With training camp being just around the corner and players are already beginning practice, I think it's just about time to get excited for the start of another NHL season. This is a pretty big camp coming up for the Hurricanes because there are a lot of roster spots up for grabs and there's a few prospects who could really impress the coaching staff and make the team straight out of camp like Jeff Skinner did last year. There are no prospects in camp of Skinner's magnitude, but there's a lot of promising names within Carolina's organization who will have a chance to make the roster to start this season. There are also a lot of things I'm curious about regarding some veterans and how the team will look come October.
My Biggest Questions:
Who plays the wings on Staal's line?
My assumption here is that Maurice will keep the Jokinen-Ruutu-Skinner line together after how successful they were last season and let the others have a chance to play on the first line. What troubles me is that I'm not sure if we have that many first-line quality wingers on the roster. We have a potential first liner in Zach Boychuk, who I would personally like to see get a look and Alexei Ponikarovsky, who was a first line winger on the Leafs two years ago so I'd have to believe that these two would be considered.
Give the younger players a chance?
There are a few spots in the bottom-six up for grabs and players like Drayson Bowman and Jerome Samson played well in those roles at the end of last season but the Canes also signed Anthony Stewart to a two-year deal, so he is equally as likely to get a roster spot, as well. I've already examined Stewart's game and it doesn't look like he is good enough defensively to play in this role but the team would not sign a player to a two-year deal only to have him sit in the press-box so I think he will get a look before Bowman or Samson, even though I would prefer to have Bowman play over him.
What will we do with Zac Dalpe?
Next to Ryan Murphy, Dalpe is the team's best prospect and is almost 22 so his leap to the NHL will come soon and he's got a good chance of making the roster right out of camp this year based on our forward depth. He did that last year but struggled at the NHL level because he was stuck playing fourth-line minutes and that isn't the best for his development. Thus, sending him back to Charlotte where he will get top-six minutes was the better call. He's a natural center but can also play wing so let's say that he's the most impressive player in camp but Boychuk is also impressive. Do we give him a shot on the first line with Staal? Use him to fill the third line winger spot? Or stick him on the fourth line where he can play center? I'm hoping the latter does not happen.
Possible dark horses?
What prospects which we have not talked about could make the team? Guys like Riley Nash, Mattias Lindstrom, Justin Faulk, Justin Shugg, Cedric McNicoll and many others will also be at camp and will have their shot to crack the roster. There's always a few players who most would not expect to make an impact do so in training camp and I'm curious to see if there are any on the Canes this year.
How will Bryan Allen look?
His play last season tells me he is on the decline, which is what is expected from a player coming off a knee injury. What kind of shape will he be in camp and is he still a top-four defenseman? That could be something that drastically effects the Canes roster next season.
What will the third defense pair be?
Pitkanen, Kaberle, Gleason, McBain and Alllen will probably be locks to make the roster so that leaves Jay Harrison and Derek Joslin fighting for one roster spot. Harrison played well against weak competition while Joslin appears to be more versatile but is not as defensively sound as Harrison. Which one of these two gets the spot on the third pair to start the season? Who will play more games this season?
What questions do you have?