Part 1 of my Hurricanes’ Traverse City Prospects Tournament preview spelled out some of the details and started into a ‘What I’m watching’ look at the tourney.
Part 2A of the preview which was Friday’s daily post worked alphabetically from Jake Bean through Jeremy Helvig, offering player-by-player thoughts for 10 players.
Part 2B which follows has similar for the other nine players who are part of the Hurricanes organization.
Carolina Hurricanes Traverse City roster player by player
Janne Kuokkanen: I think Kuokkanen is the forward equivalent of Fleury. A key difference is that Fleury played a level higher in the AHL in 2016-17, but I still think Kuokkanen is a player who is rising quickly and is a dark horse to steal a roster spot in training camp. Per part one, I think Kuokkanen’s skill set matches what the team wants from Derek Ryan in the C3 slot. But not putting the cart before the horse, in Traverse City, I will be looking for confirmation that Kuokkanen has in fact mastered this level of play. As with Fleury, I would expect him to be among the best players in Traverse City.
Steven Lorentz: Lorentz has already beat the odds by rising up from a seventh-round draft selection to win an entry-level contract. His game is that of an old-school power forward who spends a bunch of time around the net in the offensive zone and plays physical both there and elsewhere. I will be watching Lorentz to see if he can match the pace of what should be a fairly fast game in Traverse City.
Stelio Mattheos: Mattheos is one of the newcomers that I did not get a great feel for in prospect camp, so I will be simply trying to get a read on Mattheos’ game and skill set. He fits the bill as a forward prospect with projectable NHL size and decent skating ability, so I will be watching to see how he looks both offensively and defensively.
Roland McKeown: People might forget that the during the stretch of hockey starting right now through the start of the regular season, McKeown actually temporarily pulled ahead of Fleury. Fleury was injured early in the first game of the tourney last year, and McKeown went on to play well. And the momentum carried over to the NHL training camp where McKeown more or less won the last slot on the blue line before Francis went another direction and used the waiver wire to fill the slot short-term. So with Fleury now at the forefront, I will be watching to see if McKeown, though maybe less touted right now, is just as good as Fleury side by side in game action.
Martin Necas: Necas is intriguing. His ability to attack, play offense and make plays with the puck at full speed impressed me in prospect camp. In the less wide open play of 5-on-5 play, I will be watching to see if Necas again shows off his high offensive upside. If he plays center, I will also be watching to see how well-rounded his game is in terms of both shooting but also distributing the puck and also positionally and decision-making-wise without the puck.
Andrew Poturalski: As a player who completed college before jumping to the professional ranks, Poturalski is on a different schedule than most of his team mates in Traverse City. At 23 years old, he is a gray beard is this tourney and also potentially with a shorter runway to demonstrate that he has an NHL future. After settling in at the AHL level, Poturalski had a productive 2016-17 season. Traverse City presents a chance for him to put himself at the top of the Charlotte Checkers forward depth chart that will see up to six new players join the fray. Ideally, Andrew Poturalski needs to generate offense such that he puts himself in the mix for centering a scoring line in Charlotte that plays to his strengths.
Nicolas Roy: Roy capped his Canadian junior career on a high note and is a in a similar situation to Kuokkanen. He projects to be an NHL player, but it is unclear if that could be in 2017-18 or if more likely he needs time in Charlotte yet. Traverse City is a chance to make a statement heading into the NHL training camp. With Roy, one of my watch points continues to be his mobility. He has a Victor Rask-like element to his game that uses a combination of size, positioning and hockey sense to avoid having to chase plays down, but how well he can handle transition points at Traverse City speed will be an early read on how close he is to being NHL-ready.
Spencer Smallman: Smallman is a bit like Lorentz as a player selected in the middle or bottom of the draft who successfully made the jump to the AHL level. I think key for Smallman is to adapt to a somewhat different role. He was a top 6 player and scorer at he Canadian junior level, but my two cents is that he projects to be more of a bottom half of the roster forward at the NHL level if he reaches it. I will be watching Smallman to see if he has that every-shift tenacity and intensity needed to be a difficult to play against checking line forward at the NHL level someday.
Josh Wesley: Wesley is the third of three defensemen (Fleury and McKeown are the others) who played at the professional level in 2016-17 who will return to Traverse City. As a player who spent a significant amount of time at the ECHL level, Wesley’s situation is a bit different than McKeown’s and Fleury’s. Wesley will be looking to stake a claim to more ice time at the AHL level in 2017-18. Playing alongside McKeown and Fleury who are from the same draft year, I will be watching Wesley to see if he can play at a level similar to the other Traverse City veterans.
The puck drops at 7:30pm on the Fox Sports Go app or via the team’s website.