Hello and welcome to a weekly feature on CarolinaHurricanes.com in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully, the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.
Let’s get to it.
Who is the Canes most improved player this season to date? – Doug A. (@dabrams2021)
I really like how much Elias Lindholm has come into his game as of late.
The start of his season was hampered by recurring injuries that began in the summer. But since competing in the World Junior Championship, he has been playing with a renewed sense of confidence. Though his rookie season in total will not be worth a Calder Trophy, there has been a lot to like from the now-19-year-old.
“It’s a big step for kids that age. His maturity level is growing, and he’s getting used to the league and the North American style,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “The biggest thing is that he looks stronger. He’s in better shape, he’s quicker on pucks and he’s a more confident guy making plays right now.”
Lately, Lindholm has seen an elevated role on the team, playing right wing in the top six. Most recently, he and Jeff Skinner have surrounded center Eric Staal on the first line. Though Lindholm figures to be an NHL center in the future, plugging him in on the wing now allows him to ease into the league and focus on the skill plays he can make, rather than having him shoulder the two-way responsibilities a center faces.
That said, Lindholm is already a fantastic two-way player because of the way he sees the ice. And his playmaking skills in the offensive zone – especially working along the goal line on the power play – are fun to watch. Take his no-look, behind-the-back pass to Jay Harrison on the backdoor in overtime on March 4 in San Jose. It was reminiscent of Alexander Semin’s pass to Jiri Tlusty last season that was so deliciously filthy.
“He likes playing with his buddy Skins,” Muller said. “They’re connecting right now. [The line has] the make-up – a power centerman, a playmaker and a goal scorer. That was a big goal last night that they scored that kind of tucked the game away.”
From opening night on Oct. 4 to today in mid-March, Lindholm has certainly made strides as a player who figures to be a key part of the Canes future.
What do you get to do at practice? – Deren W. (@derenwinn)
It’s like a behind-the-scenes featurette, but written.
So, here we go. I usually get to the rink – whether it’s PNC Arena or Raleigh Center Ice – 20 minutes or so before practice is scheduled to begin. Typically you’ll find at least Nathan Gerbe and maybe a goaltender already skating around.
By the time the entire team filters onto the ice, I’ll tweet out who’s not present. This is when some folks will ask me why said players aren’t practicing, but I usually have no further information beyond an educated guess.
During practice, you’ll see a lot of the same or similar drills, like line rushes or special teams work. I’ll usually bring attention to line combinations and defensive pairings, but those can be rather fluid sometime.
After practice, I’ll head down to the locker room for interviews – whether for a day-of practice update I’m writing or a future feature I’m working on – and the coach will address the media, as well. This is when we get the information on why so-and-so was not practicing, which then gets passed along on the Tweety.
Morning skates are basically the condensed version of practice days on the ice and in the room.
That’s basically it. Rinse and repeat for each practice day. And now that I think about it, a behind-the-scenes featurette probably would have been more interesting.
Which potential draft picks do you like the best for 2014? – Doug A. (@dabrams2021)
(A new record: two questions from Doug this week!)
Considering we don’t yet know the Canes’ draft position and there are still three months until the draft, it’s a bit early to be talking potential picks.
But for dialogue’s sake, let’s mull it over. The consensus No. 1 pick heading into this summer is defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who checks in at a solid 6-foot-4, 216 pounds. Defenseman Seth Jones was in a similar position last summer, until he suddenly wasn’t.
Beyond that, this year’s draft pool is much thinner than the star-studded 2013 NHL Draft. A potential top 10 pick worth noting is forward Kasperi Kapanen, son of former Hurricane Sami Kapanen. He measures in at 6-foot-0, 180 pounds, and he was the NHL’s Central Scouting Service’s top-rated European skater in the midterms.
We’ll have much more on the 2014 NHL Draft and potential picks come May and June. As in years past, we will likely profile a potential pick leading up to the draft, and then we’ll be bringing you live coverage from the City of Brotherly Love in late June as the Canes make their picks.
Would you trade a Snack Pack for a banana? – Brant W. (@BrantWSJ)
I said this week’s Tweetmail would be trade free, so inevitably I get a hard-hitting question about a trade.
And the answer is yes. Yes, I would trade a Snack Pack for a banana. I think it’s a fair trade, one that could benefit both parties.
Join me next week for more questions and more answers!
If you have a question you’d like answered, you can reach out to me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes.