If you were busy and away from Canes hockey on Monday, you missed a busy day. First, Derek Ryan was re-signed for one year at $1.425 million. Then the Hurricanes opted in on Trevor Carrick (signed), Brock McGinn (qualified), Phil Di Giuseppe (qualified) and Jake Chelios (qualified) and opted out on Andrej Nestrasil and Daniel Altshuller who will now become unrestricted free agents.
Highly recommend attending the Hurricanes prospect camp this week
The Carolina Hurricanes prospect camp kicks off (the public part anyway) on Wednesday with a practice at 5:30pm at PNC Arena. Also open to the public and free of charge are the Thursday practice at 5:30pm and the Summerfest finale on Saturday morning that ends with a scrimmage at 12pm.
The prospect camp is easily my favorite non-real game event of the season, and I highly recommend attending as much as your schedule allows.
The week-long represents one of very few opportunities to see the younger prospects before they head off to play a regular season far, far away. The players come in with expectations tagged to them to some degree, but if you are able to clear your mind of what you supposedly know and just watch the potential exists to be ‘wowed’ by the next Warren Foegele who comes in with relatively low draft pedigree relative to some of the others.
The prospect camp also represents the first chance to see the newest batch of Hurricanes prospects from the most recent draft.
Mostly, I just try to watch the newest players without too much bias from preconceived notions based on what I know from reading about them. But I do also use the ice time in Raleigh to look for matches and discrepancies between what I see on the ice and what I have read from scouts and media.
In preparation for on-ice looks at the Hurricanes younger prospects, here is a short ‘what I’m watching’ preview specifically for the eight newest draftees (with profile and reading list links in parentheses):
Martin Necas (First round draft pick, Center, Czech Republic)
I hate to put pressure on the kid (he will not read this anyway) but in a first round pick making a first appearance at a prospect camp with players pretty similar in age, I want to see him stand out. He should be one of the best players in a group like his, and though a more understated performance is not completely damning, I enter the prospect camp hoping for more.
Eetu Luostarinen (2nd round draft pick, Center, Finland)
One of my first watch points for young, playmaking centers from Europe is how comfortable they look playing in tighter spaces on a North American rink. Two years ago Sebastian Aho did not really stand out until the last-day scrimmage when he showed a higher gear through the neutral zone dictating play to and through the offensive blue line. Last summer, Janne Kuokkanen showed that even without being a speedster he could also push pace through the middle of the ice largely because he looked comfortable handling puck seemingly right at a defenseman’s feet on the rush.
For Luostarinen, I will be watching to see if he also has a skill set that makes for a rapid adjustment to a slightly different game on a smaller ice surface.
Luke Martin (Second round draft pick, Defenseman, University of Michigan)
The challenge for bigger defensemen and also the most common factor metering their development is their speed and mobility. As a second-round draft pick but of the physical, stay-home variety, I will be watching to get some kind of early read of where he is in terms of mobility, agility and straight line speed.
Morgan Geekie (Third round draft pick, Center, Tri-City Americans/WHL)
Geekie is another player who was not selected in the 2016 NHL draft. He had a huge 90-point season in 2016-17 and vaulted all the way from undrafted into the third round. A number of profiles describe him as having more of a third line ceiling and a checking line skill set. I will be watching to see if perhaps he is a player who has more offensive upside than the consensus thinks.
In addition, for both Geekie and Stelios, I will be watching to see how they stack up against the group of middle-round forwards that the Hurricanes drafted in 2016.
Stelio Mattheos (Third round draft pick, Right wing/Center, Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL)
Prospect camp playing against friendly foes is not the greatest place to measure it, but Mattheos projects to be a sandpaper and grit type of player with some skill to boot. I will be watching this week to see how he holds his own in terms of skill and scoring and a little bit for the edgy style of play too.
Eetu Makiniemi (Fourth round draft pick, Goalie, Finland)
Goalies are difficult to evaluate in general, and in a training camp full of drills that see players in alone to shoot or with odd man rushes, it becomes even more difficult to come up with any kind of assessment. So I will just be looking for some kind of impression in terms of who he reminds me of maybe and also how he looks relative to the other prospects.
Brendan De Jong (Sixth round draft pick, Defenseman, Portland Winterhawks/WHL)
De Jong seems like an interesting late-round high ceiling draft bet. He is 6 feet 5 inches tall and skates fairly well. That starting point does not sound like a sixth round pick. But De Jong is actually overage player who was passed over completely in 2016 before the Hurricanes netted him in the sixth round in 2017. His game is a work in progress at this point, but I will be focusing on the glimmers of De Jong’s upside that make him a potential NHLer if he can round out his game in the coming years.
Ville Rasanen (Seventh round draft pick, Defenseman, Finland)
I have a significant bias for defensemen who can flat out skate. With the Hurricanes blue line prospect depth being depleted in a good way with players rising up and taking NHL jobs, I had hoped the Hurricanes would add a couple higher-end skating defensemen to the mix. They really did not. Luke Martin, who was taken early is more of the big, physical, stay-home variety. But the short report on Rasanen is that he can flat out skate.
So I will be watching Rasanen to see if he does in fact foot the bill as a skating defenseman and also trying to see what deficiencies might stand out in his game that had him last into the seventh round.
Sometime on Tuesday, I hope to put up part 2 of 2 with ‘what I’m watching’ for the players returning to prospect camp.