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Tweetmail No. 71: Defensemen, Size & Stand Outs

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
Michael Smith

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After a week to breathe between the NHL Draft and free agency, Tweetmail returns!

This is 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.

What are the chances Noah Hanifin and Haydn Fleury make the pro roster to start the season? – Jared H. (@Holsty07)

The question of where Noah Hanifin is going to play next season is certainly the inquiry of the week. After all, Hanifin is the Canes’ prized fifth overall pick.

Hanifin has said that he should be making his decision on where he is going to play the 2015-16 within the next few weeks; as an NCAA student-athlete, he is faced with the decision of returning to school or turning pro. It’s either one or the other, and the decision will likely come sooner rather than later.

Should he decide to turn pro, I think there’s a decent chance that he cracks the Hurricanes’ opening night roster.

“It’s unlimited potential there. He’s a big, strong guy who skates well and has a good understanding of the game. I think he has a real bright future,” head coach Bill Peters said of Hanifin on Monday. “We’ll see if we can get him signed here, and then it will be up to him to make the decision of if he’s coming out to try to make our hockey team.”

It’s far from a lock – he’ll have to earn his spot in training camp like all the rest – but he appears to be ready to take the next step in his hockey career.

“It’s obviously a really big transition,” Hanifin said Monday. “When you make the jump to the NHL, it’s a higher level in every aspect of the game. Just mentally, you have to be a lot more focused.”

Haydn Fleury’s situation is a bit different since he’s playing in the Canadian Hockey League and thus cannot play in the American Hockey League unless he turns 20 by Dec. 31 of a given season. Today is actually Fleury’s 19th birthday, so he will be ineligible to play in the AHL in 2015-16. Therefore, he will either make the big squad or return to Red Deer for a fourth season of junior hockey.

So what are the chances he cracks the Canes’ lineup? He has returned to Prospects Development Camp bigger and stronger (6-foot-3, 207 pounds) than he was a year ago, and he’s likely going to make it a tough decision on the coaching staff.

“There is going to be a big push from those younger guys trying to make our team, I know that,” Peters said Tuesday. “That’s their job: to make those decisions hard. I cherish that. I want to be able to be in the position to make hard decisions.”

In your time with the Canes, can you recall a time when the team had more talent among the prospects than now? – Doug A. (@dabrams2021)

I’ll tell you what stands out to me about the group of prospects on the ice this year: size.

From the goaltenders to the defensemen and out, this is a big group of prospects, the biggest I can recall seeing in my time with the Canes.

But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s look at some handy statistics.

  • 2015 skater average: 6' 1.25", 192 lbs.
  • 2015 goalie average: 6' 3.75", 206.25 lbs.
  • 2012 skater average: 6' 0", 177.5 lbs.
  • 2012 goalie average: 6' 1", 193.5 lbs.

Peters sees the same.

“They’re big and strong early. They’re in great shape at this time of year, and it’s only going to get better by the time they come to main camp. It’s impressive. They’re 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and 7.5 percent body fat,” he said Tuesday. “We’re going in the right direction, there’s no question about that.”

Which players have stood out to you so far in Prospects Development Camp? – Andrew C. (@AwaitingAndrew)

I’ll preface this answer by saying I’ve only seen these guys live for a couple of days, and I do not profess to be a preeminent hockey talent evaluator. With that said, here are a few players, in no particular order, who have stood out.

Hanifin and Fleury grab the headlines on defense, but don’t overlook the likes of Jaccob Slavin, Roland McKeown, Tyler Ganly and Josh Wesley, to name a few.

Sergey Tolchinsky makes his residence in Dangle City, obviously. It will be intriguing to see what he can do in training camp.

Erik Karlsson, Sebastian Aho and Gregory Hofmann are accustomed to playing against men in Europe. Keep an eye on Karlsson especially in training camp to see the strides he’s made since being drafted in the summer of 2012.

Drafed in the fourth round, 96th overall, Nicolas Roy will be one to watch in the years to come. He’s already got a large frame – 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds – so it’s fascinating to wonder what sort of player he might transform into over the next few seasons.

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Join me next week for more questions and more answers!

If you have a question you’d like answered or you loved “Inside Out” as much as I did (a lot), you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes (or drop an email here).



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