With the 2014 NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City in the books and training camp slated to begin on-ice in mere days, now seems like the perfect time to empty the notebook, so to speak.
The Carolina Hurricanes won two of their four games in the Prospects Tournament, finishing fourth overall.
“It’s always interesting to see them a year later and see how they progressed, and certainly there are a few guys that have caught the eye and have taken that next step, which is good to see,” General Manager Ron Francis said of the returning players in the tournament. “It’s kind of baptism by fire for our new draft picks, but I think they’ve handled themselves well in a pretty tough few games here. Overall, it’s been very positive.”
Victor Rask has to be one of those standouts, as the third-year tournament veteran led all skaters in points with nine (4g, 5a), including a two-goal effort versus New York on Monday and a two-assist night against Detroit on Tuesday.
“It’s a great tournament. Any time you can get eight teams under one roof is fantastic. You’re going back and forth from rink to rink. It’s outstanding. There’s a real high talent level, and every year the kids seem to get bigger, stronger, quicker, faster and more mature,” head coach Bill Peters said. “You’ve got good athletes coming in, and now it’s all about finding out how they fit into your program.”
That decision-making process will be explored further as training camp opens this week, and much of the Traverse City group will be headed back to Raleigh.
“For some it may be tiring playing four (games) in five (days) before heading into our camp. But what’s great here is that they’re all playing against their peers,” Francis said. “It’s really good competition for them, and it gets their feet wet as far as the pace of the game. It may be a little quicker than it was for some of the guys in junior last year and maybe prepare them somewhat for the even quicker pace they’re going to see later in the week.”
The NHL announced a host of rule changes last week, including barring the spin-o-rama in shootouts, instituting a disciplinary system for repeat diving offenders and ever-so-slightly tweaking overtime and the shootout, among others.
One of the rule changes fans may notice as soon as they see the ice sheet is that the trapezoid behind the net has been extended two feet on either side of the goal posts, enlarging the area in which the goaltender can play the puck behind the net.
“We’ll need to wait and see,” goaltending coach David Marcoux said of the potential effect the change will have. “We’re trying different things. It’s good for the game of hockey. The object is to keep the players on the ice healthy and protect the defensemen going back there. It’s not an easy thing to do, going back in that area with forecheckers coming full speed.”
Another on-ice line alteration will be tested out in the preseason and may be continued into the 2014-15 regular season, like hybrid icing’s implementation last year: the hash marks on the ends of the faceoff circles will be moved from three feet apart to five feet, seven inches apart, which is the international standard.
“That’s a huge change,” Peters said. “That’s going to make an impact on the game.”
During their time in Traverse City, Peters and other NHL head coaches met with the league to discuss the new changes.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what the dialogue ends up being and the feedback from the league,” he said. “I think the changes are good, and they’re going to make the game better and more enjoyable.”
The Hurricanes released the 51-man roster for their training camp, which is set to begin on-ice on Friday.
The camp roster, which features 28 forwards, 18 defensemen and five goaltenders, is devoid of players on professional tryouts; recall last season, forward Radek Dvorak was brought into camp on a tryout basis and was ultimately signed to a one-year contract.
“We’ve looked at a few things and talked about a few things, but there’s nothing there that really makes sense for us at this point,” Francis said. “I think it’s also important for us to have some of those spots open for our young guys to fight for; we’ve had some guys spend some time in Charlotte, and we’ll give them that opportunity to come in and show us what they can do.”
We’ll have our extensive preview of camp hit the site on Thursday.