It is October yet, indeed, and the eve of the Carolina Hurricanes 2016-17 regular season opener is upon us.
Finally down to their 23-man roster, the Hurricanes practiced at Raleigh Center Ice midday Wednesday before flying out to Winnipeg, the starting point of six straight games on the road to begin the season.
"I think it's a great opportunity to get out on the road and spend some time together as team," head coach Bill Peters said.
"The trip at the start of the season is always big. You want to come off it starting well and feeling good about yourself," Jordan Staal said. "This trip is a big one for us. We want to play well. We need to play well and find a way to get points."
The Hurricanes finalized their 23-man roster on Tuesday afternoon with a final round of cuts and injury designations. The result is a young and talented roster, and there is even more talented looming in Charlotte and in the extra bodies the Hurricanes have taken with them out west.
"We've never been this deep in my time here in Carolina," Peters said. "I like the infusion of skill."
Video: Bill Peters: "I like what management did"
Over the summer, the Hurricanes added Bryan Bickell, Teuvo Teravainen, Lee Stempniak and Viktor Stalberg to their forward corps in hopes of bolstering the team's offensive skill. There's also rookie Sebastian Aho, who forms a threatening offensive trio along with Teravainen and Elias Lindholm.
The Hurricanes are returning five defensemen from last season. Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce are entering their sophomore years, while first-year defenseman Roland McKeown made the 23-man roster out of camp.
Cam Ward and Eddie Lack, both of whom assembled impressive preseason campaigns, will again man the nets for the Hurricanes.
"I'm comfortable with where we're at," Peters said earlier this week. "I thought Roddy, Smitty, Dave and those guys did a great job in preparation here. I liked our preseason. I liked the pace, and I like how hard we've worked."
"You can tell we have a young eagerness in the group. We have more skill and speed," Staal said. "I'm excited about the news guys we have in the group and like the way we're headed."
Video: Jordan Staal: "Need to play well"
While the Hurricanes were trimming their roster, they were also adding pieces.
On Sunday, the team claimed forward Martin Frk on waivers, and he joined the Canes at practice on Tuesday.
"I'm very excited. It's a new challenge," Frk said. "It's a special moment for me, and I'm very happy I can be here with this organization."
When Detroit placed Frk on waivers with the intention of assigning him to the AHL, Andrej Nestrasil reached out to his fellow Czech, who he trained with over the summer in their home country.
"He said, 'OK, I'm going to make the spare bedroom ready for you,'" Frk said. "Apparently it was good luck, I guess."
Video: Martin Frk on joining the Hurricanes
Frk, a second-round pick of Detroit in 2012, scored 27 goals with Grand Rapids in the American Hockey League in 2015-16. The Hurricanes are hoping that offensive production can translate to the NHL Level.
"We want offense throughout the lineup," Peters said. "We'll get a handle on where his game is, and we'll get him up to speed on how we play system-wise. When it's right and fair, we'll get him into the lineup."
"I just want to enjoy it," Frk said of his eventual NHL debut. "I want to make sure I can help the team. For myself, I just want to make sure I don't panic or anything. You just want to do good and enjoy it as much as you can."
The Hurricanes also added a pair of defensemen to their roster, signing Jakub Nakladal on Sunday and claiming Klas Dahlbeck on Tuesday. The moves come on the heels of Ryan Murphy being sidelined for three to four weeks due to a lower-body injury.
"We don't want to be caught short, especially going out on the road to start the year. These two moves today give us more depth," Peters said. "We're not in that situation anymore where we have to force-feed guys into the lineup. Now we can make some intelligent choices, and the guys we bring in are going to be able to help."
Video: Klas Dahlbeck: "Dive right into it"
Dahlbeck joined the Hurricanes at practice on Wednesday and will likely dress for Thursday night's opener in Winnipeg. Nakladal, meanwhile, should meet the team in Vancouver after his immigration gets sorted. The 28-year-old blue liner most recently competed for the Czech national team at the World Cup of Hockey.
"I got to see every game he played. I thought he played real well there. He played valuable minutes," Peters said. "He comes in and gives us depth. He's a big, puck-moving guy."
Eric Staal was the most recent Hurricane to wear the "C," and that fact will remain for the time being. The Canes will not name a new captain, instead opting for multiple alternate captains: Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk will wear A's every game, while Jeff Skinner will sport one at home and Victor Rask will wear one on the road.
"We spent some time in the summer talking about it. What we don't want to do is have that letter be a burden. We've got some guys who are great leaders, more than the four who are wearing letters," Peters said. "It's a young group of leaders that's emerging, and it's time for them to take a step and take over."
The Puck Drops on the Road
Much has been said and written about the beginning of the season, and the Hurricanes are well aware how paramount a good start is to determining their ultimate fate.
It's certainly not easy to hit the road for six straight games, five of which will be played on an extended trip, at the outset of the season. But it's what the Canes are faced with - they know this, and they are ready. Time to drop the puck!
"Good teams find a way to win no matter what," Staal said, "and in the end, that's what we have to do."