When there's a few open or questionable spots on the roster, I'm usually someone who likes to give the younger prospects a chance at the beginning of the year and the Canes have quite a few of those types of players who could make their leap into the NHL this year. I've already discussed Zac Dalpe and Zach Boychuk, both who will likely have a chance to crack the roster out of camp but another guy I would not look past is former third round pick Drayson Bowman. If you remember correctly, he finished last season with the Canes, played 23 games with them...but failed to net a goal in any of them. So why is this guy worth a look? You'll see why....
In those 23 games, Bowman generated 51 chances at even strength (2.21 per game), which is not bad for someone who started 45% of his draws in the offensive zone and played third and fourth line minutes. If you remember my post on scoring chances by line combinations, I wrote that Bowman was very effective when playing on Brandon Sutter and Chad LaRose's line. In fact, that line had the most success out of all of the ones Sutter centered. He also had a positive balanced corsi rating and was a pretty damn good player possession wise. The goals are going to come to him sooner or later if he keeps this up, and I think using that line with him, Sutter and LaRose would be a good idea to start the year.
Of course, there are some down sides to Bowman's game and one of the reasons why he failed to score one goal last year despite playing well territorially is because he didn't shoot enough. He only had 28 shots in those 23 games, so it's clear that he needs to do more to get the puck to the net and create offense. He has a terrific shot but he doesn't use it enough. Most scouting reports have pegged him to be a top-six forward due to his explosive stats in junior hockey but that hasn't translated to the pro level yet, even in the AHL. He has 62 points in 107 games as a member of Albany and Charlotte in the AHL. He's also pretty skinny at 6-1 and 190 lbs., and may need to put on some more weight to consistently play the tough draws that the Canes third line are normally assigned.
Bowman may not have the complete package yet but he was able to stick with the team for the last couple months of the season and despite what his boxcar stats say, he did not play bad at all. He wasn't completely dominated like Dalpe was last year and he did not struggle as much as Boychuk did. Bowman was able to hold his own and get the puck moving in the right direction, so I think he should have a chance to make the roster at the start of the year. There are a few spots that are up for grabs (one of the wings on the third line being one of them), so I believe that Bowman will get his chance in the next month or so, especially since he proved that he can work well with some players already on the team. Like I said, I usually prefer to go with the younger player in these situations because we don't know if the team is going to compete this year or not, so giving a guy with a decent upside some ice-time to start the year would be a good idea. That said, he's only 21 so there's still time for him to develop if he doesn't impress in camp or needs more time to work on his game in the AHL.