Better late than never, this post was delayed a bit when the Carolina Hurricanes sprung the late night trade for Erik Haula on us at roughly the same time our indoor cat went missing outdoors.
If you missed it, you can find my thoughts on the Erik Haula/Nicolas Roy trade HERE.
The goalies practiced first for about 45 minutes followed by about an hour for the skaters with the goalies back only for the very end of it. The goalie practice was focused on skating/movement/technique. The majority of the skater practice was various skating drills with cones and a bunch of cameras on the ice presumably to evaluate and improve skating techniques. Only the tail end of the practice featured a small amount of drills with pucks, passing and shooting and more hockey-ish stuff. As such, the format for Wednesday was not great for gleaning much other than skating and mobility.
Wednesday morning’s practice which I will write up later featured a bit more hockey and should therefore have a bit more insight.
Part of the plan…
I noted on Twitter that the Hurricanes have four drafted goalies in camp and still decided to add three invitees. I think that is significant in terms of the team’s prospect strategy in net. To be clear, this is not something the team has discussed — it is my thoughts on why this makes sense and what is going on.
Invitees are common for these camps. Most teams need a few more players for scrimmages and possibly to fill out fall rookie camp teams later when European and NCAA players are not available. Invites also offer the opportunity evaluate undrafted players with the potential of signing them as free agents or possibly drafting them as overage players.
But when the Hurricanes have four drafted goalies in camp, adding three more jumps out. What I think is going on is this…
I wrote recently about the Hurricanes using 12 draft picks in the 2019 NHL Draft and seemingly intentionally doubling up on building from within. In that vein, I view this as maximizing the goalie prospect pool. First, analytics have long shown goalies to be the biggest wild card in drafting. The probability of NHL success for goalies has always been fairly random with many later-round picks ultimately making it in the NHL. That difficulty rating/ranking 18-year old goalie prospects would suggest that the chances of finding a goalie with NHL potential outside of the seven rounds of drafted players could be fairly high. In addition, since goalies often take 4-6 years to develop and be NHL-ready, 18-year olds whose games are still raw very much have time to catch up to the pack. Those facts suggest that their could be value looking at goalies who are 8th-round plus. I am not sure how much can be gleaned from scouting them during prospect camp which is a bunch of skills and drills, but the team definitely gets an up close look and some insight into who the players are in terms of attitude, coachability and other things.
It will be worth watching over time if perhaps this cap was an anomaly or if instead the Canes continue to invite extra goalies and if any of these players ultimately find their way into the Hurricanes prospect pool.
David Cotton and Matt Filipe
The Hurricanes have the rights to four NCAA players who will be upperclassmen in 2019-20. David Cotton and Matt Filipe are both in camp as veterans.
Both have made step-wise progress in their college careers, but I would not categorize either player as a sure thing entry-level contract recipient. But I do think both will be signed. The common link between the two is that both skate very well for being bigger players. Cotton’s game is not really that of a pure power forward, but he is a rangy skating forward who has a decent knack for how to use his length/reach to make space and protect the puck. And he has decent hands in close to boot. I think that is enough to at least get him three years of development at the AHL.
What stands out about Filipe is his ability to beat goalies from distance especially off the rush. He had at least one goal last year in the scrimmage doing that and pretty regularly picks corners in the drills seemingly with a shot that is hard to read off of his stick. I think his skating and size is similarly enough to get him an entry-level contract.
This camp is important for both of these players, as it is their last chance to impress in Raleigh before their senior year and the expiration of the Hurricanes’ draft rights.
In the same group are Max Zimmer and Luke Stevens who are similarly Canes prospects who have been developing at the NCAA level for a few years. Neither player is at camp this year. That could just be that they have already been there a few times, especially for Stevens, or it could be an injury or personal schedule conflict. But the divide of the group could also prove to be telling.
My first impression of first-rounder Ryan Suzuki mostly matched the Youtube highlights and scouting report. He is a crafty stick handler with creativity and vision to boot. Even in a crowded 3-on-3 drill between the two blue lines Suzuki showed an ability to stick handle to make space and an ability to find passing lanes. He is likely a couple years away from NHL action, but he projects to be a playmaking type that the Canes could use more of.
The big defensemen (Cade Webber, Griffin Luce, Noel Hoefenmayer)
Mostly of the invitee variety, the Hurricanes have a group of big defensemen in camp who sort of fit into the Luke Martin category. I think today’s NHL continues to run away from this type of player. Size is beneficial, but if forced to choose between size/strength and skating, I think skating wins by a wide margin today’s NHL. The exception and often elite defensemen are bigger players who are freaks of nature with the mobility and acceleration of a smaller player — think Jaccob Slavin, Victor Hedman, etc. So for any defensemen who strength is size and physical play, I immediately jump to assessing their skating ability.
The one to watch most closely is Canes draftee Cade Webber. Physically, he looks a bit more like a Slavin or Pesce than the others. I would not call him speedy, but he has a decent fluidity to his movement and moves pretty well in a straight line. The downside for him and the likely reason he was available in the later rounds is that he is still very raw in terms of his skill set. His puck skills are below average. The play for him is that he grows into his frame and that the decent fluidity in his skating grows to become quickness, acceleration, speed, agility and all of that other Jaccob Slavin stuff.
The other two players who fit into the ‘big defenseman’ category are invitees Griffin Luce and Noel Hoefenmayer. Both are a bit older at 20 and 21 years old respectively. Griffin Luce looks like an old school big defenseman. As I said above, I think the challenge for this category of player is mobility. Luce is not horribly slow, but at the transition points that are a big challenge for NHL defenseman it takes him a step or two to get going.
Webber’s youth and upside notwithstanding, I actually thought invitee Hoefenmayer looked the best. Partly due to being a bit older, his game is more well-rounded and mature. His 6-1 and 204 pounds is not huge but is bigger for today’s NHL, and I thought his skating to size ratio was better than the rest of the group. He also seemed to have decent puck-handling skills. The Hurricanes did add defensemen in the 2019 NHL draft, but if I had to pick a player who could surprise and win a contract after only one day of practice, it would be Hoefenmayer. Not putting the cart before the horse, more significant will be seeing how he looks in more game-like action.
Thursday’s practices should offer a bit more game-like action and a better ability to evaluate players.
For anyone else who attended, I would love to hear your thoughts on what you saw.