If you are catching up after a busy work or school week, the Hurricanes prospects are in action playing four games in five days starting on Friday night.
You can catch up my articles leading up to the Traverse City Prospects Tournament here:
Part 1 spelled out some of the tourney logistics and had a couple tidbits of what I would be watching closely.
Part 2A had player by player preview notes for Jake Bean through Jeremy Helvig (working alphabetically).
Action kicked off the the young Hurricanes on Friday night against the Detroit Red Wings’ prospects.
I will not offer a play by play type recap. I recommend Michael Smith’s account of the game at the team website if you want that as a starting point.
The Twitterish-sized recap is that the Hurricanes were largely outplayed by Detroit through two periods but were the better team in the third period. Callum Booth was steady, calm and solid in net and the team’s best player especially during the first two periods that saw the Hurricanes hemmed in their own. The Hurricanes were opportunistic offensively collecting more than their fair share of goals on on a limited number of chances. Because the scoring, the Hurricanes climbed out to a 2-0 lead after one period and finished the game with a 6-2 win.
I will instead offer a short collection of thoughts on Friday’s game. I will follow up with more detailed analysis either at the midway point of the tourney or for sure at the end of it once we have a slightly larger sample size with which to evaluate the players.
Different from 2016
The Hurricanes won this tourney in 2016. Last year’s team was generally better than who they played throughout the majority of the tourney and did not require too much from their goalie. Friday was the complete opposite through two periods. Detroit was by far the better team and it showed in the shot counts. Callum Booth was the story of the first two periods and the Hurricanes’ best player on the night.
A strong night for Josh Wesley
He was not immune to the team-wide challenges moving the puck out of their own end, and he also had an episode where he lost his stick was out of position and saw the puck go in his net luckily to be waved off. But Wesley also looked decisive, assertive and aggressive defending on the night. His defensive gaps were small, and he regularly stepped up at the blue line to force the opponent to unload the puck under pressure and before desired. My preview had Wesley needing to make a strong impression to try to play his way into more AHL ice time in 2017-18. Friday should be a strong first impression for Checkers’ coach Mike Vellucci.
Part Jordan Staal/part Victor Rask for Nicolas Roy
I am on record as not being as high on Nicolas Roy’s chance to play at the NHL near-term. It is not that I do not see potential for him, I just think he will at a minimum need time in the AHL to continue to upgrade his mobility. That said, he generally impressed me on Friday. He looked a bit like Victor Rask in the sense that he showed a pretty good knack for positioning, assignments and decision-making without the puck which is critical for players with average or less foot speed. So that is the Victor Rask part. And with the puck on his stick, he showed a bit Jordan Staal-like ability to combine a mix of skating and size such that it was hard for defensemen in front of him to do challenge him or do much more than keep backing up and staying in position. He also netted a breakaway goal with a pretty finish.
Intermittent dynamic offense for Janne Kuokkanen
I said before the tourney that Kuokkanen was one of a few players who should stand out as top of the class in this tourney. I would actually not say that he consistently drove or dominated play when he was on the ice, but what he did do was show a knack for assertively, even if intermittently, make high-end offensive plays. He sniped home a goal on the power play, and was part of a number of other good scoring chances too.
The dynamic duo of Nate Schilkey and Martin Necas
As far as forward pairs go, I would put Martin Necas and Charlotte Checker signee Nate Schilkey at the top of the list. I really like Necas. My first impressions of him at prospect camp were two things. First was how effortlessly he covered ice. He is fast, but significantly it is in that smooth and effortless way that blows by people without breaking a sweat. Second was his ability to play the puck at full speed.
He showed off both of those traits again on Friday night, and he also seemed to find instant chemistry with line mate Nate Schilkey. The two seemed to be on the same page on the rush all night, and the result was probably the prettiest goal of the night. On a 2-on-1 Necas made a heady play to get the puck across early which gave Schilkey time and space to shoot or pass. When Schilkey received the puck and sent it right back, the result was an easy goal for Necas. The duo made multiple plays together.
Rising and falling by position
Important to note is that a single game is not cause to completely revamp a prospect ranking list or make dramatic changes to the long-term expectations for a player prior to the single game. But Traverse City does present a rare opportunity to evaluate these players in game action playing against the same competition as the other prospects.
So disclaimer aside, here is a short list of players who stock rose or fell (again modestly) based on Friday’s game.
Defense – Rising=Josh Wesley // Falling=Roland McKeown
I thought Haydn Fleury had a solid game in an understated way just as one would hope/expect. Playing with Fleury probably helped, and I would not say that he was perfect, but I thought Josh Wesley stood out positively in that he played an aggressive brand of defense that attacked the puck and took away time and space. And he did so without too much incident. Past the top pairingk I did not think Jake Bean looked significantly better than the group (which struggled) trying to move the puck out of his own end, but playing to his strengths, he netted two assists making plays in the offensive zone. Neither of Brenden De Jong or Noah Carroll stood out to me. And on the flip side of the Glen Wesley coin, I thought Roland McKeown had a tough night. At a fundamental level, I think the challenge for him is quickness/acceleration and to some degree speed. On Friday, he had a tendency to be generally in the right starting place, but flat-footed or moving too slowly such that he had a few players beat him wide and/or be able to chip the puck around him and then easily win the race to it.
Forwards – Rising=Martin Necas // Falling=Hudson Elynuik
I could go a couple directions for forward. I would not classify any as every shift dominant, but at the same time the dynamic element was definitely there for multiple players, In more game-like action than the prospect camp scrimmage, I thought Necas looked just as dangerous with the puck and some speed coming through the neutral zone. On the negative side of the coin, Hudson Elynuik sputtered a bit. He seemed to be making a conscious effort to dial up the physical in his game (which is a good thing) and get a piece of Red Wings players when possible. He did that with only modest success and picked up two minor obstruction type penalties along the way.
Goalie – Rising=Callum Booth
As noted above, Callum Booth was my first star. He did not make a ton of highlight reel saves, but especially out of the gate, he offered a needed dose of steady, sound and calm. Especially in the first game of a tournament with the team not playing well, Booth’s play and demeanor were the key component for staying in the hockey game long enough for opportunistic offense to save the day. I would expect Jeremy Helvig to start on Saturday and get his chance to match Booth.
I will offer a more thorough review after another game or two is played.
What say you Canes fans? In trying to track 19 only somewhat familiar players, what do your notes show?