It is only mid-September, and the Carolina Hurricanes have already won a championship!
Granted it is only a summer prospect tournament, but winning is still winning, and as long as someone is going to keep score, it beats the alternative.
Tuesday’s win over the Detroit Red Wings’ prospect team followed a familiar pattern. The young Hurricanes stormed out of the gate and posted a 2-goal lead before anyone late joining the broadcast were even aboard. From there, the Hurricanes were just the better team for the majority of the game, potted a bunch of goals and won fairly easily.
Here are a few random notes/comments mostly from game 4:
What has been most noticeable for McKeown both in prospect camp this summer and now in Traverse City is how incredibly good he is with his stick. He always has it in the right place to defend passing lanes and regularly also gets it on pucks still on the stick of an opposing player. I also think that he is easily the most boring of the Hurricanes young blue liners but in a good way. He is not quite as mobile as a few of the other young guns and maybe does not project to produce as much offensively, but he is generally solid positionally and in terms of decision-making and plays a pretty steady game. This projects well into a #5/#6 slot with more of a freewheeling partner or as a dependable top 4 if his ceiling is higher.
He had another great game offensively feeding at least 2 passes across the goal mouth on the power play and driving play into the offensive zone. The offensive flair is nothing new for Canes fans. He also seems to have gained a step or 2 in terms of acceleration and straight line speed. Whereas, he has also had a combination of quickness and shiftiness, he seems to be a bit faster through the neutral zone with or without the puck.
He had arguably his best game of the tourney. He put the Hurricanes on the scoreboard with the first goal and also demonstrated some puck skills carrying the puck into the offensive zone.
Both Gauthier and his line mates received nothing on the stat line on Monday which was strange. I thought that line of Gauthier/Kuokkanen/Foegele was incredibly good, but they were rewarded with nothing on the score sheet. Gauthier broke through on Tuesday with 2 goals. I cannot remember if it was the first or the second, but the goal where he had the puck on his stick at the outer edge of the face-off circle in the offensive zone, cut inward and then aggressively forged a path right to the net before finishing in close was EXACTLY the power forward type of play that the Canes desperately need. If he can do that at the NHL level in preseason, he might still be in Raleigh come mid-October.
Spending some time with Gauthier on Tuesday, Roy had his best game. His nifty cross-ice pass to Gauthier on a 2-on-1 shorthanded was a pretty play.
He spent a bunch of time in/around the crease and also offered a controlled version of nasty. He was also a regular on the penalty kill. I continue to like his chances to develop into a bottom half of roster physical forward.
He made some great saves on Tuesday but also looked small a couple times sitting back in the net on good scoring chances. As a smaller goalie, learning when, how and how much to challenge to take away angles and force shooters to adjust quickly will be critical to his success at the NHL level. It just is not possible in today’s NHL for smaller goalies to sit back in net and flash gloves and pads for enough spectacular saves on shots into open areas of the net.
He tallied a goal and showed the goal-scoring prowess that netted him 24 goals last season. He can be a bit loose in terms of gap off the rush and positioning in the defensive zone, but his poise with the puck was on display Tuesday and also the rest of the tourney.
He had a solid tourney as an invitee and easily vaulted himself above the other blue line invitee Alex Peters who played only in game 1. If all of the Canadian juniors players already signed by the Canes (Roy, Gauthier and Bean) return to juniors just maybe the Canes spend a contract to make free agent Gleason a Hurricanes prospect. Otherwise, I think his stock has been boosted to be selected as an overage player next summer if he can continue on his current path this summer.
His scoring totals were modest, but he was 1 of the Hurricanes best forwards all tourney. I really like his ability/comfort level playing where it is crowded. That can be a significant development hurdle for European players moving from larger rinks to North American size rinks and can be especially problematic for smaller players. Jumping across the pond to play Canadian junior hockey this season will further help with his acclimation to NHL style hockey.
How fun was it rooting for a team that was opportunistic in finishing scoring chances? The Hurricanes prospects did carry play, but their shot totals were not wildly higher than the opposition, yet the Canes still scored in bunches.
Solid effort by Detroit play by play announcer
It is a bit of an aside, but I thought the Detroit play by play announced did a phenomenal job on Tuesday. He did pretty well with the task of being up to speed on a group of largely unfamiliar players, did his homework to provide some color background and just all-around did the game like it was real. Kudos!
Next up is the start of the Hurricanes training camp on Friday!