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The New Defense: Part Three

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes

Everything you read in part two of this series about having too many defensemen is all fine and good, except for one problem that has bitten the Canes especially hard in the last few seasons – injuries.  And the flu, but let’s not revisit that mess anymore than we have to.

Paul Branecky
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While it’s basically guaranteed that at least one of the defensemen currently on the Canes' roster will have to miss at least a little bit of time, there’s a reason that extra NHL defenseman is expendable.

That reason is the presence of quality options in Albany that the Hurricanes can summon if the need should ever strike.  Casey Borer, a 23-year-old now entering his second full year as a pro, was impressive in 11 NHL games last season and will be ready again in a pinch.  Brett Carson, who along with Borer and Brandon Sutter was among the final cuts at last year’s training camp, has made a commitment to his fitness and will be in the call-up mix next season.

”Those guys are really just a step away from playing with the Hurricanes,” said Canes GM Jim Rutherford.  “Their development has come on nice, and if one of them had an exceptional camp and deserved to be on the team, we’d figure out a way to get them there.  But realistically, another year in Albany as depth guys who come up and play some games, we’re very comfortable with that, but we project those guys to play with us in the near future.”

Also see: Developing the Defense (926/07)

Carson, although notable at last year’s camp, never got the call from Albany even though the Canes repeatedly found themselves shorthanded on the back end last season.  Easily the biggest pound-for-pound prospect in the Hurricanes system having entered last year’s camp at 6’4” and 220 pounds, he hopes better conditioning will earn him some NHL games this time around.

”For a big guy you’ve still got to be quick out there, so the best way was to drop weight,” said Carson, who along with Borer came down to Raleigh early to participate in Rod Brind’Amour’s informal team skates.  “They told me to drop a little, come down here and work with [Head Trainer] Pete [Friesen] to get my body fat down and my endurance up.”

So far, that seems to be paying off.

“Early indications are that he really paid attention to his fitness this summer, and he’s coming into camp a lot lighter and in a lot better condition, and hopefully that will translate into a good camp for him,” said Assistant GM and Director of Player Development Ron Francis.

While Borer and Carson are likely the top two candidates to be called up right now, there is an interesting dark horse candidate in Bryan Rodney.  Undrafted, unknown and discovered mostly by accident, the Canes are planning to watch him closely in camp.

An offensive defenseman who put up a team-leading six points in Albany’s seven playoff games last spring, Rodney was playing in the ECHL before the flu wiped out half of Albany’s roster, prompting the team to reach out to the nearby Elmira Jackals for help.

He was among the seven players temporarily loaned to Albany in that emergency situation, a single-day record between the AHL and ECHL.  He proved to be more than a fill-in, however, as the River Rats signed him to an AHL contract to finish the season, and the Hurricanes followed suit thereafter.

”Rodney did some really good things down there, so it will be interesting to see how he stacks up at this level,” said Francis.


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