If you have been away from Canes hockey for the week, here are the articles so far on the 2018 Carolina Hurricanes Prospect Camp:
Once the week wraps up, I will put together a bit more of an organized report with an assessment of most if not all of the players.
Until then, here is a collection of notes spanning the Thursday morning split practices (only caught half of the first one), Thursday evening and Friday morning.
Martin Necas in a league of his own skating-wise
Necas continues to have a strong camp. He especially shined a pair of battle type drills in small spaces on Friday. One goal featured 2-on-2 battles from the end wall up to the face-off circles. The other saw mostly 2-on-2 battles on a short rink inside the neutral zone. Necas’ ability to use his skating to make space, separate and gain an advantage in such a small area was stunning. I have taken to calling him “swoops” with my kids in reference to his ability to turn sharply and seemingly start to accelerate while still turning. The result is ability to change direction, cover a bunch of ice in a hurry and create space away from a defender.
On another topic, Necas and Michael Fora were the last two off the ice after Friday’s practice with Jack Drury also part of their group and leaving a couple minutes earlier. While some of the players mostly mull around in that post-practice time, Necas was hard at working taking slap shot after slap shot. Last summer, he rated way ahead of schedule for skating and playmaking but not nearly as far ahead as a finisher. So it will be interesting to see if this is a part of his game that he has been working on and what level of gains he has made in a year.
Adam Fox and Jake Bean
Whereas there is usually a gap skill-wise between skilled forwards and most defensemen in stick-handling drills like the set from Thursday morning’s practice. But both Jake Bean and Adam Fox are head and shoulders above the rest of the defensemen in terms of puck skills and can play more like another skilled forward in the 2-on-2 type drills. A huge watch point for me on Saturday will be how they hold up defensively.
As I said on Twitter shortly after Friday’s practice ended, I was curious to see how he looked. He had a tough 2017-18 season losing the starting job and the University of Michigan. Then to further derail him, Michigan has a highly-touted freshman coming in next season. So sandwiched between a veteran who won the starting job and another challenge from the freshman, LaFontaine left Michigan at the end of the season and is downshifting to play in the BCHL in 2018-19. The shorter version is that 2017-18 for LaFontaine was light on ice time and progress. So I wanted to get a read on him this week. The short version is that he seems very much the same as last summer in a good way. He still rates high for athleticism, and he is easily the most active and vocal of the young goalies constantly directing and informing the team mates in front of him.
He did not stand out to me on Wednesday or really Thursday, but he rose up in Friday morning’s package. He looked good in the compete drills and netted more than his fair share of goals including a pretty behind the back/between the legs highlight reel goal. He and Killinen both differ from Aho and Teravainen in that they have more of a power forward type build.
Pick 1 – the later drafted defensemen
Subject to change with Saturday’s game action which rates higher for evaluating players, of the group of later-round defenseman, Jesper Sellgren impresses me as having the greatest NHL chances. He skates well which is a good starting point. By no means can you make a final fall on a player at age 19, but I just do not see the NHL upside in Ville Rasanen so far this week. Finally, Brendan De Jong is an interesting case. His size and reach obviously help, but for me his skating is a mixed bag. He seems to have decent acceleration moving forward, but his transitions can be slow enough to cost him, and he sometimes has trouble matching speed coming at him.
Pick 1 – the big forwards who can skate
The team also has a group of mostly NCAA forwards who when drafted fit roughly under the title of “big kids who can skate”. That group includes Max Zimmer, Luke Stevens, Matt Filipe and David Cotton. More recently the team reached to the WHL for similar in Stelio Mattheos. Of that group and from this week’s viewings, I would take Stelio Mattheos. As older prospects for this camp anyway, the NCAA group just does not wow me. Mattheos would probably rank highest for players who rate different skill-wise than where I left off after watching them last summer. He has shown a bit more skill and finish than I remember from last year.
What say you Canes fans?
Was anyone else there on Thursday or Friday who has observations to share?