Without the visual part, there is obviously limited information that I can draw from Monday’s preseason opening win in Buffalo. But relishing the return of real hockey, here are a few quick observations.
Winning matters (some)
At the end of preseason, the different between 3-4, 4-3, 6-1 or whatever else is tiny. Preseason is more about evaluating individual players and working on the lineup. That said, I do think there is a need for teams who missed the playoffs to win ‘some.’ The Hurricanes have been in the situation of going 3-4 games deep into training camp without a win, and at that point it does start to matter. Best to avoid even the preseason version of early adversity by collecting a couple of wins early, so it never comes into play.
Derek Ryan meeting the job requirements
When the Hurricanes failed (at least thus far) to land a scoring/playmaking center during the offseason, Derek Ryan became arguably the closest thing the team has to being a playmaking, scoring-focused type of center. For a team that finished 20th in the NHL in scoring last year and needs to find more goals that is an important role that fits Ryan’s skill set. Unfortunately, none of Ryan’s two goals and an assist can be carried over into the regular season, but it is still an encouraging sign. The game also represents a pretty firm statement by Ryan strongly suggesting that he is the guy for his role despite whatever is going on below him on the depth chart with the suddenly voluminous amount of high-end prospects with a shiny luster to them right now.
A full night of work
Brett Pesce and Noah Hanifin each logged almost 25 minutes of ice time. Van Riemsdyk clocked in at 23+ minutes of ice time and Haydn Fleury at more than 21 minutes. The level of competition was mixed, but that is a full night of work for four players expected to be manning the blue line on opening night.
In a period plus part of an overtime Alex Nedeljkovic made 14 saves on 14 tries for a perfect period plus of work and a win to boot. Chuck Kaiton’s call 0n 99.9 suggested that he was tested pretty heartily and made a number of good saves along the way. After a bumpy first professional season in 2016-17, a summer to absorb what he learned and a couple confidence builders early in the season will hopefully catapult him into a strong 2017-18 on the often long and winding path toward becoming an NHL goalie.
Martin Necas and Aleksi Saarela
Both players names were mentioned regularly throughout the radio broadcast. Especially for forwards that usually means that they either have or are around the puck which is a good thing. Warren Foegele won the award last preseason for having his name called the most on the radio only broadcasts, and he proceeded to outlast all of the other Canadian junior players and surprisingly be one of the last cuts at the forward position. Neither player was on the score sheet, but Saarela had a post, and Chuck Kaiton seemed to be favorable on both.
On the quieter side
Based primarily on contract situation and previous work logged, I had Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe at #13 and #14 respectively on the depth chart entering preseason. That means both players need to hustle to seize a role and make the most of it before the pack of promising youngsters arrives. Again, without video it is hard to rate individual players, but neither was on the score sheet or mentioned as regularly as the kids and McGinn collected a double minor for high sticking along the way.
Next up is a flight south to Tampa and a quick turnaround with another preseason game tonight.
If I can find a few minutes early evening, I hope to write up a quick preview for game #2 of the preseason tonight, so check back after dinner and before the puck drop.