They may not know if it will be in Carolina, Albany or even Florida of the ECHL, but almost everyone at the Hurricanes’ training camp knows they will be in the playing in the organization one way or another next season.
That can’t be said of 20-year-old Matt Kennedy, who the Canes drafted from the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm in the third year of his draft eligibility last June. Most draft picks from the Canadian junior system are around the age of 18.
In his initial draft year, he said he was slow to adjust to the league, which affected his playing time. In his second year, knee and head injuries prevented him from having the breakout year he was hoping for. Each year, his prospects seemed slim.
”I talked to some people, but I didn’t have high hopes to get drafted my first couple of years,” said Kennedy.
The third time proved to be a charm, as good health, an extra year of development and a more offensive system helped him score 33 goals and 72 points, the latter of which shattered his previous career high of just 22. That caused the Canes, and others, to come knocking.
“This past year I talked to quite a few teams that said they had a lot of interest and were going to look for me if I was still available,” he said. “It was nice to know that all the hard work paid off and that I was going to get the chance to go on and play professionally.”“I’ve made a lot of strides in my game, especially my skating,” he said. “We played a pretty defensive system in my first few years in
The Hurricanes gave him that chance by nabbing him in the fifth round, 131st overall. However, a chance is all they’ve given him for now, as he still needs a professional contract in order to play in the organization. Although he’s older than most recent draft choices, the Canes still retain his rights for the standard two-year period before potentially losing him to unrestricted free agency.
Despite a strong rookie tournament (three goals in four games) and some encouraging words from General Manager Jim Rutherford, Kennedy isn’t taking that contract for granted.
“Right now I’m kind of in a tough spot, but I’m just going to play hard and hopefully earn it,” he said. “I’m not really sure what’s going to happen.”
Kennedy says there’s more to his breakout year than simply being among the older players in the league, as his play has undoubtedly progressed to a higher level.
Guelph and then last year they allowed us to open it up a little bit and I think that really helped my skill development.”
Kennedy, who also has leadership intangibles that the team likes, will have to prove that through the rest of camp and the preseason.
Another scheduling swap – with the “We Love the Hurricanes Luncheon” scheduled for tomorrow, practices begin at
8 a.m. For some reason the veterans (Group A) were originally scheduled for that spot, but they’ve since played the seniority card on poor Kennedy and the rest of Group B. Adjust your plans accordingly.
Also, I wanted to mention that Canadian hockey great Paul Henderson will be making an appearance at the
RBC Center on Wednesday, September 23 at 7 p.m. in an event hosted by the Canadian Expat Network. Tickets are $25 with all proceeds going to charity. For tickets and more information, click here.