For the first time in what feels like eternity, there won’t be a couple of players that the Canes invite to the Traverse City prospects tournament. Instead, there will be a total of nine players invited to the tournament to play for the Hurricanes. That’s an unusual thing for the Hurricanes, who as of the last four or five years have had just a couple of invites. The players not able to join the Hurricanes at prospects camp are any players in Europe or in an NCAA program. This includes players such as: Jack Drury, Jack Lafontaine, Matt Filipe, Max Zimmer, Lenni Killinen, Jesper Sellgren, Eetu Luostarinen, Eetu Makiniemi, Adam Fox, Luke Martin, Jake Kucharski, Luke Stevens, Ville Rasanen, and David Cotton. This is definitely one of the reasons why the Canes had to invite so many players. It’s better that our European players go back to their leagues, though, especially since many of their seasons will be starting around that time. Experience in a men’s league is much more important than a prospects tournament, and will benefit these guys a lot. Let’s break down the roster:
Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, and Jake Bean fill out this group. Necas tore up this tournament last year, and that was before a whole lot of NHL training. He’ll come into this tournament and light it on fire with Svechnikov, and the two could be a dynamic duo on our first line. It’ll be a fun test to see just how good these two will look together in the NHL this season. Bean has participated in two tournaments already, and has been an impact player in both. He hasn’t looked stellar by any means, but he’s been a reliable player on the back end. Bean starts his professional career this season, and this tournament could be a great chance for Mike Vellucci to see where he’s at in his development. I could see him getting some time with a guy like Michael Fora since they’ll be teammates in October.
Veterans is a term used lightly here, but these players have either already had a pro season under their belt, or they’re older than most of the group. Julien Gauthier, Nicolas Roy, Janne Kuokkanen, Aleksi Saarela, and Michael Fora round out this group. This will be Nicolas Roy’s fourth tournament, and he should be another impact player for the Hurricanes. Roy, Gauthier, and Kuokkanen were put on a line for a brief moment last season, and it worked out fairly well. Vellucci may be trying to get that group more time together that way he can use all three on a line this season. If it works out, that line could be dynamite in the tournament. Saarela can always be counted on for some great offensive chances, and he’s another player that’s close to being NHL ready. If he impresses in this tournament, it could be a great preview for his NHL camp. Fora is a player that’s supposed to be a shutdown defenseman, but he can join the rush effectively. If used right, he could be a stable defensive partner for Bean. This group could outperform guys like Necas and Svechnikov mainly due to experience, and that’s okay. It would be great to see some of our AHL guys perform well against prospects. It means that they’re a step above.
The B List Guys
Guys like Stelio Mattheos, Morgan Geekie, Jeremy Helvig, and Cliff Pu are in this tier. All are good prospects, but they don’t have a pro season under their belts. They’re considered pretty solid prospects, and the fact that they’re B tier guys on this roster speaks to the depth that the Hurricanes have in their system. Geekie should be fun to watch. He’s starting his professional career this season, and will be relied upon to do what he does best: put up points. He’s going to make good passes, score goals, and try to impress the coaching staff before training camp. Mattheos should be fun to watch in a bigger role. He was confined to a fourth line role last year, and should be given much more playing time this season. Mattheos is quick, and could be a guy that’s relied on to kill penalties. He’s dangerous on the penalty kill, and could score a shorthanded goal if he gets the chance. Jeremy Helvig is our only goalie prospect attending the tournament this year, which should be great for him. For the past two years, he’s had to be the backup goalie, only getting one start in the process. He’s getting a chance to prove himself this year, which should help the coaches evaluate where he’s at. Then we have the new guy. Cliff Pu, who the Canes acquired just six short days ago, will be making an appearance. I’ll be interested to see where he slots. It’s likely that he plays with AHL players, but who? Will he play on a fast paced line with Geekie and Saarela? That’s my guess, especially since that line would be such a fast line in Charlotte.
C List Guys
Luke Henman and Brendan De Jong are the two guys in this category. Henman is definitely a project, but I’m excited to see how he performs in this tournament. It seems like he got better and better with each game last season, so this tournament could be really valuable experience for him. I expect Henman to play on the fourth line this season, but also to be scratched for a game or two. He’ll still benefit from this training, especially in terms of strength. He’s only 150 pounds, so any type of weight training will benefit him. De Jong will be given a much bigger role this year, and he should do alright with it. He’s gotten better offensively and defensively, and a lot of that has to do with his speed. He’s gotten faster, which means that it’ll be harder for players to get around him. Still, I don’t expect to see a whole lot of things from him since he was such a late pick.
Riley Bruce is the tallest player at camp, towering over our other prospects at 6’7. He’s definitely a shutdown defenseman, and has very little other tools. Skating and offense are a little iffy, and he rarely does anything in the offensive zone. Still, an extra shutdown defenseman on the roster is never a bad thing. The former defenseman for North Bay will be playing for the University of Toronto in the fall.
Theo Calvas is another shutdown defenseman that improved tremendously last season. He’s still not the best offensively, and his skating could use some work, but he’s a reliable defenseman. Not worth a contract, but he’ll have one more OHL season to prove himself.
David Levin is an interesting invite. He was the first overall pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection, but hasn’t been able to be a point per game player for Sudbury. Sudbury is not the best, so it’s likely that he’s capable of much more. Some scouts had him as a late seventh round pick, while others had him being passed up this year. Levin has a lot of potential, and with Sudbury slowly improving, he could be a player to watch next season. He’ll probably get in a game or two, and the Canes will evaluate just how good of a prospect he is.
Mitch Eliot is the one invitee remaining from prospects camp, which is usually a good indicator of a pending contract of some sorts. He’s a solid two way defenseman that is just starting to develop offensively. He may be a bit of a late bloomer, but could be a good AHL player in the future. He does have one year of OHL eligibility, so I could see him using that to develop some more. Still, the Checkers could sign him to an AHL deal and let him play for Florida next season. They liked what they saw from him in camp, so they could be getting some more looks at him.
Maxime Grondin is a player that was passed up in the 2018 draft. He was projected as a very late seventh round pick, and wasn’t selected. He’s more of a two way center capable of chipping in a few points here and there, but hasn’t been given a huge role for Saginaw just yet. He had a good playoffs, with three points in four games. It’s not likely that he’s a huge performer in the tournament, though.
Connor Schlichting just finished up his overage season with the Sarnia Sting. He’s a two way defenseman that’s reliable in all three zones. He won’t score a whole lot, but he can set up plays just fine. He could be looking for an AHL deal for this upcoming season since he hasn’t announced where he’ll be playing next year.
Matthew Struthers is a goal scorer that plays for North Bay. It was a bit surprising that teams passed up on him in this draft, but he should be taken as an overage player next year. The Canes will be using this tournament to get a look into his work ethic, as well as how he performs in games. It’s good to get a look at this guy, he may be worth using a late round pick on next June.
Cedric Ralph is an undersized forward that had a decent season for Guelph. He hasn’t been given a whole lot of opportunities, and hasn’t produced a whole lot at the OHL level. He’s quick, which may be a good asset if the team thinks that he’ll match up well against an opponent.
Mario Culina just finished up his overage season with the Kitchener Rangers. This past season was a good year for him, where he put up career numbers in games played and save percentage. Culina also had a great playoffs, with a .917 in 19 playoff games.
It’s going to be a really fun tournament to watch, and I’m really excited to see which prospect surprises people the most this year! If I were to guess, I’d think that Mattheos will have a surprisingly good tournament. He’ll do well in a larger role this year. We expect Svechnikov and Necas to do well, but I think that Mattheos could have a phenomenal tournament. He’s improved tremendously.