In working through the forward part of the Carolina Hurricanes’ 2016-17 report cards, there are a handful of players who saw some ice time at the NHL level but not really enough to be graded. This final ‘report card’ entry for the forwards will offer brief comments on a couple of those players who made favorable impressions in short stints with the Carolina Hurricanes.
If there was an award for volume of impression relative to volume of ice time, Valentin Zykov would be the hands down winner. He played only one game (plus a single shift in his second game that saw him get injured), but made the most of his ice time. Inserted onto a line with Jordan Staal in his NHL debut, Zykov did one thing especially well – consistently going to the front of the net. Because that work yielded a goal and because of the team’s desperate need for more of a power forward element and more presence and production near the crease, a single solid game, 11:53 of ice time and a lone goal were enough for Zykov to be noticed.
A check in on Zykov with Jordan Futrell who covers the Charlotte Checkers for Canes and Coffee suggested that the power forward in his game was in fact something he had displayed over a longer stretch of games at the AHL level. And while his style of play that the Hurricanes need to add is a great starting point, Zykov will still enter training camp as more of an unknown and a dark horse to make the opening day roster. Critical in his training camp evaluation will be his ability to match NHL pace and cover the entire 200 feet of the rink at NHL speed and to consistently be a difference-maker at both ends of the rink with a rugged and physical style of play.
Partial grade: Zykov gets an A for capitalizing immediately on the opportunity given to him.
Outlook for a 2017-18 roster slot: Because this one game did make a very favorable impression, I think most people overestimate what Zykov has proven in terms of NHL-readiness. Despite his impressive NHL debut, I view Zykov as a dark horse and long shot to make the Hurricanes roster out of training camp. If he shows up at training camp and looks a step or two quicker/faster but still with a crease-crashing power forward mentality in the offensive zone, I instantly become more intrigued and watch him more closely.
Wallmark’s audition at the NHL level that lasted 8 games offered a reasonably good luck at what Wallmark could bring at the NHL level. In those 8 games, his production was modest. He did not register a goal and had only 2 assists in averaging 10:52 of ice time. Despite not wowing with a scoring outburst Wallmark still made a favorable impression. Labeled as a player who had gains to make in terms of mobility, Wallmark actually reminded me of Victor Rask in his ability to read and think the game and be sound in terms of positioning and decision-making both on offense and on defense.
When I think about building the 2017-18 roster, I like Wallmark’s potential to be part of a fourth line that can bring more offensively without doing it by gambling for goals. Especially if flanked by wings with decent speed and defensive acumen, I could see Wallmark (or Derek Ryan for that matter) being being a key cog in a lineup that becomes more balanced and gets more production from the bottom.
Partial grade: While he could have done more to impress offensively, Wallmark gets a B+ in his limited audition for showing that he was not in over his head in terms of fulfilling the responsibilities of the center position at the NHL level.
Outlook for a 2017-18 roster slot: After playing well in preseason in pseudo-NHL action in the 2016-17 preseason, following it up with a big season in the AHL and looking at least capable in a short NHL stint, I expect Wallmark to be in the thick of the battle for one of the last NHL roster spots to start next season. Assuming Francis can get Ryan under contract, my early bet is that Wallmark and Ryan battle to the end for the C4 slot that was previously Jay McClement’s. If Wallmark wins it, Ryan likely stays at the NHL level in another role or as a #13 forward. If Ryan wins the ice time, Wallmark would likely return to the AHL to continue his development but would be near the top of the list of call ups in the event of an injury.
In the name of thoroughness, Sergey Tolchinsky (2 games) and Andrew Poturalski (2 games) who are still with the Hurricanes’ organization both grabbed a cup of coffee at the NHL level but did not stand out enough for a deep evaluation. Ty Rattie and Martin Frk were both claimed off waivers and played a few games before departing.
What say you Canes fans?
Do you like Valentin Zykov and/or Lucas Wallmark’s chances to make the NHL roster to start the 2017-18 season? Could they actually end up being two-thirds of a scoring-capable fourth line?
Previous report card articles