Chronological Blog List

‘Like’ and ‘room for improvement’ from Carolina Hurricanes prospects at Traverse City

I had notes and good intentions of posting a recap and notes from the Hurricanes finale in Traverse City on Tuesday afternoon, but life got in the way. I will hopefully put them up in the next day or so. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks more broadly at the entirety of the tourney and offers ‘likes’ and ‘room for improvement’ from what I saw over the four-game set. My comments do also consider my assessment of the players coming into the tourney, so they are more of an update than an assessment on a very small sample size. In addition, all of these players are still fairly early in their development with the potential to improve and reach higher levels of play.   Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas as a duo Like: Both players had their moments and looked every bit NHL-capable. Svechnikov showed the sniper-like capabilities of a goal scorer and Necas had his share of times where he seemed to cover 30 feet of ice in an eighth of a second. So individually, each player did enough to impress. Room for improvement: As much as I tried to find it, I would not say that the duo exhibited great chemistry as defined by players making each other better. They did combine for one really pretty goal late in Tuesday’s game when Necas found Svechnikov with a nifty pass between the circles and Svechnikov made a pretty move and then finished with a laser for a goal. But in total, I did not see the two as being a 1+1=3 as often as I had hoped for...

Three things that I do NOT think we can get a read on during preseason

With a number of changes both on and off the ice, Hurricanes fans will tune in starting this week for training camp and preseason trying to assess the new team and what the changes mean for the 2018-19. I think there are number of things that training camp and preseason action will be useful for assessing or reassessing. I think preseason games will be helpful for gauging where Andrei Svechnikov is at this early stage of his development. I also think that preseason action can be useful for an early gauge for chemistry for line mates. And preseason action should also be useful for at least early indications on three other things. But I actually think that preseason will be of minimal if any use for evaluating a couple keys for the 2018-19 season.   1) Goaltending After yet another sub-par season in net in 2017-18 and a decision to give it a go again with Scott Darling and another player looking to rebound in Petr Mrazek, an early positive sign on goaltending could be top of a Hurricanes fan wish list entering training camp. As such, everyone will be watching Scott Darling and to some degree Petr Mrazek closely. Does Darling look quicker, more confident, sharper or whatever else? Does Mrazek look like the starter he was a few years back? Etc., etc. But if Hurricanes history over the past long run of playoff misses teaches the Caniac Nation anything it is that preseason offers very little in terms of gauging regular season performance. The Hurricanes have generally been decent or better in net in preseason only to...

Traverse City Gm3 vs. Clu: Canes prospects get beaten wire to wire in 4-1 loss to Blue Jackets

Calling it like it is, Monday’s third game of the Traverse City prospects tourney was a disappointment. The Blue Jackets team was noticeably physical early to make a point and then mostly outplayed the Hurricanes throughout. There was a smattering of good individual plays, but the closest the Hurricanes came to any sustained push was probably only 5-6 shifts early in the second period before that dissipated into more of Columbus being the aggressor. Perspective is important. This is mid-September hockey with a team pulled together with minimal practice and also a sizable group of players who are not even part of the organization. So reading too much into a single game or even the whole tourney can be overdone. That said, a game was played and as such, we might as well glean what we can from it. At a general level, the issues were team-wide. The team had nowhere near the jump that Columbus had especially early, and similar to Saturday’s loss to Chicago the team had issues trying to advance the puck out of its own end with any kind of pace. My usual player notes will focus primarily on the positives mixed into a tough night.   Jeremy Helvig Despite allowing three goals, I thought Helvig held up well under siege and with some sloppy play in front of him. He has a good knack for using his large frame to play into shots and enough athleticism that he is a good first shot goalie. Like many young goalies, he has a ways to go in terms of rebound control, and ideally he will also...

Random Canes blue line notes – Adam Fox, Michael Fora and more

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe includes a small collection of random Canes notes that have not found their way into articles yet or could benefit from a deeper dive.   Blue line depth, Justin Faulk and the potential impact on Adam Fox In the blockbuster trade that sent Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin to Calgary for Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland, the Hurricanes also obtained an extra bonus in prospect Adam Fox. Fox is not just a low to mid-tier throw in. He is a high-end blue line prospect who I (and others since then) rate above Jake Bean who previously topped the team’s blue line prospect rankings. Fox was allegedly available because the Flames thought he would not sign but rather would play out four years of college and then become a free agent. The burning question is whether the Hurricanes can convince him to sign next summer after his junior year. Personal factors and other things could come into play, but looking at the situation solely from the angle of Fox considering his opportunity joining the Hurricanes versus signing with another team, there are a few things to consider. First is the logjam on the right side of the Hurricanes blue line right now. With Justin Faulk still in tow, the team has four proven NHL defensemen who are right shots right now. That does not look great for Fox hoping to get NHL ice time sooner rather than later. Just in general, the strength of the Hurricanes blue line is a negative right now for Fox. But I think somewhat of a path could be cleared...

Traverse City Gm2 vs. Chi: Sluggish Baby Canes sputter to 5-2 loss against the Blackhawks

If you missed it yesterday, a similar lengthier article recapping Friday’s 4-1 win over St. Louis can be found HERE.   On Saturday afternoon, the Hurricanes prospects played their second of three round robin games against the Blackhawks. The game started inauspiciously with the Hurricanes largely hemmed in their own end against an aggressive forecheck and struggling to advance the puck. But Jake Bean single-handedly relieved pressure to some degree and a couple power play opportunities and a 5-on-3 goal for seemed to right the ship. But the Hurricanes never really did shake off the sloppiness, played too much of the game under duress and ultimately fell 5-2. The story of the game was the fact that the Hurricanes had little answer for an aggressive foreceheck. The combination of turnovers and just spending too much time in their own end eventually did them in. I had to check out at about the midway point of the third period, so my comments are based only on about 50 of the 60 minutes of hockey. Quick player notes are below:   Andrei Svechnikov He picked up two points in the opener on Friday, but I actually thought Saturday’s game offered a better glimpse of his future in a Hurricanes uniform. He fired a laser of a wrist shot into the net for his first goal against opposition in a Hurricanes sweater. He also hit a post on another shot also from the vicinity of the right face-off circle. Looking forward into 2018-19, could be be a right wing sniper on the right side of Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen? It is...

Traverse City Gm1 vs. StL: Canes roll to 4-1 win over Baby Blues in prospect tourney opener

The Carolina Hurricanes prospect team started strong in the Traverse City tourney on Friday afternoon. Facing a Blues team that also rates high for its prospect pool, the Hurricanes jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, survived a sluggish second period and ultimately prevailed 4-1 in their tourney opener.   Carolina Hurricanes scoring (someone chime in if I missed an assist as their is no official score sheet that I am aware of) Goal 1: Morgan Geekie from Stelio Mattheos and Luke Henman Henman made a nifty play to get the puck to Mattheos in space on the rush. Mattheos fed Geekie who beat the goalie while steaming in just right of center. Goal 2: Julien Gauthier from Andrei Svechnikov and Stelio Mattheos (I believe) The play started with Bean at the top of the umbrella feeding Mattheos on left side who made a nice pass through the seam to find Svechnikov for a quick wrist shot. Gauthier was parked in front and deposited the loose change into the net. Goal 3: Martin Necas from Janne Kuokkanen and Stelio Mattheos Kuokkanen made a nice play to quickly carry the puck into shooting position from the end line. When the rebound spit out, Necas swooped in to finish. Goal 4: Janne Kuokkanen from Andrei Svechnikov Streaking down the right side on the rush, Svechnikov created a passing lane and then passed across to Kuokkanen who filled the middle lane and finished.   Check in on ‘what I’m watching’ points In case you missed it, my tourney preview is HERE. Many of my watch points featured in Friday’s...

Wish list for the Carolina Hurricanes at the Traverse City prospect tourney

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.   Svechnecas dominates! 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...

‘What I’m Watching’ for Carolina Hurricanes in Traverse City

The first right of passage into the new season for Canes hockey is always the prospects tourney in Traverse City. The tournament offers game action right at the front of training camp.   About the Traverse City tourney The tournament pits prospect teams against each other in a round robin style tourney that concludes with a one-game championship based on rankings during the round robin. As such, the tournament offers a good chance to gauge the team’s prospects from watching them play against similar age competition. Though there are no really formal rules for team composition, the tournament is primarily for junior age players 18-20 and newer AHLers. The tournament does not include NCAA prospects as they are already at school and generally does not include European prospects since they are already starting up their 2018-19 training camps in Europe. That roster composition leaves the Hurricanes a bit short, as the team’s prospect pool includes about a dozen players who are in the right age range but already into their NCAA or European training camps for the 2018-19 season.   Hurricanes’ history of players using prospect tourneys as a spring board The tournament has an interesting history for the Carolina Hurricanes. Multiple times, players who were well off the depth chart used the Traverse City tourney as a spring board into NHL training camp and rode the momentum all the way onto opening game rosters. Josef Vasicek rose up as a 19-year old to surprisingly win a third line center slot long ago, and Victor Rask similarly made an impression in Traverse City that started him toward an NHL...

Upside for the Carolina Hurricanes 2018-19 roster

Yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe was entitled, “A realistic assessment of the current 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes roster.” The article was a bit sobering in that it used the word “rebuilding” and highlighted the many question marks in the current lineup including a slew of rookies at forward and a ton of uncertainty in net. But while I did say that the current roster strikes of rebuilding, I followed that by saying: But because of the high ceilings of the rookies and the potential upside from rough 2017-18 seasons for the two goalies, I think the potential for an upside surprise is significantly higher than average. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe explores what it takes for such an upside surprise to occur for the 2018-19 season. In short, I think it takes only three things for the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes to surprise to the upside:   1) Serviceable goaltending There are actually two angles on this possibility. The most obvious is the possibility that the goalies simply play better. Both Scott Darling and Petr Mrazek have NHL success on their resumes. The 2018-19 Hurricanes need just one of the two to refind that higher level of play and boost the team to at least middle of the pack for netminding. The less obvious path to improved goaltending could be through an improved defense. During the offseason, the team solidified the blue line by adding two veterans and is incredibly deep as currently configured with Justin Faulk still in tow but now likely slotted in the third pairing.   2) The young forwards need to hit the ground running A significant...

A realistic assessment of the current 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes roster

First, let me acknowledge that it is premature to make any kind of final declaration on the state of the Carolina Hurricanes entering the 2018-19 season. I still think there is a reasonable probability that the team is willing to trade Justin Faulk to add one more proven forward for the top half of the roster. And with a batch of promising rookies like Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, Warren Foegele, Valentin Zykov and others whose ceilings are high enough to be difference-makers at the NHL level, the potential exists for a youth-led surge. Let me also say that I like the current trajectory of the team. I believe that the team is on the path to returning to the playoffs. But the question is when and more directly as we approach training camp what the prognosis is for the 2018-19 season. What follows is a pre-training camp assessment of the team. I am book marking this article to revisit in early October to see if/how much it changes after training camp and preseason offers at least an initial set of meaningful on-ice assessments of many unknowns.   Goaltending A complete dice roll: Neither of the teams two goalies played well enough in 2017-18 to garner a starting role for the start of the 2018-19 season. It would not be a stretch to say that based solely on 2017-18 play, neither would even win a backup job if the roles were given out only based on previous season play. That paints a picture more dire than I think many Hurricanes fans acknowledge. But there is a flip side. Both players...

Canes and Coffee reader free for all

I had good intentions of trying something like this more formally, but August got away from me at the end with a perfect storm of other commitments. I have half-written a training camp preview and will start that sometime this week which leaves an opening to try a bit of a reader ‘free for all’. The idea is that readers offer up a few discussion questions similar to what usually appear at the end of articles and those become discussion points. My Monday has enough gaps such that I should be able to hop on and pull questions from the comments and put them in the article text to make it easier to keep track of things. The hope is that this generates a great round of coffee shop conversations without becoming difficult tracking what goes where.   Who has discussion questions on the topics of:   1) The beginning of training camp.   2) Sorting out the roster and line combinations and defense pairings.   From GoCanes0506: Training camp: How will the team respond to Brindy and his system? How much of Brindy’s learning curve will affect how the team performs? Was it system that truly aided Darling’s awfulness last year or was it all in his head? Line combos: Does Brindy stay with his lines all season or does he frequently do in game alterations?     Go...

Building a true top scoring line

The Carolina Hurricanes are many years removed from having a true top scoring line. Probably not coincidentally, the Carolina Hurricanes are also many years removed from making the NHL playoffs. For most of the dry spell, Eric Staal centered a first line that simply did not have enough fire power around him. When that paired with a scoring decline for Eric Staal, the team had nothing close to first line scoring. With the elder Staal’s departure, Jordan Staal became the team’s top center. But as good as Jordan Staal is at what he does well, he just does not play at a high enough level offensively to center a true scoring line. Despite playing most of the 2017-18 season with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, Staal finished with a modest 46 points. By the end of the season, the team was tinkering with other possibilities around Aho and Teravainen with Aho at center a couple options tried for the third slot. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers both near-term and longer-term possibilities for building a legitimate first scoring line around Aho and Teravainen. Both Aho and Teravainen posted impressive mid-60s point totals in 2017-18, but that still leaves them and the third line mate a bit short of the point per game pace that I consider to be a rough target for a true top scoring line. Further, I think how much higher they can go will be limited unless a capable third line mate is added. I see a few possibilities both short-term and long-term:   Valentin Zykov Following a tremendous AHL season scoring-wise, Zykov received and performed...

Is the Carolina Hurricanes’ offseason cheap or just intelligent risk/reward decision-making?

One of the things that gets bandied around about the new ownership and leadership group is whether or not it is cheap. In going in house for the majority of the coach and staffing hires, the team definitely saved money. And it is also true that the Hurricanes currently sit at the bottom of the NHL in terms of salary cap committed and will enter the 2018-19 season either in that slot or at most a couple higher. And the team did dump salary this summer trading Jeff Skinner for prospects, passing on re-signing a couple unrestricted free agents and also trading away two young players due raises in Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. On the spending side of the ledger, there really is not a whole bunch so far. The team did sign Calvin de Haan for $4.5 million per year, but otherwise has completed more cost-cutting than spending. And the potential biggest sign that the team will spend when appropriate is still in limbo with Sebastian Aho still not inked to his next deal. So at least theoretically there is evidence that the team under Tom Dundon is cheap or I guess more kindly, extremely frugal. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe will leave the coaching and organizational stuff to the side, as I believe that deserves its own separate analysis and will consider the player part of it. The burning question is whether the cost-cutting this summer is just plain cheap or if instead it represents a series of individual decisions that make sense in the realm of making sound risk versus reward type decisions on individual...

Quick thoughts on Corey Pronman’s article for The Athletic on the Carolina Hurricanes prospects

This week, I happened upon two good reads on the Carolina Hurricanes prospect pool. First, from the local scene, Matt Somma at CBTS posted his rankings for the team’s sub-AHL prospects. Then the Hurricanes prospect pool landed at #4 overall in The Athletic’s rankings by Corey Pronman (subscription required). What separates Corey from the pack is that he is one of the few ‘sources’ for prospect rankings who evaluates and ranks the players by watching them regularly not just from researching them. Despite the fact that The Athletic is still minus a Carolina Hurricanes beat writer, I still recommend it highly for NHL reading. As such, today’s Daily Cup of Joe tours Corey’s article briefly and matches them against my viewpoint on some of these players.   Lack of top-end talent To no one’s surprise, Pronman had Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas in the upper tiers of his prospect categories. But below that, Pronman included no one in the fourth tier that was the bottom tier for top half of the roster players (top 6 forwards, top 4 defensemen and starting goalies). He did have five players in the next tier, so he has a few players at the edge of being difference-makers.   Similar and different on the blue line After the Hurricanes prospect camp, I bumped newcomer Adam Fox to the top of my list for defenseman above first-rounder Jake Bean. Pronman and others are similarly softening on their optimism for Jake Bean just like I did almost from the beginning. To be clear, Jake Bean still has high-end potential, but he continues to be roughly average for...

Three players who I am higher on than the consensus

As we trot closer to Labor Day weekend which means training camp is right around the corner, I have been spending my Canes hockey thinking cycles thinking about individual players and where they might fit in the scheme of things for this year. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers a small group of players that I seem to be higher on than the general consensus.   Victor Rask No doubt he had a tough 2017-18 season and needs to score at a much higher pace to justify his $4 million salary that is on the high side even for a third line role. But aside from the scoring struggles especially early in the year, one thing that stood out to me about Rask is how remained pretty steady defensively. That is to say the rest of his game did not collapse under the weight of pressure to score more. For the 2018-19 season, I think Rask at a minimum offers a steady veteran center to backstop what will certainly be a young lineup. My best guess is that the team’s centers on opening night will be Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal, Martin Necas and Victor Rask. In such a scenario, Rask maybe slots as the fourth center, but I think it is an important role. If the lineup shakes out like that, Jordan Staal takes as many of the tough match up minutes as possible, but especially on the road, the team needs a line to slot behind his for when teams steer their scorers away from Staal. The inability of Kruger and company to do exactly that in 2017-18...
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