Sadly, the Hurricanes prospect camp comes to a close Saturday afternoon with the grand finale being the prospect scrimmage at 12pm.
If you have been busy and away from Canes hockey this week, here are my daily notes:
Here is a player-by-player ‘what I’m watching’ for Saturday’s scrimmage in number (not alphabetical order):
#4 Haydn Fleury — As a third year player, he has been a leader, pseudo-captain and 1 of the best players all week. I am simply watching for more of the same in more game-like play.
#24 Jake Bean — The scouting report on him is that he oozes hockey IQ and creative smarts offensively from the back end. This is not the stuff that always showcases well in drills. I am looking for Bean to make his biggest statement in the scrimmage showing that when playing with players at a similar level in juniors he is at the top of the group. That includes showcasing his strength which is creating offense with the puck on his stick and also holding his own playing defense without the puck.
#37 Warren Foegele — I am really watching to see him be able to full physical and be able to hit people in addition to just taking away ice space. Alas that will not fully happen in a friendly scrimmage, but I am still watching for him to continue to be a royal pain to play against on the forecheck and also in the neutral zone.
#38 Josh Wesley — He is the third and arguably least heralded of 3 3-year defensemen (Fleury and McKeown are the other 2). He continues to show steady even if not spectacular improvement in his skating and play overall. Saturday is a time for him to demonstrate that he belongs in the higher tier with fellow 2014 draftees Fleury and McKeown by putting forward a solid all-around effort.
#39 Valentin Zykov — He is 1 of the newest faces scheduled to play in Charlotte this fall. He was acquired at the trade deadline but out with injury through the remainder of the season. Saturday is an important game to establish where he ranks in the forward pecking order before the NHL training camp in the fall.
#41 Max Zimmer — Zimmer has impressed me both with his straight line speed but also his agility and ability to change directions, move laterally and do more than get from point A to point B quickly. Saturday is a chance to show that he can use his wheels to be an every shift difference-maker and not just a burst of fast here and there.
#44 Julien Gauthier — He has had a great prospect camp both in terms of being the power forward that he was drafted as but also in terms of demonstrating a more well-rounded game that includes above average skating and soft hands. Saturday is his chance to put a cap on a great week and position himself to enter the NHL training camp expected immediately to be in the mix for a 2016-17 NHL roster spot. He does this by being the best forward on the ice tomorrow on a consistent basis.
#47 Matt Filipe — He scored really well in my notes from Friday. He is another NHL size wing with good skating ability which is common across the full set of Canes wings. He stood out Friday for his offensive play both in terms of ability to pick corners and finish and also pass vs. shoot playmaking that was better than the rest of the group. A couple scoring points on Saturday might put him above the crowd by suggesting his upside is more than that of a decent-skating depth forward.
#52 Hudson Elynuik — More than I expected coming into camp, Elynuik projects as a potential playmaking center. He has a good mix of size but with it decent passing and shooting ability to go with an understanding how to create passing lanes by changing direction angles just enough at the right time with the puck on his stick. I see offensive upside in Elynuik and will be watching Saturday to see if he can convert that to scoring chances for himself or his team mates.
#55 Roland McKeown — I put McKeown in a very similar category as Fleury. Also as a 2014 draftee (only 2 Canes prospect camps because he was with the Kings who drafted him in the summer of 2014), he should be and a more mature player. He has shown exactly that all week, so Saturday is a chance to put an exclamation point on it by doing the same in the most game-like practice.
#57 Andrew Poturalski — He has a bit of Tyler Johnson as an undersized player who brings skill and quickness. As a 22-year old free agent NCAA player, the development clock is ticking a bit faster on him. I would like to see him have to line up across from a couple of the more experienced defensemen (Fleury, McKeown, Wesley) and get a measure of how his game stacks up against these players.
#58 Nicolas Roy — He participated on Wednesday but was out Thursday and Friday feeling under the weather. If he returns Saturday, I am looking to get a read on his quickness and mobility. He is a good player whose fourth round selection in the 2015 NHL draft looks like a bargain only a year later after a solid 2015-16 season. He is also looking at a Canes roster that has room for but also other options for a fourth center. My initial read in a single hour on Wednesday is that he is not NHL-ready yet in terms of mobility, so if he plays Saturday I will be watching to see how he looks in terms of being able to meet the pace of the scrimmage. If he struggles at this level, it is not damning long-term. He is only 19 years old. But it could push him out of the picture as a potential 2016-17 roster dark horse.
#59 Janne Kuokkanen — He very much reminds me of Sebastian Aho which is of course a good thing. Aho had a decent prospect camp last summer but really shined in the scrimmage where he just looked better, faster and everything else than most of the competition. I will be watching to see if Kuokkanen can follow in Aho’s Finnish foot steps.
#62 Alex Peters — Of the camp invitees, he is the most intriguing for me. He is a big 6-5 200 pounds but surprisingly agile and average if not better otherwise in terms of skating. A couple years ago, the Hurricanes had camp invitee Sergey Tolchinsky excel and win a contract. Ron Francis does not have as much flexibility below the 50-contract limit as the team did when Tolchinsky is here. This makes it tougher but not impossible for Peters to play his way into an offer. My best guess is that the Canes pass because of defense depth but that Peters wins a contract somewhere this summer. So Saturday is his big chance after a decent week to stake a claim to being in the same category as Fleury and McKeown and just too good to pass up.
#67 Luke Stevens — He is part of the positive group of bigger wings with decent wheels. It is an interim assessment by an unqualified scout, but I have him rated below newcomers Felipe and Zimmer and also Foegele, so Saturday I am watching for him to see if he can rise above that group and make me change my mind.
#75 Spencer Smallman — Like Stevens, he is in the group of wings that I like overall but not among the handful that have stood out most for me. As a Canadian junior player drafted in 2015, he will be up for a contract decision next summer, so I am watching to see if he can use his last day in Raleigh to make a big impression that sends him off to juniors with Canes brass ready to watch his development closely this season.
#78 Steven Lorentz — Repeat again on the big forwards. Lorentz has stood out with occasional flashes of higher-end scoring ability. I will be watching Saturday to see if he can stand out offensively or otherwise in a crowded field of forwards.
#79 Maxim Lazarev — I put him a little bit in the category of Andrew Poturalski in the sense that he is a smaller player with the potential to create offense. I will be watching Saturday to see if his skill stands out and also if he can use quickness/elusiveness to beat defensemen who have 4 or more inches in height and 25 or more pounds in weight and get the puck to scoring areas.
#81 Adam Karashik — Easily my favorite name of the group, Karashik is another camp invitee who like the others has looked capable and like he belongs in the group. He is scheduled to play at the University of Connecticut this fall, so he is not really a consideration for signing. I will be watching to see if he has the quickness and vision to push pace and create offense.
#82 Noah Carroll — As a sixth round pick in the 2016 draft, Carroll likely on a longer timetable than some of the others at camp. On Saturday, a solid effort defensively would suggest he was a good value pick in the sixth round and boost the incentive for Francis and his scouting team to watch him closely this upcoming season.
#83 David Cotton — One of the highlights of the Friday practice was the ‘1-on-1 race to the puck and then compete’ drill at the end of practice. The best match up of that session was Warren Foegele and David Cotton going toe to toe. The flashy scorers with high draft pedigree tend to get the most attention at prospect camps, but there is value in developing inexpensive, difficult to play against depth forwards too so that every summer is not an expensive shopping event to add free agent depth. Saturday I will be watching to see if Cotton can bring the same intensity in matching Foegele on Friday shift after shift for the entire scrimmage.
#84 Ben Gleason — Like the other invitees, Gleason has held his own for the most part throughout the week. The one place he struggled a bit was handling the puck in his own end and under forechecking pressure during a few drills. I will be watching Saturday to see if he can continue to hold his own playing defense without the puck but also hold up under pressure with the puck on his stick in his own end.
#85 Josh Wilkins — On Saturday, more than anything perhaps, I will be watching to see if the kid who grew up playing hockey in Raleigh can score a goal on home ice. By age 18, kids (and they are still kids in a good way) have been trained a bit to downplay stuff like this, if I was Josh Wilkins I would be completely fired up for a chance to play in front of my home city on NHL ice on Saturday. Hopefully, he can enjoy it as much as I think he should.
#35 Alex Nedeljkovic — In a practice that is at least a little bit more like hockey and less like a shootout drill, I will be watching for Nedeljkovic to finally put up a big game in July in Raleigh after being injured the past 2 years and further fuel Caniacs optimism that he will be a regular in Raleigh very soon.
#50 Jeremy Helvig — Like Booth, Helvig is big at 6-4 which especially in younger goalies can sometimes come with less mobility. I am looking to get a read on his agility and ability to move laterally, scramble when needed and compete past first shots.
#70 Callum Booth — It is only by a single year, but Booth is a year ahead of Helvig and LaFontaine. Booth is also coming off a good 2015-16 campaign. On Saturday, I will be watching to see if Booth can stake a position as the goalie next in line behind Nedeljkovic and Altshuller on the Hurricanes goalie depth chart.
#80 Jack LaFontaine — Of the 3 younger goalies, LaFontaine has impressed me as the most athletic and agile of the 3. On Saturday, I will be watching to see if that holds true in game action and also how sound he looks in action where he has more of a chance than in drills filled with breakaways.