I lucked into a much better internet connection/video stream for the Hurricanes third game in the Traverse City NHL prospect tourney and feel like I actually watched the game in its entirety albeit minus replays.
Despite viewing challenges, I did write up my analysis of the Canes Kids first 2 games.
The Hurricanes followed the successful formula of storming out in the first period, building a lead and then continuing to play through the full game. The result was a 6-3 win to push the Canes Kids to 3-0 in the round robin part of the tourney and into the championship game tomorrow at 7pm.
Here are my notes from the game:
Top 2 lines click
Gauthier/Kuokkanen/Foegele: The trio was the team’s first line and the best on the ice all night. Ironically, they did not register a point despite the Hurricanes scoring 6 times, but make no mistake that they were great all night. Most noticeable was their speed and ability to move the puck from stick to stick through the neutral zone and enter the offensive zone with speed and the puck on one of their sticks.
Zykov/Wallmark/Tolchinsky: The second line also played well and was rewarded on the score sheet to the tune of a goal for Zykov, a goal and an assist for Tolchinsky and an assist for Wallmark. Charlotte Checkers fans should be excited, as there is a reasonable chance that this line will transfer to the Checkers after the NHL training camp.
Rising up the ranks – Noah Carroll
The Hurricanes roster includes a good number of fairly high draft picks who one would expect to be top of the class in this tourney mostly of similar age players. But it is also a chance for players drafted in rounds that do not usually generate NHL players to turn heads. I touched on this yesterday, but the player most rising up the ranks for me through 2 games and now 3 is defenseman Noah Carroll. He stepped into the hole created on the top pairing with Fleury’s injury and has not missed a beat. Labeled as a skating, offensively-capable defenseman it is not surprising to see him look good on offense, but he has also looked good defensively. He is going to be at least the primary topic for tomorrow’s daily post, so I will stop there in talking about Carroll here.
Appreciating Jake Bean
Jake Bean was the subject of the most recent ‘back to school’ article on Monday. I did not give him especially high marks in prospect camp. I think a big part of it is that he does not stand out physically as being imposing like Gauthier or lightning fast. Especially in drills, hockey IQ, poise and other intangible skills do not shine through. Traverse City has offered a longer look at Bean in game action. He has been good with the puck on his stick. Most noticeable is his poise, ability to buy a little time and patience waiting for the right chance to move the puck to a teammate’s stick instead of just throwing the puck up the ice. He still has work to do in terms of defense including positioning and managing his gaps, but Monday in Traverse City did highlight the strengths in his game that made him a nearly consensus top 15 draft pick this summer.
Good is good enough in net
Maybe what is most encouraging about the Canes Kids 3 wins is the level of play. The goaltending by Callum Booth in game 2 and Alex Nedeljkovic in game 1 and then again tonight has been fine, but by no means have they had to stand on their heads and steal games. The Hurricanes skaters have been the better of the two on the ice overall and deserved the results attained.
Valentin Zykov staking an early claim to being a dark horse for NHL roster
For whatever reason, Valentin Zykov seemed to generate less excitement than fellow second-rounder Aleksi Saarela at the trade deadline last winter. I guess it was that Zykov had not really wowed offensively through 43 games (only 14 points) at the AHL level in 2015-16 and then had his season cut short by injury. I guess his disappointing 2015-16 trumped the fact that he was a second round draft pick. But he is from the same draft class as Elias Lindholm and brings a decent combination of offensive ability. He has looked good in both the prospect camp and now in Traverse City. He was a right shot playing on the left side tonight but can also play right wing. Could he push Elias Lindholm for ice time on the right side of the third line if he gets a chance and shows chemistry with Aho and Teravainen? Or could he enter the mix for the fourth line left wing slot that should also see newcomer Bryan Bickell and forgotten man Phil Di Giuseppe also competing? If Zykov looks defensively capable in scrimmages and preseason games, he arguably has as much offensive upside as any of those 3 players.
From the ‘meh’ category
I would not say that anyone was horrible in Monday’s overall strong team effort, but I do think there are a couple of players who one might have expected more from.
Josh Wesley had a tough game with a couple of the bad variety of turnovers that led quickly to scoring chances against when he made soft and in one case blind passes to the middle of the ice.
Nicolas Roy had an assist centering the third line, but I do not think he has stood out thus far through 3 games. It is a really small sample size, but my instinct says that he still has work to do in terms of improving his mobility.
Again, neither player was bad, but I would say that neither has boosted his stock as much as some other players with the team’s success.