Makeshift Wings

When considering who will be on the opening night roster for this upcoming season, I believe the consensus among most Canes fans is that we have our centers figured out. Staal centers the first line, obviously with Ruutu, Sutter and Tim Brent or Jiri Tlusty on the second, third and fourth lines respectively. The biggest issue is figuring out who will be playing the wings on these lines because things kind of look like a mess right now on the first line. Judging from what I’ve gathered from other Carolina fans, most would like to keep the second line of Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Skinner together instead of bumping up Skinner to the first line with Staal and I can understand that because it gives the team more scoring depth. However, that leaves two holes on the first line and there isn’t a lot to work with to fill those spots. Then you have to consider who will play the wings on the bottom-six too. Let’s take a look at what our options are:

Note: There’s a few players who I have ruled out already because, like Jokinen and Skinner, they seem to have found spots on other lines. Chad LaRose appears to be comfortable on the third line and Patrick Dwyer is set on the fourth-line so we don’t have to worry about them.

Winger #1: Alexei Ponikarovsky

Stats:

Year Team GP G A P Adj +/- S S% TOI
2000-01 St. John’s 49 12 24 36 126
2000-01 Toronto 22 1 3 4 -4 21 4.8% 8:32
2001-02 St. John’s 72 21 27 48 -
2002-03 St. John’s 63 24 22 46 - 162
2002-03 Toronto 13 0 3 3 12 13 0% 10:43
2003-04 Toronto 73 9 19 28 12 110 11:36
2004-05 Khimik Moscow -
2005-06 Toronto 81 21 17 38 18 157 13.4% 14:06
2006-07 Toronto 81 21 24 45 7 198 10.6% 17:06
2007-08 Toronto 66 18 17 35 5 150 12.0% 15:58
2008-09 Toronto 82 23 38 61 11 185 12.4% 15:47
2009-10 Toronto/Pittsburgh 77 21 29 50 2 184 11.4% 16:28
2010-11 Los Angeles 61 5 10 15 4 94 5.3% 12:36
Year Team EV TOI PP TOI/60 SH TOI/60 Corsi Rel. OZ% QoC Rank QoT Rank
2007-08 Toronto 12:49 1:59 0:41 13.8 55.5% 5/22 3/22
2008-09 Toronto 12:34 2:05 0:50 12.4 53.7% 12/20 7/20
2009-10 Toronto/Pittsburgh 13:03 2:47 0:22 13.1 54.7% 8/20 8/20
2010-11 Los Angeles 10:40 0:56 0:58 1.9 52.1% 3/19 14/19

I have already said a lot about Ponikarovsky and how he’s versatile in the sense that the Canes can use him on either the third or first line depending on how they feel he fits the team best. You can see that he was given top-six minutes in Toronto, played with better linemates, had a lot of starts in the offensive zone and had some pretty solid seasons there scoring at least 18 goals. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, he got tougher zone starts, played bottom-six minutes with weak linemates and had a 15-point season as a result. The Kings already had Ryan Smyth, Justin Williams, Dustin Brown and eventually Dustin Penner playing the wings in their top-six, so there wasn’t a need for Ponikarovsky to be used as a goal-scorer and he was given more defensive assignments on LA’s third and fourth lines instead.

In short, give this guy a good set of linemates and he will be an effective player so I could see him as an option to be put on the first line with Eric Staal but he’s going to have to take some tougher zone-starts if he wants to play on that line, which he hasn’t done in recent seasons. He would also fit well on the third line with LaRose and Sutter but this team needs a goal-scorer more than a third liner at the moment so I would give him a shot there first. I realize that I am higher on him than most people seem to be, but at worst he’ll be a solid possession player even if he isn’t scoring. He probably wont set the world on fire if he’s placed on the first line but if we can get 18-21 goals from him then I’ll be happy.

Winger #2: Anthony Stewart

Year Team GP G A P Adj +/- S S% TOI
2005-06 Florida 10 2 1 3 1 16 12.% 7:13
2006-07 Rochester 62 13 14 27
2006-07 Forida 10 0 1 1 0 8 0% 6:51
2007-08 Rochester 54 13 18 31
2007-08 Florida 26 0 1 1 0 21 0% 6:08
2008-09 Florida 59 2 5 7 -5 56 3.6% 7:39
2009-10 Chicago 77 12 19 31
2010-11 Atlanta 80 14 25 39 -5 141 9.9% 14:58

 

Year Team EVTOI/60 PPTOI/60 SHTOI/60 Corsi Rel. OZ% QoC Rank QoT Rank
2007-08 Florida 5:59 0:08 N/A -6.5 35.8% 15/20 16/20
2008-09 Florida 7:35 0:02 0:01 -5.9 44.6% 18/19 15/19
2010-11 Atlanta 12:55 1:17 0:28 -4.0 54.5% 5/17 10/17

Had decent basic stats last season but half of his 14 goals were in the first two months of the season. His 9.9% shooting percentage was higher than his career average, too but at even strength his shooting percentage was 8.48% which is around the league average and only six other Atlanta players shot the puck more than him. Still, he didn’t exactly light it up in the AHL and and his underlying numbers tell me that he’s nothing special. He was mainly used as an AHL call-up and fourth-liner in Florida and Atlanta gave him a shot to play in a bigger role next season and he was able to stick with the team for the whole year, at least. Strong start aside, he wasn’t anything great and his inability to play well territorially despite getting a lot of sheltered minutes makes me think he won’t make a huge splash here.

From the looks of things, Stewart looks like he could be a below-average player in the top-six and he doesn’t appear to be good enough defensively to play on the third line but I could see him getting some time there if we elect to put Ponikarovsky with Staal instead. Regardless, I don’t think he’ll play 80 games with the Canes this season unless he has another scoring outburst.

Winger #3: Zach Boychuk

Year Team GP G A P Adj. +/- S S% TOI
2007-08 Lethbridge – WHL 61 33 39 72
2008-09 Lethbridge – WHL 43 28 29 57 0 24 0% 12:03
2008-09 Carolina 2 0 0 0
2009-10 Albany – AHL 52 15 21 36
2009-10 Carolina 31 3 6 9 1 37 8.1% 10:45
2010-11 Charlotte – AHL 60 22 43 65
2010-11 Carolina 23 4 3 7 -2 44 9.1% 10:43

 

Year Team EV TOI/60 PPTOI/60 SHTOI/60 Corsi Rel. OZ% SC% QoC Rank QoT Rank
2008-09 Carolina 11:41 0:05 0:00 8.1 61.5% 2/19 13/19
2009-10 Carolina 9:59 0:42 0:16 3.9 53.0% 10/17 13/16
2010-11 Carolina 9:56 0:48 0:00 -6.6 43.9% 44.9% 13/17 15/17

Don’t put too much though into his 2008-09 season as he only played in two games. I’ve written a little about Boychuk before and he just had a hell of a season in the AHL with the Checkers….but he has yet to make an impact on the NHL yet despite getting a chance to play in 56 games. He’s still only 22, so it’s still too early to write him off, especially when you look at the amount of minutes he received the last two seasons. Hard to do a lot when you barely play even 10-minutes a game. I do think it’s a little odd that a goal-scorer like him would be used in defensive situations like he was last season since that’s not exactly his forte.

The way I see it is that Boychuk has to make his mark here sooner or later. He’s a former first round pick and is coming off a great season in the AHL and at 22, it’s almost time for him to make that next big jump and with the team’s need for a goal-scorer, I think this year could be his shot. I hope he at least gets more of a look and better ice-time when/if he is called up this year.

Winger #4: Drayson Bowman

Year Team GP G A P Adj +/- S S% TOI
2005-06 Spokane – WHL 72 17 17 34
2006-07 Spokane – WHL 61 24 19 43
2007-08 Spokane – WHL 66 42 20 82
2008-09 Spokane – WHL 62 47 36 83
2009-10 Albany – AHL 56 17 15 32
2009-10 Carolina 2 2 0 2 -1 17 11.8% 12:01
2010-11 Charlotte – AHL 51 12 18 30
2010-11 Carolina 23 0 1 1 0 28 0% 9:40

 

Year Team EVTOI/60 PPTOI/60 SHTOI/60 Corsi Rel. OZ% SC% QoC Rank QoT Rank
2009-10 Carolina 10:28 1:34 N/A 11.3 64.7% 14/17 12/17
2010-11 Carolina 9:08 0:28 0:01 -1.2 45.9% 48.1% 4/17 16/17

There isn’t too much to say about Bowman other than he did okay in a fourth-line role at the end of last season. I also said in my scoring chance post that I wouldn’t be against giving him some more ice-time next season but that was mainly because I thought he would fill a fourth-line spot better than Jiri Tlusty. The team re-signing Tlusty tells me that he will probably get a spot over Bowman next season while he continues to work on his game in the AHL. He is only 21 so there’s still time for him but he appears to be a good option as an AHL call-up for now rather than a full-time player. What may give him an edge over Tlusty is that he’s a natural winger but if he won’t be playing every night then another year in the AHL is probably better for him. 

Winger #5: Zac Dalpe

Year Team GP G A P Adj. +/- S S% TOI
2008-09 Ohio State – CCHA 37 13 12 25
2009-10 Ohio State – CCHA 39 21 24 45
2009-10 Albany – AHL 9 6 1 7
2010-11 Charlotte – AHL 61 23 24 57 7
2010-11 Carolina 15 3 1 4 0 16 18.8% 7:43

 

Year Team EVTOI/60 PPTOI/60 SHTOI/60 Corsi Rel. OZ% QoC Rank QoT Rank
2010-11 Carolina 7:34 0:05 0:02 -18.0 51% 5/17 9/17

Dalpe’s likely to stay in the AHL for another season as he’s only 21 and a former first round pick with only year of experience under his belt. He’s also a natural center but he played on the wing when he was called up last season so I included him here as another possibility. Dalpe really impressed with the Checkers last season, especially in the playoffs so it’s possible that he gets another look next season. How he played during the time when he was called up last season told me he wasn’t quite ready yet, though. One year makes a difference sometimes and if he keeps playing well in the AHL then giving him another shot here would be wise.

 

Winger #6: Jerome Samson

Year Team GP G A P Adj. +/- S S% TOI
2007-08 Albany – AHL 65 21 18 39 -11
2008-09 Albany – AHL 70 22 32 54 -18
2009-10 Albany – AHL 74 37 41 78 8
2009-10 Carolina 7 0 2 2 -1 8:27
2010-11 Charlotte – AHL 53 26 28 54 7
2010-11 Carolina

23

0 2 2 0

6:51

 

Year Team EVTOI/60 PPTOI/60 SHTOI/60 Corsi Rel. OZ% SC% QoC Rank QoT Rank
2009-10 Carolina 8:25 0:01 N/A 0.2 44.8 17/17 14/17
2010-11 Carolina 6:45 0:04 N/A 9.5 51.5 50.8% 13/17 12/17

Here we have a player who was dominant in the AHL but has yet to score his first NHL goal with 30 games of experience under his belt. Surely this isn’t anything to panic about because Samson’s underlying numbers aren’t that bad at all. Granted, this is with a small sample size and he was constantly matched up against weak competition but I could see him playing in a fourth-line role to start next season because the Canes elected to keep him on the roster for the last two and a half months of the season. I am not that crazy about having a fourth liner that doesn’t kill penalties or appear to be good defensively so hopefully his solid play can start to score up on the score sheet. He’s not as young as Bowman, Dalpe and Boychuk so his chance to make the team full-time will probably be this year. I’ve seen enough Alex Giroux’s, Keith Aucoin’s, Jason Krog’s and Corey Locke’s to not get too excited over big point production in the AHL from an undrafted player. I did like what I saw from him last year in the brief ice time he got, though.

 

That’s about it and I would guess about three or four of these players will be on the roster to start the year. There’sa good chance at least one of them is on the first line, too….which is kind of scary but if it’s Boychuk and he plays well then that would be excellent. Which players would you like to see fill the holes on the wings? On another note, would you expect to be starting on opening night and on which lines?


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