What I called a rock bottom loss on Thursday set the stage for a potentially interesting Friday afternoon for the Carolina Hurricanes. Practice which could have been interesting was actually called off, but yet there was activity. The team recalled a trio of rookies in Phil Di Giuseppe, Jaccob Slavin and Brock McGinn and sent Ryan Murphy back to Charlotte. If the trio all play in addition to Noah Hanifin and Brett Pesce, the Hurricanes will have 5 rookies in the lineup.
The future is now for this team. With the veterans unable to win hockey games and the kids mostly looking capable at the NHL level the transition to the next generation of Hurricanes players is suddenly happening in fast forward mode.
Brock McGinn and Jaccob Slavin are somewhat more known quantities from earlier stints at the NHL level, so I will use this post to talk in some detail about what to expect and watch for from Phil Di Giuseppe.
Di Giuseppe’s path to get here
Phil Di Giuseppe’s game is that of skill player with a decent size bag of offensive tools such that he is not a 1 trick pony. He has a decent mix of finishing and playmaking and can create offense in multiple ways. His 2014-15 season was an adjustment from college to the professional level. Di Giuseppe scored only 30 points in 76 games. But he looked good in the 2015 training camp and preseason and showed flashes of being able to contribute offensively at the NHL level. After being 1 of the last forwards cut, he started strong in Charlotte where he has been an offensive leader. He has played primarily on the Checkers’ top line and is second on the team in scoring with 14 points in 20 games.
The challenge in front of him is something we have seen recently
The challenge in front of him is similar to what Canes fans have witnessed recently. He is an offense-leaning forward who can score at the AHL level. The challenge is to transition this scoring production to the NHL level, do it with less ice time and power play opportunities and also be at least good enough defensively. He is in a very similar position to where Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe and Chris Terry were a couple years back as promising offensive players who could score at the AHL level. That trio struggled to make the transition the NHL with only Chris Terry making it so far and still trying to bring his offense from the AHL and carve out a permanent spot.
What to watch early with Di Giuseppe
I see multiple keys for Di Giuseppe:
1) Can he match the NHL pace? He projects as a bit quicker/faster than Chris Terry (which is what I think keeps Terry who does have good offensive skills from really making it).
=>I will be watching to see if he is has the mobility to be up in the play offensively.
2) Can he sort things out and play sound defensive hockey? All of Dalpe, Boychuk and Terry struggled in early call ups to be good enough defensively. Part of the problem was that they were maybe put in the wrong role playing on a checking line, but when you get your NHL chance, you have to take what you get and make the most of it.
=>I will be watching to see how Di Giuseppe plays without the puck in the neutral zone and in his own end.
3) Can he capitalize when given the opportunity? A challenge for many players trying to break into the NHL is making the most of a small opening. The minutes are less. The chances are fewer. And often the familiar power play time is non-existent. But offensive players are still measured to some degree based on how much they produce. It is not necessarily fair, but it is the reality. The positive in this regard is that even a glimmer of offense could earn a bunch more ice time and favorable situations given how desperate the Canes are for scoring.
=> I will be watching to see if Di Giuseppe can make plays at the NHL level.
For Di Giuseppe, I think it is all about pace. He is not a power forward type, but he is a bit bigger than Dalpe, Boychuk and Terry. The key is for him to play quick and make things happen. It is obviously rash to make too much of a judgment based on the first game or 2, but I will be looking for evidence early on that he can think and play the game fast.