Tony MacDonald is the Director of Amateur Scouting for the Carolina Hurricanes. As the primary person responsible for the club's selections in the NHL Entry Draft, he has his finger on the pulse of the team's prospects. This article is part one of a two part exclusive interview I had with MacDonald. Today, we'll review the status of each of Carolina's top prospects. Next up in part two, we'll talk about the combine and the upcoming draft.
We think he is right on track of where we want him to be. He won a National Championship with Minnesota-Duluth before finishing up the year in Charlotte and played quite well in Charlotte. I'm told that he finished the season on a strong note and made a successful adjustment to the pro game. He'll have a chance to try to win a position on the Hurricanes in training camp. Whether he is ready for that at his young age or not, we'll find out. But he'll probably play some games for the Hurricanes at some point next season, but you never know what will happen at training camp. He's a kid that has developed quickly and he's someone that we have a lot of confidence in, regarding the future.
Mark is progressing very nicely for a player right out of high school. He played at Minnesota last year and played very well. As a matter of fact, his game continued to progress and improve throughout the regular season. He'll be returning to Minnesota for a second year next season. We feel he is on track and is developing the way we would like him to develop. He's a big strong kid who projects as a shutdown type of defenseman at the NHL level and we like where he is right now and look forward to seeing him at the camp in July.
Bobby Sanguinetti (Has he fully recovered from his injury and will he be 100% at training camp next season?)
Well hopefully, but that's still a work in progress. I'm not sure he's 100% recovered from the injury. He did come back and he played at the end but I don't think he was operating at 100%. I don't think we saw the best of his game at the end of the season. Hopefully over the course of the summer, he will continue rehabbing and will come back with a clean slate of health at the start of the season next year.
Danny is on schedule to graduate and next year should be his final year in school. Then he should be ready to go pro. He's a very physically strong player and also had a very good year. Offensively, he had a productive year and saw decent time on the powerplay. He's a 2-way player, but he's a guy with significant offensive upside. Hopefully, he will be able to translate that to the pro game after he graduates.
Austin is another big strong guy who had a very good year. He'll probably return to Plymouth for his final year of juniors next season. He has learned to contribute on both sides of the puck. He's more than just a shutdown guy now and he plays against the other teams' best offensive players. But he's also starting to learn how to contribute offensively, like when to jump into the play and when to pinch. He's such a good skater. Once he puts all of his game together, we really think his upside can be significant. He's been invited to the US Junior National Team's training camp this summer and we are very pleased to see that. Obviously, they recognize what we already know about Austin. Hopefully, he will use that opportunity as a springboard to take him to the next level in his final season with the Whalers.
He had another good year, this time in Mississauga. He played on one of the best junior teams in the country. They acquired him from Windsor in a trade before the season so that they could utilize his experience and offensive production. They went to the national final, but unfortunately lost to the eventual champion Saint John team. Justin is a very skilled player, a very creative and smart player. But he has to learn to be a little more consistent in terms of his effort on a regular basis. Other than that, he should be ready to graduate to the pro ranks and hopefully continue to be a productive player and be a creative goal scorer at the next level.
Tyler had a very good year, we are very pleased with him. He's physical and hard-nosed. He's a defenseman who is very difficult to play against for opposing forwards. He did a fine job with that this year but he also showed a marked improvement in handling the puck. He's learning to move the puck in the right spot at the right time, plus continue to play solid in his own end. We are quite pleased with his progress and what he brings to the table because every team is looking for those physical, hard to play against guys, those who play the game with an edge in the defensive zone. And it's so important to be able to handle forwards with speed and Tyler can do that.
Frederik is slated to play in the Swedish Elite League this coming year, which is one of the top pro leagues in Europe. He's been the MVP of his league in the past couple of years, but moving up to the Swedish League is a big step forward. He performed exceptionally well at the World Championships in the last two years, playing against NHL opposition and he's holding his own and handling himself very well. He's a big goaltender who moves very well for his size. He'll be coming to our fitness camp this summer, so he'll be introduced to our people there. We are pretty excited about where Frederik is going. This coming year will be important to his development. If he can have a really good year in that league, then he'll be ready to make the jump to North America after that.
We think that Brian is capable of stepping in and playing in the AHL right now. But he will return to school for one more year and that was very important to him. Certainly after next year, he'll be ready to step in and contribute. He's accomplished a great deal at college, they won a National Championship in his freshman year and had another very good team but they were eliminated earlier this past year. Brian had an excellent season. He produced points, he can move the puck, he was on the powerplay, and he played very well for Team USA in the Junior World Championships with Justin Faulk.
Tommi Kivisto will play in the Finnish Elite League next year. He played there last year and he has one more year remaining on his contract there. That is a very good league and they play a similar style that the NHL does. The Finnish League is a more physical league than the other leagues. He's progressing very nicely there and will be in their top four defensemen. He would certainly be capable of playing for us in Charlotte next year, but he will honor his contract for Jokerit and finish his time there next year. The following year, he should be ready to challenge for a spot in Charlotte or even with the Hurricanes.
Rasmus has graduated from junior hockey in Everett and finished the season in Charlotte last year. He played in one game and was with the team throughout the playoffs, although he didn't get any playoff action. But he's ready and able to contribute at the AHL level next year for sure. He might need some more time to continue to build his game and progress but he's a big strong defender whose another difficult guy to play against. He's a tough guy to beat one-on-one and he''s tough to play against down low, along the boards, or in the corners. We look forward to his contribution next year in Charlotte and hopefully he'll be joining the Hurricanes sometime in the future.
Mattias missed an entire year two seasons ago. Last year was a comeback year for him. He came a long way. He started out playing junior and eventually worked his way back to the Elite team. They have a very good team, so he was a fourth line player toward the latter part of the season and in the playoffs. His progress was significant from early in the year when it looked like there was a long road ahead of him. But he made a lot of progress, continued to work at it, and slowly worked his way back up to the top level. We're pretty happy with him, considering the time that he's put into his rehabbing and getting himself back into shape. We're looking forward to seeing where he's at when he comes to camp in July. He's slated to go back to Sweden and play in the Swedish Elite League again next season. That will be an important year and a telling one in terms of his development and where he will go in the future.
We're hoping that Justin will be able to challenge for a spot on the Hurricanes blueline in training camp, if not then he will play for Charlotte. He played in Switzerland this past year and had a good, solid season. He also played with the German National Team in the World Championships and played very well there. He's developed quite nicely over the past two seasons playing against top level competition in Europe, and in the World Championships where he faced NHL forwards. You know the German team had a very good championships both this year and last, the best team they've had in years, and Justin was a big part of that. He skates well and he's such a solid, smart defender that he makes very few mistakes. He's more of a solid, steady defensive type of player, but as I said, we're hoping that he will challenge for a spot on the Carolina blueline next season.
(A huge thank you to MacDonald for taking the time to be so thorough in discussing these players. In part two we will discuss the draft.)