In 2017 when I was away for part of the week for prospect camp, a couple other writers were generous enough to step in and cover some of the practices. To add another viewpoint to the 2018 coverage, Brandon Stanley generously agreed to share his viewpoint on the camp.
On a day for double prospect camp viewpoints, you can also find part 1 of Matt’s final recap HERE.
Brandon Stanley is a communication media student at NC State. He grew up playing hockey locally in the Jr. Canes organization and other local Raleigh Youth Hockey Association teams from the age of 9 until 18. There is very little that he is more passionate about than the game of hockey. He admittedly spends an unhealthy amount of time looking at stats, prospects, power rankings, and whatever else he can find, so Prospects’ Camp was a nice little taste to hopefully help hold him over until October.
Brandon’s thoughts on the 2018 Carolina Hurricanes Prospect Camp
I’ll admit: I was excited about last year’s camp. There were studs preparing to begin their professional careers that I was high on like Nicolas Roy, Julien Gauthier, Janne Kuokkanen, and Warren Foegele. There were intriguing, newly drafted youngsters like Morgan Geekie, Stelio Mattheos, Luke Martin, and a thin, but lightning quick kid named Marty Necas. And there was hope in the building that the group of young men on display would help pull our beloved Carolina Hurricanes out of the doldrums of the Metropolitan Division and back into hockey relevancy.
But that excitement and buzz was nothing compared to what I felt sitting in there for the 2018 prospects camp scrimmage.
Of course, it helps to luck into the kind of talent the second pick in the draft provides, and Mr. Svechnikov certainly looks the part. But – spoiler alert – he was not the best player on the ice this week. And, if you ask me, it wasn’t all that close.
So I’ll cut to it pretty quickly, and give you all the rundown on my thoughts from the 2018 development camp group.
*I’ll start off with the same disclaimer I gave last year, just as a reminder. It’s hard to get that sharp of a read on the players in this setting. It’s mostly open ice, a showcase of skill and speed on 2-on-0’s, 2-on-1’s, and 2-on-2’s. As we all know, this is not how NHL hockey is played. If it were, Jeff Skinner would actually be good (I kid, I kid). Players will have a fraction of the time that they had most of this week in an NHL game. However, we did get a solid amount of battle drills in the corners which helped better gauge things like positioning and physical play, which, needless to say, is an imperative part of the game. The scrimmage on Saturday also provided a solid chance to evaluate them in a more realistic scenario. I tried to be objective and not take into account anything I’d read or watched online, and just tried to give one amateur opinion on what this year’s Canes Prospects Camp had to offer.
Ok, let’s get to it!
Martin Necas, C (Drafted 1st round-12th overall, 2017)
As I alluded to earlier, the best player on the ice was incredibly easy to identify in my opinion. By all accounts he’s bulked up, which is to be expected of a 19 year old after another year of experience playing against men in a professional league. He spent a majority of the week playing alongside Svechnikov, which RBA would admit was by design (handful of good videos out on the team’s official website if anyone hasn’t seen them). I felt bad for the kids tasked with defending them. They are rooming together this week and seem to have grown close off the ice and have found some chemistry on it already. The two things that stand out to me most about Necas are his skating and hands. He’s always been blazing fast, as he eats up any cushion given by the defensemen and in the blink of an eye has blown by them. When he gets in close he has ultra-quick hands that allow him to make shifty moves and change the angle of his shot before using his surprising release. He had a couple beautiful goals, but it was a couple near-misses that made up two of the prettiest plays of the first day. On a 2v2 rush he got in tight, didn’t have much of an angle, and danced around the defender and the net before nearly tucking in a slick wraparound, but Helvig made a good lateral save. Later, Svechnikov and Necas nearly connected on a beautiful tic-tac-toe play that brought the energy in the crowd up a level, but Kucharski made a steady, square save. Thursday he took a VERY scary fall into the endboards that brought a terrified silence to the crowd, and caused my hands to fly up to my head (and a four letter word to squeak out). Thankfully, even though he was going about full speed, he had a brief second to adjust and not take the full impact to his head. He stayed down momentarily and briefly went to the locker room, but soon returned, much to the delight of us in the stands. Friday, he had one particular play stickhandling against Mattheos, like he had the puck on a string, going between his legs, under his stick, and all up in his feet, but always in full control. He then got to the net for a nice scoring opportunity. It was highlight-worthy, even without the finish. I could probably write about his stickhandling alone all day. During the scrimmage, he and Svechnikov seemed to be in the offensive end every time they were on the ice, and Necas scored a nice goal blowing by his defender (Fox I believe) and cutting across LaFontaine’s crease before tucking the puck far side. He is going to be an incredibly exciting NHLer and probably a mainstay on the shootout lineup, where I cannot wait to see him score some dazzling goals. He’s a magician with the puck on his stick. The Canes are hoping to see Necas come into camp and win a job this year. I do not think those kinds of decisions will really be made until training camp, obviously. However, with the start he is off to in development camp and the year he had in 2017-18, I’m about ready to pencil him into the opening night lineup.
Andrei Svechnikov, LW/RW (Drafted 1-2, 2018)
To be honest, the first thing I wrote down on day one was “off to a ‘meh’ start”. He just didn’t seem especially crisp with his passes or decision-making on cuts, passes, or where to go without the puck offensively to find the open space and become available to a teammate. At times, he would just float into the zone while his teammate carried the puck in wide. This allowed the defenseman the luxury of easily drifting towards the middle and simultaneously supporting the other defenseman in case the fellow attacking player cut to the middle while also taking away the passing lane to Andrei. He likely was just a little nervous, not to mention the group was likely pretty tired after a long day starting with intense fitness testing, off-ice training, and nutrition classes. That proved to not last long anyway. He has an effortless stride, and had one end-to-end rush in the 4-on-4 where he went straight down the middle and just stickhandled right through everyone before the defenseman made a late stick check that significantly diminished his scoring chance. He showed off his unstoppable Erik Cole-esque power move to the outside, using his strong frame to keep defenders on his hip and get to the net, leading to multiple great scoring chances. You can easily tell how strong he is. He bodied up Michael Fora, who looked very defensively sound out there all week and is 6’3, 210. Fora tried to stand Svechnikov up and keep him from going to the net, but Andrei was able to absorb the blow and got right through him. He showed this power off throughout the sessions, and I’m very excited to see him bring that element to this team. During the 3-on-3 part of the scrimmage, Necas chipped the puck forward off the faceoff, and Svechnikov took two strides and immediately seemed to be at full speed, blowing past his mark for a partial breakaway that LaFontaine made a nice save on. He’s so quick on his feet, especially for his size, and is incredibly crafty around the net. Along with his strength, he’s going to be incredibly tough to contain. Svechnikov is known to all as an elite goal scorer, but I think his passing has been looked over a good bit. He has excellent hands and elite hockey sense, and he really knows how to put his teammates in advantageous positions. There were quite a few little things in this regard I noticed, like putting the puck in a space for his teammate to skate onto full stride instead of delivering a tape to tape pass, and a nifty backhand saucer pass at the blue line that allowed Necas to corral the puck at full-speed blow by his defender for a partial breakaway. In the offensive zone during the scrimmage, he and Necas had the cycle game going and had lots of little heady plays that ultimately didn’t bear any fruit but still created dangerous opportunities. He also has elite footwork. At the end of the Wednesday and Thursday sessions, player development and skating coach Mark Metzger was brought out to lead power skating. He was one of the highlights of the session, by the way. He dazzled with his footwork, drawing rounds of applause from those in attendance multiple times, and had the players working on their edgework, maintaining a powerful stance throughout pivots, and other little things that I absolutely hated back when I was playing (we didn’t look quite like this, though). A lot of the players looked a little unsure or uncomfortable, but Andrei really impressed me. He was first in line and showed off fantastic balance, top-notch agility, and elite skating fundamentals. That’s key for a player and will assist in explosion, acceleration, top speed, and other little things that will help him be a dynamic player in the NHL. This kid is going to score goals in red, and he’ll do so early (like October 2018) and often (prediction alert! He’s going 35-29-64 this year. Book it.).
Jake Bean, D (Drafted 1-13-2016)
Bean has always been fascinating to me, largely because of how torn people seem to be on him. I kind of wanted to see him dominate and truly stand out from the crowd this week, being a veteran about to turn pro in a few months and all, but that wasn’t really the case. That said, I still thought he looked really good in a steady, clever kind of way. Offensive zone and puck-on-his-stick play have obviously never been the problem with Bean, so I’ll get these notes out of the way first. As usual, he was quite slick. He thinks the game very well in that end, and has a good, deceptive shot. It may not be the heaviest shot, but he gets it off quick and is good at finding a shooting lane, shooting for tips, and shot passes. He’s an agile skater as well, pivots really well, and moves well on the blue line. On Friday he had two really pretty moves in close on during 2-on-2’s, one of which was basically a partial 2-on-1 from the right cirlce in which he got both the goalie and the defender really badly with a smooth backhand toedrag that he finished with ease. Pretty soon thereafter, he essentially pulled the same move before sliding a pass through the space between his defender’s stick and legs across the crease to David Cotton, who deposited it into the gaping net. Quite the impressive set of hands, and based on his offense alone I think he could handle at the very least a second PP unit and maybe third pairing defensive minutes with a steady partner like Pesce (who is obviously not a third pairing defenseman but for the sake of the point). However, there were still a few defensive aspects of his game that gave me pause, and if that’s the case in this setting it certainly will not get better facing the speed of the NHL game. He seemed a step or two slow to react on some of the rushes, and one in particular led to a great chance against when the attacking forwards crisscrossed and Bean was slow to switch over to his new mark. A quick drop pass and a dip of the shoulder later, a high-danger shot was on his goalie. He still needs to get bigger, as he had trouble keeping players out of his goalie’s face. In the battle drills on Wednesday he went down hard and was slow to get up (I did not see exactly what happened, only that he was down), though he did not miss any time. He did look better in some areas, though. I thought his gap control was solid, and he has an active stick that irritated and broke up offensive rushes consistently thanks to his quick feet that allow him to move laterally with ease and keep his body in front of his man. I will be interested to watch him in his jump to the AHL. If he can show some growth as far as picking up on what attacking players’ options are to shut them down early, along with continuing to mature and add weight, he certainly has the skating, IQ, and offensive game to be a quality NHL defenseman.
Stelio Mattheos, C/F (Drafted 3-73-2017)
I liked Mattheos (and fellow third rounder Morgan Geekie) a lot last year and still maintain that they look like NHL talents. Stelio has a heavy shot which helped him post 43 goals in 68 games for Brandon of the WHL last year (and another 6 in 11 postseason games). He picked the corners and went bar-in multiple times throughout the sessions, as he and Necas found the back of the net more than anyone else I noticed. He seems to have that goal-scorers knack for getting into advantageous situations that will allow him to use that shot, and seems balanced and sturdy in front of the net and in the corners. Otherwise, he was a little quieter than I had hoped, as I wanted to see him show a bit more than he did last year and look like a camp veteran establishing himself as a guy the coaches want to really get to know. He seemed a little nervous during the scrimmage and was slow to react offensively on a couple notable plays. Jake Bean carried the puck into the zone and delayed at the top of the circles before dropping a pass to Mattheos. Bean then curled around his defenseman who got caught sleeping and drove hard to the net for what would have been a mini-breakaway had Mattheos read it and delivered a pass on-time. However, he held onto the puck too long and by the time he made the play the defense had recovered. While I think he has a very intriguing set of skills that could certainly allow him to play in the middle 6 at the NHL level someday, outside of his shot none of his other tools really stood all that loudly this week. From hands to skating to positioning and decision making, everything else at least looked solid enough, and he still has ample time to develop, so I am still pretty high on him as a prospect and will continue to follow his development closely.
Luke Martin, D (Drafted 2-52-2017)
Luke Martin was really good all week long. He reminds me a lot of Brett Pesce, except maybe a little more physical. He’s got good size and does not give up an inch in his own end. He will be a goalie’s best friend. He throws his weight around and quickly identifies and neutralizes the oncoming attack, and plays passing and shooting lanes well. Martin doesn’t have a flashy offensive game, but makes smart decisions and crisp, tape to tape outlet passes. He also does a very good job using his body to protect the puck. He jumped in the play intelligently a few times as well, such as on Luke Stevens’ goal that I will go into further detail on later, which he would have gotten a secondary assist on. He took a big leap forward from last year, and seems a pretty good bet to be a solid, shutdown defenseman that can eat up tough minutes and kill penalties.
Jack Drury, C (Drafted 2-42-2018)
In my eyes he was this year’s Warren Foegele, and I think in a few years he could be a similar kind of prospect that fans will really pull for. He seems the type that never gets outworked, has the drive to be a pro, and just flat out produces even without any particularly outstanding skills. He has offensive talent, to be sure. He had a few really nice shots, including a bar-in snipe. He showed he was capable of gaining zone entry, and maneuvering with the puck on his stick creating chances for himself and his teammates. He showed off his quickness while dancing around Luke Martin on one play with a quick head fake and sharp change of direction, one of the few chances Martin gave up all week long. Communication was pretty good team-wide throughout the week, but Drury in particular could be heard from the stands calling for passes and assisting his teammates in addressing the on-ice situations. He definitely seems like a captain and son of a former pro with his work ethic and tenacity. He was consistently trying to go up against bigger bodies, and while it didn’t always go well for him you love to see that willingness out of a player. The size will hopefully come with time, but that drive is something that you either have or you don’t. He’s at least 2-3 years away, but I like the base he has to build off of.
Adam Fox, D (Acq. in Hamilton trade, drafted 3-66-2016 by Calgary)
In the first few days of practice he reminded me of Jake Bean last year, honestly. With the puck on his stick and in the offensive zone he shows a ton of ability. Smallish defensemen who can skate and move the puck is becoming the new thing in the league, and he certainly seems to fit the mold. He showed great spatial awareness at both ends of the ice. He has a grasp on when to make little plays like reversals in the defensive zone and knowing when to hold onto the puck versus when to make a pass or skate the puck himself. One takeaway in particular was notable to me, as he stole the puck but looked to be in trouble behind his own goal line, but an easy chip behind his own net against the grain of the play and he was clear of both forecheckers and out of trouble. He really showed out during the scrimmage on Saturday, and I don’t think he even attempted a shot on goal the entire time (which is a shame, because that’s one area I wanted to get some level of an evaluation with him). He had three beautiful primary assists. The most notable to me was to Luke Stevens. Fox carried the puck into the zone, head up the whole way. He navigated into the corner, pushing the defense back. Luke Martin cut to the slot, and Fox found him with a nifty pass. After delivering it, Fox didn’t become a bystander but cut behind his defender to the net. When Helvig’s rebound control was poor and the puck sat directly in front of his crease, instead of trying to jam in the rebound like 99% of hockey players would have done, he slid the puck across to Stevens who was just below the faceoff dot for an easy open net finish. Later, Fox, Brendan De Jong, and Bean connected for a similar goal. De Jong found Fox down low near the bottom of the circle, who hesitated for a split second to wait for a lane to open then fired a crisp pass through the crease, between Necas’ stick and feet and right into Bean’s wheelhouse for a beautiful tic-tac-toe goal. He also had another backdoor assist to Morgan Geekie who finished between his legs (which happened at least three times during this camp. How unoriginal). He’s an absolutely elite passer. Defensively, he made a few nice stick plays and didn’t seem especially disadvantaged by his lack of size, but I did not get a great read on this side of his game over the course of the week. That will be an element of his game I’m watching for moving forward. Overall, you can really see how he just controls the tempo of a game and runs an offense from the backend. I’m really interested to see what happens here over the next year, and it will be a huge bonus for the Canes if they can ink Fox to a contract.
Morgan Geekie, C/RW (Drafted 3-67-2017)
I like Geekie. He plays a pretty simple, north-south hockey game, not a lot of flash, but I think there is a lot of potential here. He had a big year in the WHL, and an even bigger, ridiculous playoff run (league-leading 17 goals, 27 points in just 14 games). He has a bigger frame too, though could stand to add some weight if where he is listed is accurate. He looked good battling for space in the corners and in front of the net, and was comfortable making plays with the puck on his stick. In the scrimmage he scored twice from in close, showcasing a nifty set of hands on the aforementioned goal in which he went between the legs and just gave a little one-touch-chip over the pad of Helvig. The only question on him, to me, is his skating. He didn’t seem to be getting left behind in the play or anything like that, but the speed of play this week wasn’t quite NHL-level. Since he was drafted as a 19-year-old, he can either turn pro this year and head to Charlotte or go back to Tri-City for one more overage season. I’m not sure he has much left to prove at the junior level, so it will be telling to see what the front office decides is best for his development.
Luke Stevens, LW (Drafted 5-126-2015)
To me, Stevens was one of the more noticeable players on the ice all week. He actually drew my eye from the very start, as the prospects crowded around Roddy at center ice on the first day. Towering above the group, I thought maybe it was De Jong, the first really big kid that came to mind. Nope. Alas, my first note of the week was born: “Luke Stevens: tall”. I had the pleasure of watching Thursday’s session with the man himself, Matt Karash, and one of the things we talked about was Ron Francis’ strategy of taking late-round, bigger college kids that can skate, and hoping the skill part of the game would come around. This is a benefit of taking players headed to college, where they can develop for four years under good coaches before the organization has to make a decision on signing them. This would be the category that David Cotton, Matt Filipe, Max Zimmer, and Stevens fall into. Stevens stood out from that crowd. He uses that large (listed 6’4) frame very well, and keeps a wide base with his knees bent and hips wide, which along with his reach makes it very difficult to get the puck from him. He had no problem with contact and did a good job eating up as much space as he could get on his defenders. Stevens skates very well for a big man, and was consistently taking the puck wide and battling in the corners. He seemed to consistently be matched up against Necas and Svechnikov and was totally unfazed, battling hard and not looking out of place whatsoever, even controlling the play for extended periods against them. He is a rising junior at Yale so he still has a couple years to continue his development, but he looked comfortable and like one of the more improved players over the last year.
David Cotton, C/LW (6-169-2015)
Cotton was someone I wanted to keep an eye on going into this week, as he is another of those solid-skating big guys that has performed well in a top six role at a really good NCAA program. My opinion on him from the week was “just ok”. He had a few notable shifts alongside Jake Bean where they seemed to play off each other pretty well, Cotton in the grinder, puck retrieval role, winning possession and creating space for the crafty Bean. Cotton reads the play pretty well without the puck and knows how to find soft spots in coverage and get open for a pass. He scored a lot of goals last season at Boston College just by knowing where to be positioned and getting to the net for a rebound or pass. He showcased a soft set of hands when he got in close. He scored the only goal in the shootout that took place after the game on Saturday with a nifty forehand-backhand move, and used his shoulders to really sell the fake and get Kucharski leaning before tucking the puck around his outstretched pad. Otherwise, he didn’t look out of place or overwhelmed, but as a veteran to this camp you like to see marked improvement over the years, and I’m not sure he stood out as much as the coaches maybe would have liked to see. As Matt stated Thursday, to him the big question with this group of collegiate prospects is whether or not they have the puck skills to translate to the pro game, and watching Cotton this week I think that’s a pretty astute query. Two more years at Boston College will give him a chance to develop further under one of the best hockey minds around in Jerry York, so the book is certainly not closed on him breaking out and becoming a legit NHL prospect.
Jesper Sellgren, D (Drafted 6-166-2018)
Sellgren is a little older than most of the recent draftees at 20, and I thought he looked pretty good in the quiet, go-about-your-business kind of way. Early in the week there were a few plays where he was slow to react and ending up getting beat wide, and he’s pretty small and had trouble with bigger players carving out his space. Svechnikov just shrugged him off on one of his outside moves, but I imagine we’ll see that in the NHL pretty soon, too, so. No big deal kid. He moves the puck well and had multiple stretch passes throughout the week that hit his teammate in stride. He showcased smart decision making as well in recoiling and regrouping in his defensive zone instead of trying to force a play up the ice that isn’t there to be made. He stood out early during the scrimmage, as he made four plays on his first three shifts that I really liked. He had a nice strip of Jake Bean that he quickly turned back up ice for a 2-on-1 on his first. Next shift, he had another break-up of a rush and takeaway, though was only able to chip the puck out. When the puck came back in, he showed a willingness to play the body with a solid hit on Luke Stevens that separated him from the puck. Finally, he landed a nice hit and knocked down Ville Rasanen on an offensive rush for one of the bigger hits we saw on the day. In the offensive zone, he moved the puck well and was very active, especially during the 3-on-3 portion with lots of open ice. I see a lot to his game that I am intrigued by (though to be transparent, I said that about Noah Carroll last year, too).
Michael Fora, D (Signed two year Entry-Level deal as a free agent, June 15, 2018)
Fora was a lot like Martin in that he’s a bigger body that owns his space and keeps his goalie clean. He also showcased a pretty heavy, low slapshot that the goalies had trouble controlling. I didn’t see much else offensively from him, but he didn’t embarrass himself with the puck either. He maintains tight gaps and sturdy, low center of gravity in a defensive position. He goes straight into the forward’s chest when defending 1-on-1. He had a very nice blocked shot on a dangerous chance from Stelio Mattheos in the slot, which shows he has the mentality of giving up his body. The only thing I would have liked to get a better read on that I really didn’t is his skating, but at the very least he seemed adequate. He looked like an older player with professional experience, which he should have as a 22-year-old coming from the Swiss pro league. He’ll surely start in Charlotte and could very well get the whole year there. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a shot as around the 8th defenseman and possible call-up if injuries strike, or the second right-handed call-up after Roland McKeown. He seems to be a pretty similar player to Klas Dahlbeck but right-handed, which is valuable for a young player on a cheap contract with plenty of room to grow his game.
Eetu Luostarinen, C/LW (Drafted 2-42-2017)
He was one of my bigger disappointments in last year’s camp, but I think that’s partially because I may have let my expectations for second round Finnish forwards get a bit out of whack. Regardless, he looked much improved and far more comfortable this year. He has a big frame and initiated contact every chance he got. I like the feisty edge he plays with, which is something you don’t always see out of European players. He finished first on his Liiga team in PIMs last year with 58 in 50 games and has a solid array of skills on top of it, which I think is the kind of combination Canes fans really want to hear about. He went toe-to-toe with Martin a couple times and it was really fun to watch those two go at it. He’s tenacious after the puck and works hard, and he had a really nice backcheck as Drury fed Bean backdoor for what looked be a sure goal, but at the last second Luostarinen’s stick-check saved the play. He ripped a shot past LaFontaine in the scrimmage, using Jack Drury as a screen when he continued to back up and didn’t maintain a tight enough gap. The shot was well placed, got off quickly, and had good velocity. He isn’t quite as advanced offensively as Aho or even Janne Kuokkanen were a year after being drafted, but he improved my opinion of him quite a bit this week.
Brendan De Jong, D (Drafted 6-166-2017)
De Jong is a tall, lanky kid that needs to fill out, but I thought he had a solid week of practices. He looked much better than I anticipated moving forward with the puck on his stick, and Matt also pointed out that he seemed to have more offense in his game than his numbers in the WHL would indicate. He uses his long reach well to impede attacking players, but I would like to see him use his body a little more to separate his man. He has a really long stride and while at first it makes him seem like he is not moving all that fast, after seeing him in a race with a forward getting back in his own zone it becomes clear that was not the case. He did not get badly beat or make any glaring mistakes over the course of the week or in the scrimmage, and was another defenseman that plays that quiet, steady kind of understated game that may not win you many hockey games, but certainly won’t lose many either.
Luke Henman, C (Drafted 4-96-2018)
My impression of Henman is that he is really skilled for a fourth round pick. He’s also only 150 pounds, so priority one, two, and probably three over the next few years will be adding at least 25-30 more pounds, but at 6’ he has the frame to fill out nicely. If he does, he could be a heck of a value pickup down the road from what I saw. He stood out to me consistently in the offensive zone, and showed off his playmaking ability with multiple sweet dishes to set up great scoring chances. He had one of the slickest moves of the week against De Jong, who as I mentioned was playing a pretty sound defensive game (though this goes back to playing the body, if he hadn’t just waved at the puck he probably would have shut it down instead of getting turned inside out). He has great stickhandling skills and made a fake to the inside of the ice, which would have been his forehand side, and got De Jong twisted up so badly that he turned the wrong direction before Henman pulled the puck back to his backhand and went in for a partial breakaway. He then went backhand on the goalie and hit the crossbar, but picked the top corner on a nasty shot a few seconds later after a regroup. As I mentioned he’s really small, but he still did not back down from anybody. He dropped his shoulder on Luke Stevens during a battle drill, which I think caught Stevens a little off guard, but he was on the puck constantly. As with Drury, size can be gained, but that mentality of play is not so easy to come by. He’s a long ways from sniffing pro hockey and things can change or go off the rails in a player’s development pretty quickly, but I liked what I saw.
None of this is particularly easy to evaluate being that it is not an in-game scenario for the most part, but by far the hardest part is the goalies. I’m not even going to try to go in-depth on each one of them, but I wanted to at least give something, so I’ll keep this short.
I thought his week of practices was the best of the four goalies there, but he gave up a couple goals in the scrimmage I think he’d like to have back. He’s 6’4 and uses his size pretty well by coming out to the top of his crease to minimize the angles and keeping his shoulders upright. He didn’t give up a goal in the shootout, however Jack Drury hit the crossbar on a Jussi Jokinen-esque move where he skated in with speed, hit the brakes, and released a quick shot (though Drury went high glove rather than low blocker like the Juice). I really liked what he did on a David Cotton breakaway, as Cotton tried to fake forehand before doing the one-handed finish far side on the backhand, but Helvig attacked the puck by kicking his leg out instead of trying to go laterally and get across the crease to save it. He showed he has some athleticism too on a good side-to-side save on Mattheos.
He made the most highlight-worthy saves this week, as he’s a super athletic goalie and moves laterally very well. He made multiple sliding saves including one on a Necas one-timer. However, he seemed to have trouble seeing around screens and let a lot of pucks slide under his arm or through his legs. His rebound control left a little to be desired as well, as he kicked a couple pucks right back into the slot. His size and athleticism still give him a considerable ceiling, but he’s a long ways away.
When taking the entire week into account, he may have had the best overall camp of the goalies. He’s another really big kid and stays tall in there, and had a really nice glove save moving side to side on Matt Filipe after a great Fox setup. He did give up the only goal in the shootout, but it’s hard to fault a goalie for any goal in that situation. There were just a lot of plays where I ended up writing player X did this or that and got a great chance out of it, but Kucharski was there, in great position, and gave him nothing to shoot at. Not much more you can ask of an 18-year-old goalie in his first pro camp, in my opinion.
Mitch Eliot (defenseman, camp invitee)
Eliot had one of the three between-the-legs goals this week (Luostarinen and Geekie the others), but his was by far the best. He was cutting behind the defense from the right side of the ice to the left, caught the pass at an angle from the opposite direction (from the left to the right side), so naturally got the goalie sliding back and having to try to stop his momentum and react, before reaching back and finishing perfectly off the crossbar and in. He stood out a few times offensively in the scrimmage after I hadn’t really noticed him all week.
Zimmer didn’t look great to me but scored twice in the scrimmage, including a very similar goal to Luostarinen’s where he used Morgan Geekie as a screen and ripped the puck far side past Jack LaFontaine. He skates well, but I didn’t see much else from him this week. Essentially the exact same goes for Matt Filipe. Both are only rising Juniors in college and have room to grow, but for top-100 picks in their third years in camp, they were a a bit disappointing.
Rasanen looked a little slow. He was unsure of himself in the offensive zone and turned it over or had his play thwarted on multiple occasions. He got caught flat-footed a few times defensively as well.
Killinen looked pretty good on a few shifts, then seemed to disappear for long periods and I’d hardly remember seeing him out there. He did show off some solid quickness and had one particular shift in the scrimmage where he seemed to have the puck in the offensive zone impressively weaving in and out of traffic for about a minute straight. He just turned 18 two weeks ago, and has size (6’2, 180) and some offensive flair, so he could be one to watch moving forward.
The Carolina Hurricanes have stocked an impressive crop of talent, and the competition level on the ice this year was very high. Odds are that about 10 of these guys will ever suit up for an NHL game, but I could make a case that just about every player in camp this year has a ceiling of at least an NHL regular. It’s exciting to watch a group like that grow. As with any year, prospect camp is a time for hopefulness, and it’s easy to get excited about what is being built here. With players like Necas, Svechnikov, and Bean set to soon join Aho, Teravainen, Slavin, and the rest of the current Canes, things are looking up indeed. With the base built by Ron Francis, and the smooth moves made this offseason by Waddell and Dundon to try and take that next step, the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to emerge. The days of misery for Caniac Nation may soon be coming to an end.
Now, if only we had a goalie…