The offseason is officially drawing to a close.
On Monday, Hurricanes players and prospects gathered at the RecZone in Raleigh for the first official day of informal, player-led practices that have come to be known as “Camp Brind’Amour” in recent years.
While the traditional organizer of the event was spotted in the facility’s weight room, which should not come as any kind of surprise, he did not take the ice with the rest of the group. In his stead, a pair of veteran players in Erik Cole and Chad LaRose
took charge of the skate, delivering drill instructions to the rest of the group.
“There’s nobody left to do it,” said Cole, who at 31 is now the team’s third-oldest player behind Joe Corvo and Sergei Samsonov. “It’s kind of an eerie feeling. Roddy was even chirping me about it.”
By all accounts, turnout at the first day was higher than expected, with 15 players participating. In addition to sure-fire Hurricanes like Cole, Corvo, LaRose, Samsonov, Jamie McBain
, Justin Peters
and Cam Ward
, roster hopefuls Brett Carson, Zac Dalpe
, Patrick Dwyer
, Matt Kennedy, Kyle Lawson
, Jon Matsumoto, Bryan Rodney and Bobby Sanguinetti
also took part.
Cole called that group the largest he’s seen on the first day of informal practices since his rookie year in 2001, when he admitted to staying at the back of the line, keeping his mouth shut and simply doing whatever the likes of Brind’Amour and Martin Gelinas told him to.
“It was a little bit of a shocker,” said Cole, who attributed the number of young players and open roster spots to the increase.
However, not all of the attendance can be chalked up to youthful exuberance alone.
“If I was a rookie and Ron Francis called me and said I should probably show up, I don’t think I’m saying no,” said Cole. “I didn’t even say no to (Head Trainer) Pete Friesen.”
Here are some tidbits from the first day. Skates take place all week long, so stay tuned for more.
• Forward Jiri Tlusty
was in the weight room, but cannot return to the ice for another three weeks due to offseason knee surgery to correct a torn ACL. Tlusty, who spent his summer back home in the Czech Republic and vacationing in Egypt, said that he suffered the injury in the first game of Albany’s second-round playoff series against Hershey, and is about three and a half months into his rehab. He’s hoping to be ready for the start of training camp, but it will be close. Healthy or not, Tlusty is a strong bet to start the season in Carolina, as he would need to clear waivers for an assignment to Charlotte.
• The same could be said of Carson, who endured a bit of an awkward summer as the Hurricanes surprisingly did not make him a qualifying offer before July 1, making him an unrestricted free agent. However, the 6-foot-4 defenseman spurned subsequent interest from other teams to sign a one-year deal with the Hurricanes just three weeks later.
“It’s just part of the business,” said Carson. “I thought it would just be the normal qualifying offer and then we’d agree on a deal, so there were some nervous moments, especially being young where you’ve still got to establish yourself as a full-time NHL player.”
While Carson is on a two-way contract that would pay him less at the AHL level, like Tlusty, he would need to clear waivers in order to get there. That seemingly puts him in the running for a spot on the NHL blue line.
“I know where I am on the depth chart, but I’m going to fight for that sixth or seventh spot on defense and show them that I belong,” he said.
• Probably the most wide-open spots on the opening night roster will be that of the third- and fourth-line center. Of those in attendance on day one, Dalpe, Dwyer and Matsumoto are expected to be in that mix along with Riley Nash
and Jeff Skinner
Dalpe, who at 20 years of age is still working to get stronger and more explosive, is looking forward to the opportunity.
“That’s the nature of it all,” he said. “You’re teammates but you want to play every night. I’m no stranger to having a competitive nature, that’s for sure.”
To this point the Hurricanes have been grooming Dalpe for a role at center ice, as he impressively manned that position in his professional debut with Albany at the end of last season, when he scored five goals in his first five games. However, the more recent additions of fellow centers Nash and Skinner have created more of a crowd, leading to the possibility that one or more of them could move to the wing.
If that ends up happening with Dalpe, he would take no issue.
“I’ll play anywhere,” he said.