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On Friday, it was announced that the Hurricanes had signed Warren Foegele and Spencer Smallman to entry-level contracts.
Neither was a surprise to me.
I think Warren Foegele more or less earned his entry-level deal back in September in training camp and preseason when he outplayed players much higher on the depth chart and outlasted all of the other players who eventually returned to juniors. As I said on Twitter, because of what he brings in terms of tenacity and aggressive play without the puck, I already have him pegged as a dark horse to surprise and make the 2017-18 opening day roster. Foegele made a strong first impression on my in the 2015 prospect camp as detailed in 1 of my first articles for Canes and Coffee back on July 29, 2015. I think the 2 Twitter posts are still spot on. He plays every shift like that is his only 45-second chance to show what he can do. His intensity level reminds me of Nathan Gerbe. His play without the puck reminds me very much of Justin Williams who was not incredibly fast in a straight line or in drills but had some magical combination of early anticipation of where he needed to be, enough speed and X3 hustle to be a royal pain to play against in the neutral zone because of his ability to close gaps, take away time and space and force opponents to make decisions before they are ready. Important to note is that Foegele projects to be more of a third or fourth line player without as much upside offensively as Justin Williams but who knows.
I think he is a prototype for what you want on a third or fourth line in today’s NHL – a player who can bring intensity and physical play, but in the form of a player who skates well and has enough offensive ability to score some too.
Spencer Smallman is 1 of 4 Canadian junior players from the 2015 draft who were scheduled to be on the clock for being signed or discarded by this summer. Nicolas Roy signed last summer. Callum Booth also signed recently making Smallman the third of 4 mid/late-round draftees to sign entry-level deals.
Just like with Foegele, I expected him to receive an entry-level contract. He was included in a recent Daily Cup of Joe that talked about the mid/late round draft success in 2015 and projected both Smallman and also seventh-rounder Steven Lorentz (who is not yet signed) to ultimately get entry-level deals.
I view Smallman as being a couple years away from trying to crack an NHL roster as a depth forward. He will need to continue to improve his skating ability to match NHL pace, but he has shown step-wise progress in 2 years since being drafted that the potential to continue growing into an NHL player is there.
Steven Lorentz (last player on the contract clock from the 2015 draft)
The Hurricanes also have 2 US college players (David Cotton and Luke Stevens) from the 2015 NHL draft who will not be on the clock contract-wise until their graduation year. Steven Lorentz is the last Canadian junior player who the Hurricanes must either sign to an entry-level contract or turn loose this summer. Though he was drafted in the seventh round and therefore a low probability to receive a contract, my guess is that the Hurricanes do sign Lorentz.