If you have not stopped by in a couple days, you can catch up on this short “first impressions” series below:
Part 1 featured veterans Jordan Martinook, Micheal Ferland and Dougie Hamilton.
Part 2 featured remaining veteran newcomers Calvin de Haan, Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe continues on the previous theme and turns to the rookies. Though technically all of the players remaining except Andrei Svechnikov have played for the Hurricanes, they are all still more or less new players still just breaking into the NHL.
As the #2 overall player in the NHL draft, he came with scouting reports from just about everyone who covers the NHL. As such, there was going to be no ‘Wow! He’s good!” type of surprise with Svechnikov, but a few things still jump out in watching him live for preseason and now a handful of NHL games.
First and significantly, past having a great shot, his game and thought process are very mature for figuring out how to make scoring chances both with and without the puck. With the puck, he has demonstrated the ability to generate a good shot even when defended well 1v1 with the ability to change angles/position just slightly at the last second to create a shooting lane often with a screen to boot. Without the puck, he gets that receive/finish type chances are partly about positioning but oftentimes at least equally about timing in terms of stepping into the right place at the right time instead of just waiting and waiting only to be covered.
Second, his passing ability has impressed me. This is not so much a surprise based on scouting reports that had him labeled as a well-rounded offensive player, but I still think he rates a notch or two better than I expected. This bodes well for helping boost an entire line instead of just being the finishing element.
Third, his skating ability and agility in small spaces is impressive. At 18 years old and only 183 pounds, he is still 3-4 years away from true power forward strength. Yet he fares incredibly well playing along the end wall or in tight spaces. The reason is his ability to maneuver quickly and efficiently in small spaces. I encourage people to hone in on his ability to protect the puck in small spaces not so much with strength but rather his ability to quickly generate a small amount of separation by virtue of his feet.
In total, I would say that Svechnikov rates about as expected in terms of looking like a capable 30-goal scorer but also an 18-year old rookie, but the positive upside for me has been how well-rounded and mature his game is offensively besides having a sniper skill set.
Watch point: With Svechnikov, I think it is all about schedule. I like his start, but he is still a long way from his potential ceiling. They for him is to look better in November and then better in December and so on. Canes fans need to look no further than recent players Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm to remember that there is no guarantee or automatic time line for high draftees pushing up to a high ceiling.
The more I watch Wallmark, the more he reminds me of the good version of Victor Rask. He lacks high-end physical ability in terms of speed, acceleration and flashiness. But he thinks the game well in all situations both offensively and defensively. The result is a player whose ceiling is a bit lower than some of the other young stars but also a player who has a high floor because of decent two-way ability.
I think the upside for Wallmark is potentially higher-end finishing ability if paired with wings who advance and pass the puck well. As demonstrated by his strong season in the AHL in 2017-18, Wallmark has decent finishing ability. Maybe more significantly, when appropriate, he is diligent at lurking near or between the face-off circles looking for chances to put the puck on net.
I think in an ideal world, Wallmark is the type of capable player that a skilled lineup keeps trying to push out of the lineup. But because of his all-around ability, he is capable of playing in a variety of situations if needed.
Watch point: I think the burning question for Wallmark is what his ceiling is offensively. The medium version of him is a capable depth forward with better than fourth line offensive ability. That, in itself, is a valuable player to have around. But based on his 17 goals and 55 points in only 45 games at the AHL level in 2017-18, is it possible that he is the kind of new NHL player who converts a fourth line into another offensive weapon?
Of all of the rookies in the lineup, Valentin Zykov has arguably been the most underwhelming thus far. He figured to possibly start the season alongside Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen where he played well late in 2017-18. Instead, he landed on a line with rookie centerman Martin Necas. After a strong preseason that saw him produce from his cubicle at the top of the crease, Zykov was incredibly quiet through two regular season games and found his way to the press box for game 3. I would not say that Zykov was horrible in those two games, but he just was too much of a non-factor.
The sample size is tiny, but also considering his previous play perhaps the early and tentative conclusion is that he is more of a complementary player than one who can thrive in any situation. First off, that is not a horrible thing. The one thing I really like about Zykov’s game is that he 100 percent understands his role, his skill set and his way to make a difference. So just maybe he is not the type of elite player who can just produce regardless of situation but still brings a very defined skill set that Brind’Amour can use as needed to fill holes, jump start the offense or back fill injuries.
Watch point: When Zykov returns to the lineup, I will be watching to see if he can catch a spark in terms of his strength of finishing around the net but also if he can find a way to make more happen in between net front plays.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What, if anything, jumps out about Andrei Svechnikov’s game that maybe you did not expect even with his high ratings on the way in?
2) What do you see as the ceiling for Lucas Wallmark? Is he just a decent serviceable player who can provide solid depth scoring? Or can he be more than that?
3) What do you make of Valentin Zykov’s slow start? Is it very simply just a random two-game sample size, or is there information to be gleaned from his first two games in 2018-19 alongside Martin Necas?
Matt. I was thinking about these three players as well.
1) Svech is an excellent passer.
2) I keep hearing comparisons to Rask. However, when I watched him in four Checkers’ games last season I saw a player who thought the game at a near-elite level. I think Wallmark is a physically less talented Backstrom.
3)Absolutely agree that he Zykov is a complementary player. When used correctly he can be a force in front of the net.
I was thinking about the these three players in relation to the one thing the Canes have done poorly. Yes, even with the great start there has been one obvious problem–the power play. As the season progresses and the Canes face the likes of Winnipeg, Toronto, Tampa, Pittsburgh, Washington, special teams will often decide games. The penalty kill will remain solid as Foegele, Martinook, and Wallmark are great additions. However, the power play needs improved.
A big concern for the first unit was winning the initial face-off. That is why Staal made sense on that unit. Four games in, Aho appears reliable on draws. I would like to see a first unit of Faulk, Teravainen, Aho, Svechnikov, and Zykov. I think trying to set up Svech for one timers on the RW side and having Zykov down low is the best configuration possible for the Canes.
On the second unit I would like to see RBA try Hamilton, Necas, Wallmark, Williams, and Staal. As I mentioned above, Wallmark is one of the best at thinking the game. In Charlotte he helped the power play excel with his ability to quickly choose between a seem pass, skating in to make the defense commit, or a quick shot. His “limitations” are not really an issue on the power play where passing and shooting are more important that pure speed. This configuration is nothing against Ferland or Slavin. I think Ferland’s experience indicates he is not suited for the power play. He did score six PP goals last season but did not have a single assist–most successful players have an even mix.
While the Canes are winning in every other situation, it is a good time to revamp the power play–fix the roof while the sun is out.
I have been positively impressed with Svechnikov as well. I expected a sniper, but he is more than that. Good hockey IQ, good passing skills, and is sturdy against the boards. All signs of a very mature hockey player. Frankly, we haven’t even seen the sniper part of his game yet.
Wallmark is just a good hockey player. His main asset is his hockey IQ. Knows what to do and when to do it. Nothing overly impressive about his physical talents, but you can count on him. That’s the big thing…you can count on him. Rask had his moments, but he also stunk up the joint on occasion. The issue with Rask has been you can’t count on him. Teams need guys like Wallmark. He can hold down the 4C position no problem. But, if you have an injury and you need him to move up a line he won’t be lost. I like him a lot.
Zykov is in a tough spot. He is a player with a specific skill set. In the right situation he could be a productive NHL player. Unfortunately for him, there isn’t a spot for him to do his thing 5 on 5 for the Canes. Could he be successful with Aho/TT? Sure. Would he be better than Ferland? Probably not. The fact that the Necas is a hot mess right now is hurting Zykov and McGinn. They aren’t players that create. They play off of someone else. (PDG has more problems than that) Considering PDG, Zykov should be back in the lineup soon. Maybe he can be of help on the PP, but I don’t expect much from him 5 on 5 considering his situation.
1. Svech came in known as a shooter and a scorer – a sniper who can score from anywhere in the O zone. I will accept that.
It was Svech’s first point (the assist to Martinook) that revealed the breadth of his play and the well-developed skill set already there. It included: (a) a clean takeaway against a veteran forward in the neutral zone; (b) a quick reversal in the direction of the puck off that takeaway; (c) strong movement of the puck on his stick (with confidence) into the offensive zone; (d) a beautiful pass to Martinook.
Svech is the total package.
2. You can evaluate Wallmark as an individual player and see someone close to what you describe, Matt, but it would be Rask at his offensive best (not the Rask of the last two seasons). But Wallmark as the center of the MWS line is an entirely different beast – that line has incredible chemistry with complementary parts. Wallmark is the glue that holds the line together and the driver of it’s goodness. His current value, as center of that line, is much higher than him viewed only as an individual.
3. Zykov was invisible in his two games. He isn’t fast enough to skate with Necas, and those two rookies on that line was not a good fit for either. His value as a net-front presence on the PP means we do need to find a way to get him in the lineup. I could play armchair coach and posit a few ideas but I will let RBA figure that out.
But definitely he has a definite role – and RBA said so during the preseason, complimenting Z on knowing what his role is, putting himself in position to play it, and playing it well.
1. agree on all said above on Svech.. very happy
2. Wally… he is not a fourth line center (they are our third line if you look at the ice time)… or, this is the “new” fourth line that is really good and can score. Wally is smart, steady and I think has had a positive effect on Svech…. and Marty. That is a good line and I love the way RBA is using them (and the other lines).
3. Z…. believe it is more Necas than Z. When Rask comes back you could put Z, Rask, Necas on the wing… I also think Z should be on the PP. His net front presence is missed on the PP.
1. What to say? Svech is ready. Rough game against the Wild with 6 pim but overall Svech ready.
2. I just want to be the biggest sobering thought to come to this particular thread regarding Wallmark… I even saw someone call him a physically challenged Niklas Backstrom?! I will play devil’s advocate and say the player he reminds me the MOST of is Joakim Nordstrom. He’s gonna be a servicable 4th liner – sorry guys. Just like Derek Ryan was a physically challenged Nik Backstrom too … He was pretty solid but lack of acceleration, physicality are a big deal and I can’t see Wallmark ever climb out of the bottom 6 with his physical skills.
3. Zykov really has been pretty rough the first couple games. He got back in tonight against Minnesota and played less than 5 minutes and he got absolutely rocked twice. For me he just seems a step too slow to do anything positive at the moment. Not saying that I think Diguiseppe is good because I think he’s pretty much best suited as a scratch … so i’m kind of hoping the Canes either reach to the minors to bring someone up (Kuok and Roy?) and perhaps switch Necas and Zykov out.