combination of raw speed and finishing ability is the stuff of goal scorers.
I touched on this in another article recently, but the team’s offseason maneuvering has a few players on the outside looking in and maybe too forgotten.
Phil Di Giuseppe
As far as players with actual NHL experience and production on a scoring line (significantly) at the NHL level, Di Giuseppe would be neck and neck with Derek Ryan. Ryan provided decent depth scoring in 2016-17 in a variety of roles. Di Giuseppe was in some ways the Derek Ryan of 2015-16 when he stepped onto a third line with Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask and was a contributing part of that line during Skinner’s hottest stretch of the season. But with the addition of Marcus Kruger and Josh Jooris, the herd of young forward prospects on the way and Di Giuseppe’s two-way contract to boot, he seems to be out of most people’s minds.
McGinn is not exactly the same but does have some similarities to Di Giuseppe. McGinn has yet to really find his offensive game at the NHL level, but he did stick at the highest level in 2016-17 unlike Di Giuseppe. He was also a fairly prolific scorer at the Canadian junior level just like the prospects who are chasing him. With his one-way contract, he is reasonably likely to at least stick at the NHL level, but he is not one of the names commonly brought up in discussions of break out players.
Riding a strong second half of 2016-17 at the AHL level, Wallmark entered the summer as a player definitely in the hunt for one of the open center slots. With Ryan’s contract and the addition of Marcus Kruger, there seems to be no room at the inn for Wallmark. But if he can find a higher gear in training camp, he could bring some of the same offensive upside that Ryan does and compete for his spot in the process.
He was once near the top of the Hurricanes’ blue line prospect depth chart before the wave of young defensemen that jumped quickly to the NHL level. For Carrick to get a chance in training camp would probably require an injury or two to create an extra opening.
The Cinderella story who won a contract as an invitee to prospect camp a couple years back was once thought to be a creative offensive catalyst for the future. As he has yet to put it all together at the AHL level, Tolchinsky now finds himself surrounded by other young prospects who will similarly be trying to push up to the NHL level.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Did I miss any players who could be rightfully included in these three categories?
2) Does anyone want to preempt the next part and take a shot at creating another category and filling it with a few players or prospects?