I might/might not write a more detailed version of this an article for individual players but figured I would lead with quick thoughts after 10 games.
Important to note is that the I do not consider 10 games enough to make any kind of final assessment. A good, recent reference point for the need for patience for some players to adjust is Dougie Hamilton. It took Hamilton nearly half a season (and he was pretty bad at times during that acclimation period), but he proved to be worth the wait and played a significant role in the Hurricanes return to the playoffs and general success during his time in a Hurricanes uniform.
But at the same time, I do think 10 games is enough time for a first checkpoint.
He has been phenomenal and would probably be my pick for team MVP through 10 games. He is calm steady and thus far has been clear of any significant bad stretches. At most one can find a goal here or there that maybe he could have had, but if he plays at the same level he has so far or even a notch down, he will continue to be a great addition.
Having played only one start and once in relief, the sample size is a bit small for Raanta. But if one considers the current goalie start split to be more of an old school #1 and backup type split, Raanta deserves credit for doing his job. After a long layoff, he was capable and good enough for a win in his lone start. Obviously, he will not win every start, but being able to jump into action after layoffs and at least give the team a chance is all one can ask.
The positive on Kotkaniemi is that he does look the part of a complementary player capable of meshing on a scoring line being able to match pace, handle the puck and finish some if given the chance. In that regard, he makes the Canes deeper at forward. The downside through 10 games is that so far he does look the part of his 2020-21 self who scored at a 29-point pace. Despite playing primarily with the team’s top scorers and receiving a reasonable helping of power play ice time, Kotkaniemi has two goals and one assist for a 24 point pace. If I want to go half empty, I would say that I do not think he has the scoring instincts of the Canes higher-end scorers which leads to long stretches of quiet. If I want to go half full, I would say that patience is in order because he does seem to fit in okay on a scoring line and just needs to find his groove.
When considering his role as a fourth line center, Derek Stepan has been a solid acquisition. His two goals and one assist are not eye-popping totals, but that is a reasonable scoring pace for a fourth line player who does not see power play ice time. He has also played a role on the penalty kill and just generally been steady. Further, he provides depth if the Hurricanes have an injury at center.
Prior to the start of the season, I identified Ethan Bear as one of the the keys to the Hurricanes’ success in 2021-22 because he was likely to be the fourth Canes defenseman and therefore most directly tasked with filling the gap left by Dougie Hamilton’s departure. Thus far, Bear has been up to the task. His game has been quiet in a good way. He does not figure to replace what Hamilton did offensively, but Bear has filled Hamilton’s slot reasonably well in terms of even strength ice time defensively.
If one defines DeAngelo’s role as that of an offense-leaning third pairing defenseman, Tony DeAngelo has been outstanding thus far. He has five power play assists already manning the point on the first power play unit and has two goals and ten points already in ten games. You cannot ask for more offensively. Defensively DeAngelo has been generally capable and not a noticeable problem which is what one hopes for from a third pairing defenseman. He did struggle in Saturday’s loss stepping up into the top four with Brett Pesce out of the lineup. That suggests that maybe DeAngelo’s ceiling is what he has been thus far as a capable third pairing defenseman. In general, that is fine but does raise the question of how the Hurricanes will get by defensively if any of the top four are out of the lineup for an extended period of time.
Like DeAngelo, I would define Ian Cole’s role as that of a third pairing defenseman but more of the stay-home variety. Thus far, Cole has also been good in his role. Cole has logged penalty kill ice time, plays with a physical edge and has generally stayed out of trouble defensively. As more of a stay-home variety he is also a good complement to DeAngelo who regularly jumps up into the play. Like DeAngelo, I fear that Cole would be overslotted in the top four but is fine in his targeted role so far.
Having just played his first game on Saturday, I will give Smith an incomplete until I see a bit more of him during the regular season.
I have included Jarvis quite a bit in my game notes and will also save him for a separate article.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What are your thoughts so far on the Canes newcomers?
2) Which of these players have made the biggest difference so far?
3) Which do you think are set to find a higher gear with a bit more time to adjust?
Freddie – fantastic. I wasn’t a fan of this signing initially but have very much changed my mind about it. His performance is great but his demeanor on ice and reliability at making key saves at key times even better.
Raanta – a bit highly priced for a true #2 goalie but has done what is expected of a backup so far. Character guy too.
Overpriced at 6 mill, think the Canadiens got the better of that one. Again, not without talent and, yes, let’s give him time to get acclimated but I’m not overly impressed, though the breakaway goal with Aho in that wild home game against Chi was a thing of beauty.
Derek Stepan – for the contract and term a very solid addition to the team, beginning to score more now and looking more comfortable with the team so his point totals might end up looking good for a 4th liner further into the season.
Ethan Bear – pretty neutral on him. Good kid, plays hard, can handle top 4, still has upside, so, yeah, fairly solid.
My favorite addition so far. Pure reclamation project that has turned out to be one of the highest scoring D men in the league throughout 10 games, also plays with an edge and like someone with a thing or two to prove. He’s best suited in a third pairing, and he’s being paid like a third pairing, but for offense the guy has been stellar.
Plays ok, has a bit of an edge, but 3 mill for a pure third pairing guy with limited top 4 potential is a tad bit high I’d say. I don’t think Haakanpa played significantly worse.
There’s a good third pairing guy on a third pairing salary doing his thing. He played great in the pre-season but, like Matt said, not enough info to really make a call on his regular season performance. Good signing.
Since he’s not an acquisition I think he doesn’t fit in here, but great potential!