After a week of watching the prospects go through drills, the Hurricanes held a mini-scrimmage and skills competition today to end development camp. The practices were a good way to get to know what some of the player's strengths were, but actually getting to see them play a game will give us a better idea of how they can perform in higher pressure situation, even if this was only a mini-scrimmage. It was a lot of fun to watch and gave fans a glimpse at some players who may don a Hurricanes sweater in a few years. The scrimmage featured two full periods of play, one five-on-five and the other four-on-four, followed by some power play work and a shootout at the end.
The Red Team ended up getting the win in the shootout with winger Sergey Tolchinsky scoring two goals and defenseman Trevor Carrick getting the game tying goal late in the "second period." Victor Rask and Brendan Woods would score in the shoot out to clinch the victory. Scoring for the White Team were defenseman Ryan Murphy, forward Brent Pedersen and camp invitee Brandon Shea. The Red Team carried the play for most of the five-on-five session and forced goaltender Collin Olson to do a lot of work early on. I was actually surprised that the first period ended up tied with how much the Red Team had possession.
Tolchinksy definitely stole the show, as both goals he scored were very slick and gave fans a great look at the type of skill he possesses. As an undrafted player, there wasn't a lot expected from him, but the 18-year-old has really made a great impression for himself this past week. He has been one of the best skaters in camp and has really dazzled with his moves in the shootout drills. Seeing what he can do in a game-like setting really put his talent on full display, as he was arguably the most impressive player on the ice.
He always seemed to have the puck and was able to use his agility to evade defenders or make good passes when playing in his own zone. He also found the back of the net twice, both coming off quick wrist shots and the second one coming after he stickhandled his way through a couple of defenders to get himself in a position to score. He's a small player at only 5'8" and 160 lbs., so that poses some questions about his future in the NHL but it's pretty clear that this kid can play. Tolchinsky's made a great impression in this camp and would be a nice addition to the Canes prospect pool if they choose to sign him.
Tolchinksy would get "first star" honors here, but there were a few other notables during the scrimmage today. Here are some players that stood out to me:
- Ryan Murphy is quite a thrill to watch when he is on his game. It really looks like he has gotten smarter with controlling his speed and knowing what to do with the puck instead of opting for a risky play. When he was put under pressure, he skated himself out of trouble or reversed the play to his defense partner instead of making a bad play with the puck. He also jumped into the play a lot, as expected, and was able to score a goal and set up Pedersen for another. He was everywhere during the four-on-four drill and looks like he can be a really dynamic player. The only thing that worries me is that he had trouble playing away from the puck and fighting off opposing forwards. He did break up a couple of passes in front of the net, though and that was nice to see.
- Danny Biega was also very impressive during the four-on-four session. He jumped into the play quite a bit and was able to create a few chances from that. His passing also looked excellent, as he made a lot of great passes out of his own zone and also set up a chance during the five-on-five session with a good looking slap pass. Biega's a mobile defenseman and is coming off a down offensive year at Harvard, so it was good to see him show off some of his skillset.
- Victor Rask scored the game-winner in the shootout for the Red team and he had a pretty impressive game outside of that. He looked good with the puck and made a few decent end-to-end rushes to create chances. He nearly got an assist on a two-on-one with Tolchinsky, but Millen made a great save to deny it.. Rask also made a few good plays on the back-check and was usually the first guy to go to the net to crash for a rebound or cause traffic. Rask also had a golden chance that was turned away by Millen during the power play drill.
- Other camp invitee, Brandon Shea also scored a goal and it came off a great individual effort. He was able to force a turnover at the blue-line by defenseman Austin Levi and take the puck the other way for a breakaway goal. Pretty impressive effort from him and he made a few other nice plays to help get his name out there. He doesn't have that much of a track record as an undrafted player, but I'm sure some will take notice of him now.
- Erik Karlsson showed an impressive two-way game today. He was able to get his stick on a lot of passes in the defensive zone and take the puck away from opposing forwards. He also showed some nice offensive skills and patience by making a toe-drag move to create a chance during the five-on-five session. Karlsson needs to get a little bigger and is a few years away, but it was nice to finally see him play live since there isn't much data on him available. He seems like a nice prospect.
- Earlier in the week, I noticed that Rasmus Rissanen's skating improved and he showed that again today by jumping into the play almost every chance he got. He handled the puck a lot, went end-to-end a few times and had a lot of controlled zone entries. It was interesting to see because he is more of a stay-at-home defenseman, but development camp is all about prospects improving certain parts of their games. It looks like Rissanen is using this time to make himself more of a mobile player than he was in year's past, which I'm sure is fine with the Hurricanes and the Checkers.
- Justin Shugg didn't catch my eye too much, but he did force a turnover to help set-up Murphy's goal. Great work by him.
- Brock McGinn loves to hit. A lot. This is supposed to be more of a light-paced game, but he still was very aggressive along the boards and on the forecheck. That's just the way he plays, though and that style is going to be welcomed on the Hurricanes. He's also a very effective passer & puck-handler, as he didn't have much of an issue with carrying the puck into the zone & finding open forwards. McGinn's a few years away, but Hurricanes fans are going to love him when he is ready for the NHL.
- Aside from his turnover that led to Shea's goal, Austin Levi looked pretty solid. He was able to take away space from opposing forwards by playing the body and closing gaps well. He was also very good in the penalty kill sessions and even got some time on the power play. It'll be interesting to see where heends up next year since Charlotte's going to have a crowded blue-line.
Seeing how this was a mini-scrimmage against other kids, there is only so much you can take from this, but it did give us a look at what some of these prospects are all about. This was my first time getting to see a few of these players and it gave me a better idea of what their strengths are and where they're at in their development. Plus, I'm sure this camp was a great learning experience for them. It certainly was a great experience for the fans, who got a look at some of the team's future and what they have to look forward to in the next few years. Big thanks goes to the Carolina Hurricanes for streaming this scrimmage along with the rest of development camp this week. It's been a real treat to watch.