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Phil Di Giuseppe’s starting point for the 2016-17 season
Phil Di Giuseppe made his NHL debut as part of AHL-infused lineup shake up in early December of 2015. He was one of three players recalled to try to jump start a languishing Hurricanes team. It worked. Di Giuseppe found himself on a third line with Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask and fit right in. Skinner’s scoring bounced and Di Giuseppe filled an understated but important role of adding another forward who could skate with Skinner, provide support and keep defenses from ganging up on Jeff Skinner trying to play offense by himself. Di Giuseppe spent most of the rest of the 2015-16 season on that line. His 17 points in 41 games (for a 34-point pace over 82 games) was not earth-shattering, but when you consider that he did not see time on the power play, it represented decent depth scoring. He exited the 2015-16 season with a claim to being a front runner to seize a depth forward slot for the start of the 2016-17 season.
Phil Di Giuseppe’s 2016-17 season with the Carolina Hurricanes
Before training camp even started, a couple additions in the form of Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho and Lee Stempniak bumped Di Giuseppe out of the top 9 and into the preseason battle for a depth forward role. Di Giuseppe impressed with his blue collar and rugged style of play that hit its peak when he had a couple huge hits and a fight in a late preseason game against the Washington Capitals. His preseason was good enough to keep him at the NHL level to start the season but not good enough to get him a regular look in suddenly more crowded top 9.
To start the 2016-17 season, Di Giuseppe found himself fighting for ice time in a depth role. He was in and out of the lineup and played with a variety of line mates. Di Giuseppe rated well in terms of playing a consistent physical game, but he contributed literally nothing in terms of offensive production. When he was sent to the AHL in mid-November, he had no goals and no assists in 11 games to start the 2016-17 season. He spent the rest of the 2016-17 alternating between the NHL and AHL. He ultimately found the score sheet at the NHL level, but finished with a lone goal and 6 assists in 36 games at the NHL. He did stand out as one of the better players at the AHL level with 28 points in 40 games.
When you net out Phil Di Giuseppe’s 2016-17 season, it looks a bit like Brock McGinn’s which I reviewed yesterday. Both players bring a consistent physical edge and play hard, but both players need to find a much higher gear offensively to be more than an NHL depth forward prone to being past by the next wave of Hurricanes’ prospects at the forward position.
Grading Phi Di Giuseppe
Graded as: Graded as a fourth-liner versus a top 9 power forward.
Grade: B or C depending on role. If you read my grade for Brock McGinn yesterday, you could almost just insert that here. As with McGinn, Di Giuseppe’s grade is heavily dependent on what role he is evaluated for. He was fine as a fourth-line depth forward. Di Giuseppe was consistently physical, aggressive on the forecheck and pretty good defensively in the neutral zone. That makes him a serviceable fourth-liner with a physical edge that the Hurricanes need more of.
If I instead grade Di Giuseppe as a top 9 forward (which is a role he did play for parts of the 2016-17 season), his 7 points in 36 games just do not cut it. As a top 9 forward, Di Giuseppe gets a C for lack of offensive production.
Looking forward to 2017-18
Phil Di Giuseppe is in the pool of three players who could possibly be lost to the expansion draft. (Brock McGinn and Lee Stempniak are the other two.) If Di Giuseppe survives the expansion draft, he definitely figures to compete for an NHL roster spot in training camp next fall, but with younger forwards on the way, he, like McGinn, is on the clock to find a higher gear and carve out a place in the lineup.
On the positive side of the ledger, Di Giuseppe is known quantity at the NHL level with 77 games under his belt. He also showed consistency in playing a physical brand of hockey on an every shift basis. If Di Giuseppe can maintain the rugged and physical style of play that he has developed and then add a layer of offense on top of something, he could become a decent power forward to fill out the top 9. If he cannot find the offense, he is a decent fourth-line/depth forward likely to be limited in terms of ice time as more talented youth rise up.
Just like with McGinn, Di Giuseppe’s role in 2017-18 could very well be a function of which direction Peters/Francis go with the fourth line. If Peters leans old school and wants experience and physical play, Di Giuseppe fits well. If instead, Peters looks for a scoring boost from a new NHL fourth line, Di Giuseppe could be passed by some of the young players who potentially have a higher upside scoring-wise.
Di Giuseppe could go either way. If he can add offense to his physical style of play, he could surprise and push into the top 9. If not, he could fall all the way to a #14 or #15 slot on the Hurricanes’ forward depth chart which means playing in the AHL.
What say you Canes fans?
Where do you see Phil Di Giuseppe landing in the Hurricanes lineup to start the 2017-18 season?
Does anyone share my crazy view that despite his scoring woes in 2016-17 that Di Giuseppe could still be on the verge of a break out?
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