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New Opportunity for New Canes

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
For a pair of new Hurricanes, new surroundings present a common theme that’s been heard throughout the offseason – young players have a great opportunity.

Paul Branecky
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For Jon Matsumoto and Bobby Sanguinetti, draft-day trades from the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, respectively, have given new life to situations that had become somewhat stagnant.  Now part of the Hurricanes’ youth movement, both are hoping for a fresh start and a new chance to show what they can do.

Matsumoto, who will turn 24 in mid-October, has yet to make his NHL debut despite consistent success during three full seasons at the American Hockey League level.  Although he’s coming off back-to-back 60-point seasons in the minors, scoring 59 goals in that span, the writing was on the wall for a young center placed firmly behind the likes of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.

“To be honest, I don’t really think so,” said Matsumoto, a third-round pick of the Flyers in 2006, of whether he feels he’d have a fighting chance to make the 2010-11 Philadelphia squad.  “I think they had their lines set pretty much when the season ended.”

Matsumoto, whose grandparents came to Canada from Japan prior to World War II, said that he wasn’t sure if he ever came close to an NHL recall during his time with the Flyers despite mostly positive reviews from the front office.   He’s also never played in a preseason game, having been slated to do so before struggles from the Flyers’ veterans prompted the organization to give established players more work.  Multiple offers came in from a variety of European leagues (“Too many to count,” he said), but Matsumoto never seriously considered them, preferring instead to try and crack the NHL.

He should have a better chance this season, as Matsumoto is one of a handful of players who will be given chances to earn a spot at center behind mainstays Eric Staal and Brandon Sutter.

“They probably have a criteria of what type of guy they’re looking for to fill those open spots,” he said.  “I played a lot of games against Albany last season, so hopefully I did enough to make an impression.”

Sanguinetti, a 22-year-old first-round pick of the New York Rangers, saw his first five games of NHL action last season in two separate stints.  He admitted to not being totally comfortable at that time, but hopes that he’ll be able to remedy that with the Hurricanes.

“When Tom Renney was there (as head coach), he wanted me to be more defensive and I think my offense dropped off because of it,” said Sanguinetti, who has been a significant point producer throughout his junior and AHL career.  “Here, I’m just going to try to play my game.”

He displayed his offensive touch in Wednesday’s skate at the RecZone, scoring the scrimmage-winning goal for Team LaRose on a nifty breakaway move against Cam Ward.

“I think I’m more of an offensive, power-play guy that’s good with the puck,” he said.

Sanguinetti seemed to have a clear path to a job with the Hurricanes prior to the free-agency re-additions of Anton Babchuk, Brett Carson and Joe Corvo.  He will still be in contention, as Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford has repeatedly stated his belief that the player is very close to being NHL-ready.  If nothing else, he should definitely see games as an injury recall just as he did with the Rangers.

“This team has a lot of very young defensemen, but it’s good to be in a situation where there may be some open spots.”

Asked what it was like learning under notoriously fiery Rangers Head Coach John Tortorella, which could seemingly be quite intimidating for a young player, Sanguinetti only had good things to say.

“He was good with me,” said Sanguinetti.  “He pushes you, but he knew my limit and how to make me into a good player.  Luckily, I wasn’t one of the guys that he pushed really hard.”

In what’s shaping up to be a compelling and competitive training camp from nearly all angles, both Matsumoto and Sanguinetti will be players to watch.

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