The 2013 NHL season is all but ready to get off and running after an extremely long wait. There is just one more business that needs to be taken care of before we get things rolling; training camp. Teams will only have a week to get every player in shape and prepare their rosters for the upcoming season, so things are going to be even more intense than usual. Carolina's training camp will be very critical since this is Kirk Muller's first "full" season as a head coach and a rushed training camp with no pre-season could be very tough on the new players who have yet to learn his system. Training camps should be fun to watch and it will be interesting to see who makes the team because anything can happen in the span of a week with everyone giving it their all.
Carolina released their training camp roster last night and there were six players from the Charlotte Checkers invited. The players are; Zach Boychuk, Jeremy Welsh, Drayson Bowman, Tim Wallace, Bobby Sanguinetti and Dan Ellis. Boychuk and Bowman will likely be competing for roles in the top-six with Tuomo Ruutu's injury opening up a spot there. Boychuk leads the Checkers in goals and points with 16 and 32 respectively and Bowman is close behind with 14 goals, although his overall total is boosted from a strong month of October when he was scoring on over 30% of the shots he took. He has cooled down since then. Still, Bowman was technically never "sent down" to the minors before the lockout and Muller used him in a top-nine role with the Canes for most of last season. It seemed like he was going to make the team regardless. Boychuk, on the other hand, has something to prove this year and will hopefully make a lasting impression on the coaching staff in a good way unlike last year.
Welsh is an interesting choice since he has only 13 points in 37 games, but let's remember that the team needs a third line center and Welsh fits the mold for that. The third line doesn't exactly need to be a shutdown unit now that Jordan Staal is on the team, but most teams like to have a bigger body centering their third line and Welsh can potentially give them that. Zac Dalpe was another player who many expected to get an invite but he is staying in Charlotte for now. It's kind of surprising when you consider how well he is playing there and that he is a natural center who can play on the third line. Dalpe will get his shot sometime during the year, I believe. He's playing too well to not at least deserve another look.
As for Wallace, he will be competing for a fourth line spot with Anthony Stewart, Andreas Nodl and possibly Tim Brent. He was signed to a two-way deal in the off-season and has spent most of his career in the AHL and is more known for his forechecking and physical play at the NHL level. Wallace's 16 points in 37 games with Charlotte aren't terribly impressive, but he likely isn't going to be used in an offensive role if the Hurricanes decide to keep him. I could see him earning a spot on the fourth line out of camp, as that unit wasn't very good for the Hurricanes last year and Wallace's underlying stats aren't that bad (although they aren't good either). Carolina usually doesn't drown their fourth line in defensive zone starts, so it might be interesting to see if Wallace plays better territorially with sheltered minutes.
GM Jim Rutherford stated that he would be surprised if Bobby Sanguinetti doesn't make the team, and I tend to agree with that. He was playing well in Charlotte and can't return there without passing through waivers first, and while I don't think teams will be chomping at the bit to claim him, that's a risk the Canes probably don't want to take. Sanguinetti can be useful as a seventh defenseman and the job is probably his as long as he isn't awful in training camp. Although, things may change if Ryan Murphy is also impressive in camp. It was a bit of a shocker that he was invited after his performance for Team Canada at the World Juniors but the Canes want to get another look at him. He made the team out of camp last season but didn't play in any games, so it's possible that he could see some action this year but I doubt Carolina keeps him past the six-game limit. If Murphy is a third-pairing defenseman, it doesn't make much sense to burn a year of his entry-level contract.
Dan Ellis will likely be the back-up goalie with Justin Peters staying in Charlotte. This is the safe move for now because Ellis has played really well for the Checkers all season while Peters struggled until his last few starts. Peters is also on a two-way deal and can be called up without needing to pass through waivers. Which means that if Ellis plays poorly then the Canes can call-up Peters if needed. The only problem is that they risk losing Ellis to waivers but that doesn't mean much if he isn't performing well in the NHL.
Later, we will talk about some of the position battles and questions the Hurricanes will be facing during training camp.