The biggest change since then is that Noah Hanifin is no longer playing due to an injury sustained in the Team USA camp a few weeks back. He is still expected to be ready for the NHL training camp next week, but his loss for Traverse City obviously impacts the Canes prospect team.
Tonight at 7:30pm, the Carolina Hurricanes prospects will play their 1st of 4 games over 5 days. The tournament will give the coaching staff a chance to see many of the team’s younger prospects in game situations against similar age, similar pedigree competition. The tourney should be incredibly valuable for new AHL coach Mark Morris who was signed to replace Jeff Daniels with the AHL Charlotte Checkers. That will be the next development stop for many of the players on the Traverse City roster.
Aside from the development aspect at an aggregate level for the team, this tournament can be incredibly important for the individual players. Players making 2nd or 3rd appearances like Brock McGinn, Sergey Tolchinsky and others will be looking to stand above the 18-20-year old crowd and build momentum for playing against NHLers next week with the hope of impressing enough to do it longer-term. The newer prospects will be looking to make a strong impression and increase their standing on the organizational depth chart that looks forward a couple years.
For the Carolina Hurricanes, the Traverse City tournament has served as a powerful launching platform for players not really on the NHL radar entering the summer to rise up and ultimately win NHL roster spots.
Josef Vasicek was the 1st such player. After being drafted out of Europe in 1998, he played 2 years of Canadian juniors and was expected to play in the IHL for the 2000-01 season. He had a strong Traverse City tournament and then was able to extend the run to training camp against greater competition. When summer ended and real hockey started in October, Josef Vasicek had risen from not even on the radar in July to winning the 3rd-line center slot for opening night.
Players like Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner were likely headed for strong NHL consideration anyway because of their high draft pedigree, but the ability to get some real games in BEFORE training camp has to be a positive especially for young players who need to make an impression early in camp. Justin Faulk is another higher-tier prospect who used a combination of Traverse City and a strong training camp to get to Raleigh ahead of the expected schedule.
And finally, one needs to look no farther than last summer to find the most recent prospect who was mostly off the radar who used the Traverse City tournament as a springboard into training camp and a push to win an NHL roster spot. Victor Rask entered last summer in a pretty similar spot as Josef Vasicek from years past. He was making progress with his development but mostly thought to be another year away from the NHL level. In Traverse City, he gained attention when he was one of the Canes best players in the tourney. He rode that momentum right into the NHL training camp and never looked back. When all was said and done, Victor Rask won the 3rd-line center slot much like Josef Vasicek some dozen years earlier.
So while it will be interesting to watch players like Haydn Fleury and maybe Brock McGinn who are already expected to be in the mix for NHL roster slots, it could be even more interesting to watch to see if someone again vaults up the depth chart over the next 5 days. It is difficult to predict who it could be, but if you want to try to parallel the 2 primary successes (Vasicek and Rask), Lucas Wallmark jumps out. He is a mid-round European draftee from 2014. And if Peters wants to go Staal/Staal on his 1st line, that could open up the 3rd-line center slot that seems to be the favorite to be populated from Traverse City success.
Regardless, it will be interesting to a ‘similar competition’ read on the pool of Canes prospects since many are coming from different directions/leagues.
Players to watch:
–Brock McGinn. As an older player and veteran, one would hope that he stands out in this tourney.
–Haydn Fleury. Especially with Hanifin’s injury setback, this is Fleury’s time to put his chips on the table for claiming an NHL roster spot.
–Lucas Wallmark. He seems to be off the NHL radar as of now. He is also a mid-round pick and decent all-around European center – sounds eerily like Vasicek and Rask.
–Sergey Tolchinsky. Because the highlight reel goals.
–Trevor Carrick. Hanifin and Fleury have all of the buzz, but Carrick is the most experienced (at least AHL level) of the prospects who could compete for an NHL slot and could therefore establish himself as a frontrunner with strong play in Traverse City.
If you want to track the tourney, I recommend following @MSmithCanes. Michael is a web/social media person for the Canes and is in Traverse City to provide coverage.