If you checked in today looking for analysis of the Jake Gardiner signing on Friday, you can find that HERE.
On Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes prospects take to the ice for a three-day round robin type tourney in Nashville. The move to this tournament marks the end of a long run playing in the Traverwe City tourney.
I wrote about the roster when it was announced awhile back, so much of what follows builds on that article which you can find HERE.
All games will stream on the team’s website. The Hurricanes play at 2pm on Saturday, 5pm on Sunday and 2pm on Tuesday.
Below is a quick set of watch points for the tourney.
Veteran defensemen — Jake Bean, Jesper Sellgren, Chase Priskie (and forward Janne Kuokkanen)
These tournaments are primarily for younger prospects and light on players with significant AHL experience. As such, Jake Bean who will be making his fourth appearance at a Canes prospect tourney is a wily veteran. Jesper Sellgren (21) and Chase Priskie (23) will be making their first appearances, but would still be veterans for this type of event. As such, I would expect these players to stand out and impress defensively if they are on a path to doing the same at the NHL level anytime soon. Specifically for Bean, he should be looking like he has completely mastered this level at this point.
Though obviously on the forward side of the ledger, the same can be said for Janne Kuokkanen who is an odd inclusion for this roster as a player with two years of AHL experience and 11 games at the NHL level. After missing the second half of the 2018-19 season with an injury, my guess is that the team just wants to get him into some game action.
First impressions at forward — Ryan Suzuki, Jamieson Rees, Blake Murray, Eetu Luostarinen
The tourney will represent a first chance for 2019 forward draftees Ryan Suzuki, Jamieson Rees and Blake Murray to play games in a Hurricanes uniform. In addition, the tourney will mark the first appearance for 2018 draftee Eetu Luostarinen who did not play in Traverse City in 2018. This group will be looking to make a first impression and lay groundwork for charting a path up the depth chart and into the NHL. In addition to the young guns, free agent signee Jacob Pritchard will also make his Canes debut. Pritchard is 24 years old, so probably more of a player trying to play his way up the ladder as a late bloomer.
The other Canes prospects — Luke Henman, Jeremy Helvig
The other forward who is from the Canes organization is 2018 draftee Luke Henman. I like his game but as a mid-round draft pick who is undersized at 6 foot 0 and 152 pounds and a mid-round draft pick, he is very much playing this season to earn an NHL contract before his rights expire next summer.
Jeremy Helvig also returns in net. Helvig posted decent numbers in 39 starts at the ECHL level in 2018-19. As far as the Canes depth chart goes, I think it is likely that only one of Helvig or Callum Booth earns a next contract with the organization as the team looks to promote from the group beneath that includes Eetu Makiniemi and promising Pyotr Kochetkov. If Helvig has a strong 2019-20 season, he could stake a claim to that slot with Booth up for a new contract next summer (and Helvig the following summer).
Because the Hurricanes have so many younger prospects either in the NCAA or Europe, the team must utilize a number of invitees to fill out a roster for this tournament. Exactly half of the 22-player roster are invitees. With the Canes prospect pool growing both in quantity and quality, the team does not have extra room to add free agents. But the possibility to impress enough to win a contract is always there. One player I will be watching most closely is goalie Sam Harvey; He attended the Hurricanes June prospect camp. Harvey is maybe a bit undersized at 6 foot 1 inch tall, but had a very strong 2018-19 season in the usually high scoring QMJHL with 35 wins, a .926 save percentage and a 2.08 goals against average. If I had to place a long shot bet on a player from this group being offered a contract, Harvey would be my choice. It is just a hunch, but I think the team likes him and that his inclusion could be more than just needing a second goalie.
Though there are challenges with how to get all of them ice time, a team can never have too many goalie prospects. Another player who attended prospect camp as invitee is defenseman Noel Hoefenmayer. Hoefenmayer has good size and offensive instincts. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL draft by Arizona but not signed, making him a free agent.
Also very interesting in terms of strategically using the invitee slots to evaluate players with potential upside, the Hurricanes seem to have intentionally invited a group of young players. Martin Lang and Thomas Pelletier are 2001 birth year players who were young for the most recent draft. Pelletier just turned 18 on August 23, and Lang does not turn 18 until September 15. It is just a hunch, but I think the Hurricanes are thinking that these younger players who are really close to being 2020 eligible instead of 2019 could have upside and are worth a look.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Who will you be watching most closely in this tourney?
2) Which player do you think will most impress and rise up the depth chart in the process?