In case you missed it, Canes and Coffee coffee cups are officially for sale. There is also an option to order one now and pick it up at the Caniac Carnival. Details are HERE.
And on the ice, the tail end of Tuesday featured articles on Hudson Elynuik as part of the ‘Back to School’ series, and also notes from the Hurricanes prospects 5-0 win in their finale in Traverse City.
With start of the NHL training camp slated to begin first thing on Friday morning, today’s Daily Cup of Joe is part one of a short series which will preview the Carolina Hurricanes training camp and preseason. Today will start with the basics including schedule, objective and at least a starting point for looking at some of Coach Bill Peters’ roster and lineup decisions.
The Carolina Hurricanes preseason schedule
As noted above, training camp kicks off with practice on Friday and Saturday. In true ‘let’s get started’ NHL training camp fashion, the couple practices are then quickly followed by a run of four days of game action. The Red/White scrimmage is on Sunday and then the Hurricanes play on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
That run of four days will see Peters quickly begin to look at combinations and evaluate the sure NHLers, but that run of four days also represents the small window for the prospects to make an impression. With the NHL regulars only playing at most two of the three games, there is plenty of ice time to go around.
If any of the Canadian junior players are going to surprise and take a run at an NHL job in 2017-18, Monday through Wednesday is their time to shine. Sometime shortly after that will be the first round of cuts that mostly returns the Canadian junior players to their teams.
As a team that has been on the outside looking in for the past eight years, the Hurricanes will not be afforded the luxury of a leisurely training camp that just gradually works up to regular season speed. The sense of urgency is increased further by the fact that one of the Hurricanes’ Achilles’ heels under Peters has been slow starts that mostly sunk seasons before the end of year holidays.
The primary objective is to get the team ready to play and start stronger right out of the gate.
In that regard, one would expect Peters to very quickly transition from giving the younger prospects a turn to focusing nearly exclusively on building the 2017-18 opening day roster and line combinations/defense pairings.
The 2016-17 training camp was a strange one because of the World Cup. Bill Peters and newcomers Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho all arrived late because of their World Cup participation. That forced the schedule a bit, but it is also interesting to note that Peters pretty quickly locked in on forward line combinations for his top three lines and really did not tinker much once he did. If things click early in preseason, we could see the same this time around.
The Carolina Hurricanes roster battles
When General Manager Ron Francis signed Josh Jooris and then Marcus Kruger, the potential roster openings shrunk. The team enters training camp with 13 forwards either on one-way contracts or from the group definitely slated for the NHL. On defense, the team has six defensemen on one-way deals, so similarly, the roster has limited openings.
On the surface, that seems to shift the focus away from players playing to make the team and toward immediately focusing on who plays with whom. But I think there are a couple players who are currently penciled into the lineup who could become vulnerable.
In short here are the battles that I think at least have the potential to emerge:
The final defense slot
The situation: The Hurricanes enter training camp with Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin and Trevor van Riemsdyk all but certain to be in the opening day lineup if they are healthy. In addition, by virtue of the fact that he is on a one-way contract, Klas Dahlbeck is a high probability to either win the sixth and final blue line roster slot or otherwise be the seventh defenseman.
My bet since the beginning of summer is that Francis and Peters hope/expect that Haydn Fleury will be the next young defenseman to win an NHL roster slot. I think he enters training camp penciled into the #6 slot next to Trevor van Riemsdyk. If he falters in training camp, the door opens up for a few other prospects to rise up or for Francis to break down and add one more depth defensemen.
The dark horses: If Fleury does not prove ready, Dahlbeck is the obvious fallback as a player with NHL experience. There really are not any other options with experience which could push Francis to the waiver wire or trade market. As far as young players go, this is the slot that would hold Jake Bean if he rises up early in training camp. My estimation of him from the prospect camp and Traverse City is that his game is actually ready or near-ready in terms of playing with the puck on his stick moving forward. The challenge for him is reaching the point where he is good enough without the puck, skating backward (i.e. playing defense). If Fleury falters and Bean looks better than expected defensively in preseason game action the door cracks open for him to surprise.
An offense-leaning center slot
The situation: With the addition of Marcus Kruger, the Hurricanes became both better and deeper at the center slot and defensively. But at the same time, Francis spent another roster slot on a player who does not scream ‘more scoring!’ That puts even more significance on getting enough offense from players more with that skill set. With Jordan Staal, Victor Rask and Marcus Kruger (if you consider him a third-line center) all below average scoring-wise for their slot, the C3 or C4 slot that I have Derek Ryan penciled into is a critical one.
Ryan actually makes sense as an offensive depth center, and he did provide decent depth scoring at the NHL level in 2016-17. But if his 2016-17 scoring pace is assumed to be the norm, there is upside above what he is expected to provide.
The dark horses: I think the need for more scoring leaves the door cracked open ever so slightly for someone to compete for and steal Ryan’s slot in the lineup. It just takes a young player who looks to have offensive upside over Ryan and the ability to be at least adequate defensively in a role that Peters will be able to shelter fairly well. That opening could be a good fit for Janne Kuokkanen, Nicolas Roy or possibly Warren Foegele is any of those players show well in the early preseason games.
The fourth line wings
The situation: If one calls Kruger the fourth line center (I view it as 3A and 3B.) then I think his two wings could also be vulnerable to losing their spot in the lineup to more scoring upside. My pencil version of the lineup has Kruger flanked by Joakim Nordstrom and Josh Jooris. In addition, all three of those players are likely to be penalty kill regulars.
I have said the bringing both Jooris and Kruger is a pretty strong indication of a strong bias to building a fourth line that is first and foremost safe and sound. Prying one of the wings off that line would require a player to first match the safe and sound and second show potential for greater depth scoring.
The dark horses: First it is important to note that Brock McGinn is also in the mix, but as a player on a one-way contract, I would not consider him to be a dark horse. The players who jump out at me are Warren Foegele, Phil Di Giuseppe and Valentin Zykov. Foegele has demonstrated ability and experience in exactly that role as a checking line forward who can also chip in offensively. I am on record as really liking his potential to grow to become the type of depth forward who is difficult to play against, but most likely he is still a year or two away. But if he pots a couple goals, is part of even more scoring chances and looks sound defensively in the process, perhaps his time table changes. I am on record as liking Phil Di Giuseppe more than most. I just think he brings a physical element coupled with decent defensive acumen and scoring potential hopefully higher than what he did in 2016-17. Zykov is not as pure of a fit as a checking line forward, but just maybe he can climb into this race too.
Handicapping it at a high level
At a basic level, I think that barring injuries that create more openings, I think it is going to be really difficult for any of the dark horses without NHL experience to steal a roster slot. The Jooris and Kruger additions represent a strong vote for proven over potential.
Summary of Hurricanes’ roster battles
#6 defenseman: Penciled in-Haydn Fleury; Plan B-Klas Dahlbeck; Dark horses-Roland McKeown, Jake Bean and the trade market and waiver wire.
Offense-leaning C3: Penciled in-Derek Ryan; Dark horses-Janne Kuokkanen, Nicolas Roy.
Fourth line wings: Penciled in-Joakim Nordstrom and Josh Jooris; Plan B-Brock McGinn; Dark horses-Warren Foegele, Phil Di Giuseppe, Valentin Zykov.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Who else is ordering a coffee cup and possibly picking it up at the Caniac Carnival on Sunday?
2) Do you see any other players penciled into roster slots who could be vulnerable to rising young stars?
3) How do you think the situations above ultimately shake out for the start of the 2017-18 season?