It was a great September day for hockey at PNC Arena, as the Carolina Hurricanes held their annual Caniac Carnival, the keynote feature of which was the Red-White scrimmage.
Here are eight observations from the third day of on-ice camp activity.
1. Vets Skate Early
Many of the players that will dress on Oct. 8 in Nashville skated in a practice early this morning, as the Red-White scrimmage was utilized primarily to evaluate some of the organization’s younger talent.
It was an energetic, battling practice that should lead the group nicely into the beginning of the exhibition schedule on Monday.
Among those skating this morning was forward Joakim Nordstrom, who just arrived in Raleigh yesterday after being acquired by the Canes on Sept. 11. We’ll get our first look at No. 42 in game action either Monday or Tuesday night.
2. NHLers Stand Out
Though the Red-White scrimmage mostly featured younger prospects, there was a handful with NHL experience sprinkled in to the mix, including Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm and Andrej Nestrasil, among others.
At one point, Lindholm found himself surrounded by a couple of skaters, but he was able to twirl right out of harm’s way before dishing the puck off. Subtle plays like this were noticeable from the guys that have seen time with the big club, as expected.
“There was one shift that Rask line dominated down low, and they should have. They should dominate at that stage in the game, and they did,” head coach Bill Peters said. “I thought some other guys stepped it up from that point on. I thought it was very good, and I thought there was some good intensity. There were some guys on the body.”
“I’m actually glad that I got to play in this scrimmage,” Nestrasil said. “Practicing and playing games is something completely different, so I was really glad I could play and get in the pace.”
3. A Full 60
Going from two days of practice right into what was essentially a full hockey game had to be somewhat of a challenge, but the players responded well to the jump in intensity.
“I thought it was a good scrimmage. I thought the D was good. There was a lot of puck movement,” Peters said. “I’ve liked all three days, and today was no different.”
The pace of the scrimmage in the first period was solid, but it dropped off a bit as time wore on.
“That’s to be expected,” Peters said. “I thought the guys played well, sharing the puck and moving the puck. I thought there was flow back and forth. I liked what I saw.”
Canes Insider panelist Shane Willis noted that it had to be somewhat difficult to generate much against a team that was executing the exact same system. Noah Hanifin agreed to an extent.
“It is a little tough because they know what you’re going to do, but at the same time, it’s just hockey,” he said. “You have to use your abilities and hockey senses to play out here. I think that’s what the coaches were looking for.”
4. First “Game Action” for Hanifin
Other than on tape and in Prospects Development Camp, Peters had not seen fifth-overall pick Noah Hanifin play in a live game situation. That was rectified today, and Peters liked what he saw.
Hanifin scored in the first period to tie the scrimmage at one, as he rushed into the zone, dropped the puck off and drove the front of the net to cash in on the doorstep.
“I liked him a lot. He made real smart plays, and obviously made a real good play on the goal,” Peters said. “Real subtle, smart plays.”
Hanifin had been itching to get into a game situation. Today was the first step, and he’ll see preseason action in the coming days.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve played a fast-tempo game,” he said. “For only being in camp for a few days, I thought the systems were fairly decent. Just playing that one game is definitely getting me more excited for what’s ahead.”
And even though today might have been a friendly, intra-squad scrimmage, it’s still hockey and it’s still training camp, which means competition doesn’t take a back seat.
“We’re all buddies, but when it’s inside the glass, no one is really friends,” Hanifin said. “We’re all here competing to prove we’re worthy for a job to play for this team.”
5. Beautiful Chaos of 3-on-3
The Red-White scrimmage was going to end with five full minutes of 3-on-3 regardless of the score at the end of regulation. As it turned out, the extra time was needed to decide what was a 3-3 tie after 60 minutes.
Nicolas Roy fed Brendan Woods on an odd-man rush to (technically) win the game 4-3 for Team White. Though the overtime period wasn’t as up-and-down as we’ve seen before – fatigue can be to blame for that – there remains a certain beautiful and unpredictable chaotic nature about 3-on-3.
“I think it’s going to be real dynamic once we get it going. I think the kids were tired here today, so you didn’t see as much up and down,” Peters said. “We’ll come up with some ideas, try to implement them and tweak it as we go.”
“There’s going to be a lot of odd-man rushes,” Hanifin said. “If there is a mistake or a shot misses wide, there’s going to be a breakaway or 2-on-1 going the other way. At that point, you’re just playing hockey and trying to execute.”
6. Cuts Made
The Hurricanes trimmed their camp roster by eight players after Sunday’s scrimmage to bring their total to 49 before they hit the road for their first pair of preseason match-ups. Forwards Clark Bishop, Steven Lorentz, Niki Petti, Nicolas Roy and Spencer Smallman; defensemen Kyle Jenkins and Josh Wesley; and goaltender Callum Booth all will now join their respective junior clubs.
“The young guys now that we’re sending back to junior say they feel so much better now than they did a year ago. They’re not so overwhelmed. They’re bigger and stronger and know what to expect,” Peters said. “It’s a much higher-paced game.”
The Hurricanes will essentially carry two groups of players for the next week before again trimming their roster.
7. Preseason Up Next
The Canes’ six-game exhibition schedule begins on Monday, as they take on the Capitals in Washington. Tuesday, the team will face the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
“We’ll take two groups out on the road,” Peters said. “One group is going to play tomorrow, and the other group is going to practice. We’re going to reverse the itinerary the next day so no one has to play back-to-back. It’s going to set up well.”
8. Putting the "Caniac" in Caniac Carnival
I would be remiss if I wrapped this analysis up without mentioning the superb crowd that came out to today’s 16th annual Caniac Carnival. It was a beautiful September Sunday, and more than 7,500 fans took in today’s events both inside and out. Thanks to all who made it out to PNC Arena, and we’ll see you all very soon for the home opener on 10-10-15!
is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.Email