In case you missed it, I posted a slightly more formal ‘what I’m watching’ style preview for the Traverse City prospects tourney which starts on Friday. You can find that HERE.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes on a similar theme offering an informal wish list for the tourney.
Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas arguably represent the two players not officially on the current NHL roster with the greatest potential to boost the team’s fortunes. Playing against a much younger group that is a couple notches below the NHL level, I would like to see the duo play together and utterly dominate. How about 8 point each in 4 games?
Julien Gauthier adds every-shift noticeability to his repertoire
Invariably over a couple days of hockey, Julien Gauthier is going to have those handful of plays that show why he was drafted in the first round and why he has the potential to become good NHL power forward. But that is not what has ever been missing in his game. What has been missing is his ability to remove the invisibility cloak for long stretches in between his ‘wow’ plays. In Traverse City, I would like to see Gauthier be a noticeable physical force on a regular basis.
Jake Bean plays like a first pairing defenseman DEFENSIVELY
Somewhat like Gauthier, Bean’s game has never been light on his ability to generate his share of ‘wow’ plays with the puck on his stick. With the puck on his stick and enough space to get started, Bean’s game is probably NHL-ready right now. And I said more than a year ago that he had enough calm with the puck, puck skills and vision to play on the second unit of an NHL power play. But defensively, for me, Bean has never been much better than average in his age group, and that will not cut it even for a specialist role in the NHL. So So while I will ooohhh and ahhhhh the same as everyone else when Bean picks his way up the ice and generates offense off the rush in the process, to impress me Bean will need to do it on the defensive side of the puck.
Jeremy Helvig makes me say ‘hmmmm’
Important to note upfront is that there is a ton of uncertainty with the Hurricanes blue line which is built primarily from invitees. Because of that the potential exists for Helvig to get snowed under based on what is in front of him. But at the same time, the situation could present an opportunity for Helvig to stand out and enter the three-way prospect goalie battle with a head of steam and at least a suggestion that he should be considered for AHL ice time. By no means were Alex Nedeljkovic and Callum Booth bad in previous Traverse City tourneys, but neither really made a statement in this tourney either. An ideal tourney would see Helvig do exactly that.
A blue line invitee rises up and wins an entry-level contract
It is a long shot, but with a gap in the Hurricanes defenseman prospect pool and only 45 out of a possible 50 contracts on the books right now (per CapFriendly), just maybe a strong performance by one of the four defense invitees wins a contract. The Hurricanes need to be cautious handing out contracts given the volume of unsigned players playing NCAA and European hockey, but just maybe they can spare one for the right defenseman. Michael Fora’s free agent signing and Adam Fox’s acquisition via trade added reinforcements, but the team is still a bit light at the position. And who does not like a Cinderella story of a player busting his butt to earn what was not given to him at the draft?
Bypassed players draw back into the conversation
With the rise Martin Necas and the draft lottery win of Andrei Svechnikov, a few players who used to have a buzz around them became old news. Probably partly because the team has so many prospects who are in the NCAA or Europe and unable to attend, the Hurricanes have a two forwards from the 2015 participating in the event in Nicolas Roy and Aleksi Saarela. In addition, Janne Kuokkanen who is a 2016 draftee but played in the AHL last year is also returning. Now playing against younger player and with a year of AHL experience under their belts, I would hope that these players stand out as top in class for this level of play and stake a claim to near-term NHL consideration in the process.
As long as there is a championship to be had, you might as well win it. Especially for an organization struggling to build a winning culture right now, having the group of prospects play together and win is significant. The team won the tourney a couple years back. To win it his year will require dominant play by the strong forward group, at least adequate play by a blue line with four invitees and likely strong play from Helvig to cover up any ‘oopses’.
Also important especially with so many players who could garner 2018-19 NHL roster consideration in the lineup, getting in and out of Traverse City healthy is important.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What else do you have for your wish list that I missed?
2) If you could pick only two or three from my wish list, what would they be?
3) What is your one big prediction for the tourney?