Practices for the Carolina Hurricanes prospect camp kicked off on Wednesday night with a reasonably fast-paced 45-minute practice followed by about 45 minutes of intense power skating training that left the group mostly hands on knees by the end.
In case you missed it, I posted a ‘what I’m watching’ style preview for the Carolina Hurricanes Prospect Camp earlier on Wednesday.
Below are my informal player notes from Wednesday’s practice:
He performed well as the headliner for the event. He did not net a goal in the scrimmage and did not so much stand out scoring-wise in the runs of drills, but he did look to be a level above most of the group and offered flashes of brilliance. In the scrimmage, he had a two plays where he handled the puck in traffic in the slot area and had the vision to find regular line mate Martin Necas for decent scoring chances. His highlight of the night came when he picked up a puck in the neutral zone at the end of a shift with his team changing and had a burst to quickly step between two defenders in a 1-on-2, forge toward the net and get off a good shot. I would not say that he was spectacular on Wednesday, but he showed why he very well could be on any other day this week.
And his partner Martin Necas
Necas and Svechnikov were paired together quite a bit in drills and also in the scrimmage and per reports from the team are rooming together this week. As I said on Twitter, I like the idea of getting the duo some run time together, as I think Necas’ playmaking ability with pace could be a strong fit for Svechnikov’s ability to play in the same gear and also be a primary finisher. Necas looked strong just as he did last summer. His effortless skating requires you to judge his speed not by watching him but rather by watching his rate of speed relative to other players around him. I would expect him to be top of the group for this week. The real test for Necas is how he performs in preseason game action.
Of the somewhat less hyped players, I really liked Luke Martin’s practice. In sets of drills full of trying to defend opposing forwards flying in with speed and often a numerical advantage, I thought Martin looked pretty sound defensively. He gets the importance of stepping up/playing into the gap when defending off the rush. In today’s NHL, maintaining a small enough gap to force opposing forwards to move laterally and give up the advantage that they have with straight line speed is critical. Defensemen who just keep backing up and backing up get eaten alive by the speed and skill of today’s NHL game regardless of how well they maintain decent position and avoid being beat purely. So in that regard, Martin had a nice knack for playing up into the gap where it often feels uncomfortable for young defenseman but is absolutely necessary to have any chance in today’s NHL. Worth noting is that I was not incredibly high on Martin last summer not so much because he played poorly but because I just did not think he had enough upside and dynamics in his game to warrant a second-round draft pick. It is only one practice, but I will be watching Martin throughout the week to see if my first impression for 2018 holds up.
First impressions for non-draft additions
Fox’s game was mostly as advertised. His quickness and shiftiness carrying the puck were on full display in a bunch of rapid fire drills that allowed for speed through the middle of the ice and entering the offensive zone. He is clearly comfortable pushing forward and attacking with the puck on his stick. In trying to watch a dozen things at once, I did not gain a real feel for the defensive side of his game but will be tracking that through the rest of the week.
I already rated Luke Martin as the defenseman who stood out most to me, but Fora also showed a decent mix of skating ability, size and ability to use that size to defend. Fora had issues moving laterally at times, but when he could start from being in decent position and just defend a player coming at him, he was generally strong.
Searching for a diamond in the rough with late draft defensemen – Jesper Sellgren, Brendan De Jong and Ville Rasanen
Earlier this summer, the Hurricanes passed on the opportunity to sign 2016 sixth-rounder Noah Carroll. The team now has a trio of late-round defenseman picks in Ville Rasanen, Brendan De Jong and Jesper Sellgren. Of the three Sellgren would get the highest marks from me. He seemed to get caught flat-footed and or misjudge when he needed to turn here and there defending on the rush, but he has a decent combination of mobility and agility such that he seemed capable of defending speed coming at him better than the others. For me, Brendan De Jong is a tale of two sides of the puck. He has more offensive ability than one might expect and good ability to use his size for a couple quick hops forward offensively, but I do not think his skating ability is as is turning/transitioning and going backwards. That is obviously not a good thing for a defenseman and is something I will be watching. Ville Rasanen also seemed to be in over his head at times defensively.
He did not stand out to me on Wednesday, but from past experience I know that Bean’s cerebral style of play more comes out in game action and scrimmages than searching for some kind of ‘wow’ factor in drills. As such, I would not consider Bean’s quietness on Tuesday to be a huge negative, but at the same time he should be in the top group as a three-year veteran of prospect camp.
Aside from the headliners, Stelio Mattheos was the forward who most stood out me. He is comfortable playing in crowded spaces and maybe added just a bit more offensive skill to go with his north-south style. After only one practice, from the Hurricanes forwards who rate high for projectable NHL size but maybe light on raw skill, he is the one that I noticed most.
What say you Canes fans?
If you attended the first practice, please chime in with your observations.