Thursday officially starts the 2019-20 NHL season. On Thursday, the Hurricanes players report for physicals in the morning and have a team meeting in the afternoon. On Friday, two groups take to the ice to begin preparation for the 2019-20 season.
With the excitement of the return of Canes hockey, we dusted off The Coffee Shop section where there is a set of polls on the forward line combinations. You can find that HERE.
The first couple days of training camp are largely a ton of skating and drills to start working back up to game speed and shake off some rust. And at least in his first year, Brind’Amour did not seem to build lines or pairings with an eye for the season in the first few practices. As such, the first few practices more than anything represent a great chance to head out to PNC Arena to feel the chill in the arena and hear the sounds of hockey.
But there are still a few things worth watching in the first few practices before the more significant watch points for the first preseason games next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Last season, the Hurricanes entered training camp with Justin Williams at the helm. He looked every part the captain from the beginning of training camp setting the tone, being vocal during practice and engaging teammates. With Williams’ departure, the team is without a captain as of right now, but that is likely to change before the start of the season. Will someone undeniably look the part of the captain in the front part of training camp? With a successful 2019-20 season under their belt and a year of watching Williams will a whole group of players have a different look to them? Or instead might it be more significant to watch Brind’Amour and how he interacts with the different potential leaders for this team?
2) Ability to match pace at transition points for young players, especially those possibly with skating speed challenges
The variety of skating and puck-moving drills are not overly useful for evaluating players (at least for me) with a few notable exceptions. One of the most significant is watching how young players do in drills where they go one way and then transition when the puck does. The challenge for players who are average or less in terms of foot speed is not playing in the defensive zone or offensive zone; it is matching pace between the blue lines when the puck transitions suddenly. So these drills that see players go two ways can be very telling in terms of which players could have issues in terms of matching NHL pace. So that is one of my watch points for any new players and also in my opinion the best way to gauge speed. It is not about who win a race between the end lines. It is about who can be going one way at or inside the offensive blue line and and then need to transition and go the other way in a hurry.
3) Brind’Amour’s early line combinations
As I noted above, Brind’Amour did a bunch of random in the early stages of training camp last year, so the ability to glean much about where his mind is in terms of building lines might be minimal. The combinations for the games next week will be more telling. But nonetheless, I do note who plays with whom. Though the forward lines and defense pairings might not be too meaningful, I think what could be is the power play units that are iced in practice. It is no secret that this was a sore spot for 2018-19. With some new personnel, I think that is one thing that Brind’Amour will be focused on very early. So seeing how he builds two units for the first special teams practices will be worth noting.
4) Young player physical updates
So much of the Hurricanes roster is still at an age where they can make significant strides from summer to summer. Noticeable last year was the extra burst of speed and stronger acceleration that Aho had. Does he have another gear physically yet? How does the 19-year old Svechnikov compare to the 18-year old Svechnikov? …and similar year to year comparisons for other players both at the NHL and AHL levels.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of these watch points is most intriguing to you?
2) What are your watch points for the front part of training camp?