Timed well with the launch of Canes and Coffee’s ‘Back to School’ series on Hurricanes prospects below the AHL level (see article links at the bottom), today the Carolina Hurricanes announced the prospect roster for the 2017 NHL Prospects Tourney in Traverse City, Michigan from September 8-12, 2017.
The Hurricanes youngsters will look to defend their 2016 championship effort.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe breaks down the roster and a few noteworthy inclusions.
Included on the Carolina Hurricanes Traverse City roster
Per an interview that Francis did last week, Martin Necas now seems most likely to return to the Czech Republic for the 2017-18 season though there is still a contingent in Saginaw, Michigan that hopes he instead makes the jump to the OHL. (Thanks to raleightj and bridgeburner96 for the update.) Oftentimes European prospects do not play in Traverse City (see below for a few other 2017 Hurricanes draftees) because of the travel/logistics and the fact that their training camps in Europe are underway.
Haydn Fleury is another player included who might not have been. Who is eligible to play is pretty flexible, but the majority of AHL-level players usually do not play. He was an early exit in the 2016 tourney due to an injury. My thinking is that Francis and company want to get Fleury as much game action as possible heading into preseason. Evaluating young players on the front of preseason is not ideal because of the small sample size and the fact that they are still getting up to game speed. A quick run of game action in Traverse City should have Fleury close to regular season ready for preseason and make it easier to evaluate him for NHL-readiness in preseason.
Ditto for Roland McKeown. Part of what is going on is that the Hurricanes are light on prospect-level defensemen and have a few slots to fill, but just like with Fleury, I think the goal is to give McKeown a chance to get up to game speed early for a better evaluation in preseason.
Andrew Poturalski and Josh Wesley are the only other players who played the majority of the 2016-17 season at the professional level who will be participating.
Not included on the Carolina Hurricanes Traverse City roster
Prospects at the NCAA level do not make the trip to Traverse City because they are already in session at school and have also started their training camps. So this means no Luke Martin, Jack LaFontaine, Matt Filipe, Max Zimmer, Luke Stevens or David Cotton.
As noted above, Martin Necas is a nice surprise on the list, but as is often the case, the other European prospects – Eetu Luostarinen, Eetu Makiniemi, Ville Rasanen – are not making the trip.
In the spotlight with a chance to make an impression
I see Traverse City as especially important for a handful of players. Not yet signed from the 2016 draft and playing for a professional contract in 2017-18 are Hudson Elynuik, Jeremy Helvig and Noah Carroll.
My best guess is that Elynuik will ultimately receive a contract because of his high third-round draft pedigree, upside potential and reasonable progress thus far. But I think Helvig and Carroll are very much playing for contracts this season. Helvig is third in line behind Alex Nedeljkovic and Callum Booth right now in terms of goalies who could slot at the AHL level for the 2018-19 season. He will need to have a strong 2017-18 to assure that the Hurricanes allocate a contract and roster slot to his further development. I personally have Carroll pegged as the most curious of the prospects because he has always impressed me in limited viewing in person but has not excelled per reports during the his full seasons.
The Traverse City event has the potential to start the 2017-18 season off with a strong first impression for both players.
A sneak preview for the Charlotte Checkers
Traverse City also has the potential to make significant strides in terms of sorting out the lineup for the Charlotte Checkers, especially at forward. Unless someone surprises and breaks onto the NHL roster (which is possible), the Checkers lineup will feature four forwards definitely moving up from the Canadian junior level in Nicolas Roy, Spencer Smallman, Steven Lorentz and Warren Foegele. In addition, expectations are the Janne Kuokkanen and Julien Gauthier who are technically eligible to remain in juniors (or return to Finland in Kuokkanen’s case) will also join the Checkers. As such, Traverse City will at a minimum offer a first look at possible line combinations for Charlotte and could see some combinations that click and stick into the AHL season.
A try out opportunity
The tournament will also present a try out chance for unsigned forwards Nick Schilkey and Luke Boka and defensemen Mac Hollowell and Adam Thilander. The increasing depth of the Hurricanes’ prospect pool will make it tough for any of these players to win a contract, but Sergey Tolchinsky from a couple years back is proof that any chance to put on a Hurricanes uniform represents an opportunity to win a more permanent place.
Jake Bean 5-on-5
My first impressions of Jake Bean at the 2016 prospect camp immediately after being drafted were ‘meh.’ He was not bad, but I guess he just did not ‘wow’ me as much as I was hoping for from a first round draft pick. Fast forward one year to the 2017 prospect camp, and he impressed me and stood head and shoulders above the defensive group especially in terms of handling the puck and generating offense. But the competitive group on defense at the prospect camp was a little bit light, and the open ice presented by 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 hockey in the scrimmage were favorable to Bean’s skill set. Traverse City will present a better opportunity to evaluate Bean both defensively against good players in his age group and also to see if he can be as effective moving the puck and generating offense in a more crowded 5-on-5 scenario.
I also think that tourneys like this represent a great opportunity to assess leadership qualities in young players. In a group of peers, who steps up and leads can be very telling. Likely candidates include Jake Bean, Haydn Fleury, Roland McKeown, Nicolas Roy, Janne Kokkanen and Warren Foegele, but the opportunity is there for anyone to seize.
What say you Caniacs?
1) Who are you most looking forward to seeing in the Traverse City tourney?
2) Which players do you think will stand out?
3) Other thoughts on the prospect tourney roster?