In a similar vein, I posted my pre-cut thoughts on where the Canes were for today’s Daily Cup of Joe. There is a bit of redundancy (which means I actually still agree with myself on at least some of it :-), but for those with extra Canes lunch reading time, you can find that HERE.
As expected, the Carolina Hurricanes made another round of cuts today upon returning from a 2-game road trip. And just like with the previous round of cuts on Friday, the move was pretty aggressive cutting 6 to reach a total of 27. Things will change quickly this week as AHL camps open, but there were still a few teams with roster counts in the 40s as of Sunday.
Cut today were Phi Di Giuseppe, Sergey Tolchinsky, Brody Sutter, Brendan Woods, Drew MacIntyre and Trevor Carrick. I would not call any of these a surprise. From what I called the “skill/scoring” category a more experienced Derek Ryan is the last man standing. Despite being much smaller, I think Brock McGinn rode his goal on Sunday to win the banging/sandpaper category that would have included Woods and Sutter who bring a bit of the same but with much more size. Finally, I have been touting for about week now that Joakim Nordstrom probably represents the best ‘safe and sound’ option if you just want a decent, experienced hockey player who can play on a fourth line and/or fill in higher without hurting you. Those 3 players will continue to vie for 1 open forward spot and any that arise due to injuries.
If I had to handicap it, I think Nordstrom wins if no one rises above. I think McGinn might be most likely to rise above at this point. Finally, Derek Ryan continues to play well and deserve consideration, but until he moves from center, I feel like he is just positioning himself real well to be the #5 center who starts in Charlotte but is on speed dial if an injury happens at the position.
Things are still a bit more crowded on the blue line. In addition to the 5 nearly certain NHLers, I had Hanifin, Murphy and Slavin as almost certain to make this cut. Past that (in today’s Daily Cup of Joe), I did have Carrick as most likely to depart on D. Brett Pesce and Haydn Fleury also stayed, so that makes 10 on defense likely working toward 7 or maybe 8 if the the team is healthy.
Quick player by player notes first on the cuts:
–Sergey Tolchinsky. Despite being cut, his stock went up not down over the course of the summer. He demonstrated good offensive ability and hockey smarts. It was going to take a big scoring surge (that did not happen) in NHL preseason games for him to make the team. I think highlight reel goals boosted some people’s optimism for him for the 2015-16 season much higher than was ever really the case. I had him as something like a 15% chance to make the team early in the summer and a bit higher after strong play against similar age players. You can read my most recent write-up on him HERE. But again, the shorter version is that he was always a long shot to start 2015-16 in a Canes uniform, but he had a good summer that boosted his chances longer term.
–Phil Di Giuseppe. He falls a bit into the category of Sergey Tolchinsky. Making it to this round of cuts puts him pretty high up the depth chart in Charlotte and within reach of the NHL. The key for a player like him is to keep rounding out his game and working on specific things per the coaching staff. As the group of Chris Terry, Zach Boychuk, Zack Dalpe, etc. showed 3-4 years ago, the path to the NHL level for these skilled AHL scorers is not so much about scoring more at the AHL level as it is filling some gaps and better molding their game for the NHL.
–Brendan Woods. He is another who played his way up in training camp. The key for a player like him is the ability to get to physical contact, pucks, the front of the net, etc. at an NHL pace. He looked nowhere close to doing this last summer, but he was also coming off major knee surgery only a few months earlier. This summer he did look a step quicker, but Saturday’s radio broadcast was minus much mention of his name. As a player who needs to get out and get into the middle of stuff, this can be an indication of just not getting to enough engagement. He also was called out by Chuck Kaiton for a loose pass up the middle of the ice that was intercepted.
–Brody Sutter. He is another who played his way deeper into the process than expected which is a positive for him. He fits a bit into the Woods category of facing the challenge finding enough speed/pace to bring physical at the NHL level.
–Trevor Carrick. I think making it this far is a positive for him overall, but to be honest of the emerging young defensemen, I thought he was the one who looked least ready. For me, he had a tendency to want to do a bit too much with the puck from his own end, and it got him into trouble a decent amount. At a basic level, I think he too much focused on moving forward. When there not much in front of him, he had a tendency to skate a bit too far into trouble or force a pass that was not there instead of recognizing the spacing on the ice and quickly moving the puck sideways to his partner before time ran out and it was too late. This said, it was his first shot at NHL speed, so he gets a work list for Charlotte.
–Drew MacIntyre. I think he had a good preseason and did all he could playing decent in his only game action this weekend, but he is really playing for 2016-17. His path to a spot in the NHL requires 4 things to happen this season: 1-He needs to be good in Charlotte; 2-He needs a Lack or Ward injury to get him some actual ice time in the NHL this season; 3-He needs to look good and like he is ready for that job next year; 4-The Canes need to settle on 1, not both, of Lack or Ward for 2016-17. At this point, he at least gets considered for the backup slot next season versus free agent options with more experience.
The players who stayed:
–Haydn Fleury. I really like the decision to keep Fleury. Per the radio broadcast on Saturday, he had a rough time of it. Based on Saturday’s play alone, one would have to figure that his play Saturday could have had him on the chopping block. But I think that could send a horrible message to a good young hockey player. Fleury has had a very good summer. He returned after a year in juniors and looked noticeably better. In 3 rounds of play against similar age competition, he rose above the crowd. He looked good in July’s prospect camp. He was arguably the team’s best player in the Traverse City tourney. And he looked pretty good in the Red-White scrimmage that was heavy on 18-20 year olds/AHL players. It is a big step up from that level of play to the NHL, and for almost all young players it has its share of tough learning experiences. Especially when you consider that his trip to Canadian juniors is irrevocable until the end of his season there, I think cutting him after a bad outing on Saturday sends a horrible message. It basically puts forward a message of zero tolerance for learning/mistakes at the NHL level. While Saturday did increase the probability that Fleury ultimately spends another year in juniors, I think the decision that Peters/Francis made not to make that today was a very significant one and also the right one.
–Derek Ryan. With Sergey Tolchinky and Phil Di Giuseppe cut today, Ryan is the last man standing from the skill/scoring category. But 2 things need to happen (and neither has thus far) for him to truly enter the battle for an opening night roster spot. First, either he needs to take a trial at right wing. Second, he needs to see ice time with NHLers. Thus far, he has been used exclusively at center and has also played almost exclusively with players who will start the season in Charlotte. I did some digging to see if he has played right wing before but did not find anything. Could he play right wing on a Nestrasil/JStaal line? I think that is the place where his playmaking ability could be best used to boost team scoring. I like Nathan Gerbe as a player, but I view Gerbe/JStaal/Nestrasil as a combination of 3 players who could all finish at a decent clip around the net is someone could get the puck to them there. But I do not view any as a real good version of a playmaker who could do that.
–Brett Pesce. Pesce is the young defenseman who has impressed me the most relative to my expectations coming into camp. He plays a very very simple game in a good way. He regularly takes simple plays to move pucks forward and has been pretty good reading plays in his own end. Maybe most significantly, I really like the way he played under duress. When he did get the puck in a bad situation without much for options, he had a Glen Wesley-ish quality about him where he tended not to panic and to make smart small mistakes instead of risking much bigger ones. As a right shot, he projects very nicely as as the safe/sound/predictable Robin to go next to more of a wheeling and dealing Batman on the left side. With Hanifin, Slavin and to some degree Fleury matching this description, I would put him as the early frontrunner to be the Canes #4 defenseman on the right side behind Justin Faulk in 2-3 years. He still seems like a long shot to make the opening night roster for 2015-16, but his predictable and safe style of play is arguably the best suited to jump to the NHL level before being truly ready because of its nature not to try to do too much.
–Jaccob Slavin. If you go with a starting point that Hanifin was expected to excel and that Murphy was in a completely different category because of his age/experience, I think Jaccob Slavin currently wins the the award for climbing to the top of the depth chart of a very good collection of young defensemen and in the process a #1 ranking for greatest stock increase on defense in preseason (so far…which is important since we still have a week to go). Even if there is not room for him to start the season, he has positioned himself very well to see NHL ice time in 2015-16.
–Joakim Nordstrom. It is boring but positive that I keep calling Nordstrom the best default option. Despite very limited offense thus far in his career, he is a pretty safe and sound forward option with NHL experience. I think he gets the #13 roster spot at forward unless someone else clearly wins it.
–Brock McGinn. He might be the player who most controls his own destiny at forward. He brings some bang and sandpaper that the Canes really want more of in the lineup. Ideally it would be in the form of a bigger body, but with Sutter and Woods apparently not being viable options, beggars can’t be choosers. His game fits nicely on a 4th line that brings some jam, but he also has significant offensive upside for that role. The key for him is to bring his rough and tumble style at a pace where he can be a noticeable presence every shift and kick in a bit of offense (which he did with his goal on Sunday).
If I had to guess right now, I think Hanifin/Murphy stays together and becomes the third pairing pushing Pesce and Slavin to the AHL. With no ability to recall Fleury later, his next week and maybe 1 more chance in preseason game action will be the deciding factor on whether he maybe gets a longer audition as a #8 at the NHL level, but unless he stands out and truly wins a spot, I think he refines his game in juniors for 1 more season. At forward, I think the #13 slot is McGinn’s to win but if he does not, I think Nordstrom is the favorite. I creep to the edge of my seat if Bill Peters moves Ryan to right wing or shuffles some other stuff to get him centering an NHL line in a preseason game.
What Bill Peters does with lines and D pairings at practice today will provide the next set of clues as to where his head is.