Hockey is officially back! Okay, well, not really. The Hurricanes aren’t playing any scheduled games yet, but that will come on Monday evening in Washington D.C. as the ‘Canes take on the Capitals.
Between now and then, however, fans will be treated to the spectacle that is the first few days of an NHL training camp. Hope abounds all throughout the league, as young prospects will come in eager to blow the doors off, countless veterans will enter camp in the best shape of their lives (you’ll see a lot of this on Twitter), and goalies will have worked to make all the necessary changes to ensure that they are among the best at their craft.
For the Hurricanes, that positivity is especially tangible, with the team’s young prospects coming off a dominant victory at the Traverse City tournament in which they swept all four games that they played without the assistance of Haydn Fleury, Sebastian Aho, and Aleksi Saarela.
All of that positivity came to a start today, as this was the first official day of training camp. The team was divided into two groups. Group A hit the ice for a practice, and that practice was promptly followed by an intrasquad scrimmage, which was won 2-1 by group A. Sergey Tolchinsky and Joakim Nordstrom tallied for group A, while the lone score for group B was provided by Warren Foegele.
With the success of Tolchinsky and Nordstrom in mind, let’s take a look at some of the interesting line combinations we saw out there today.
Those two aforementioned wingers had the good fortune of flanking Jordan Staal in the scrimmage. I would expect Nordstrom to stick right there on Staal’s left throughout the majority of camp. In Tolchinsky’s case, I’ve gotta assume that he’s the beneficiary of Andrej Nestrasil’s status in a no-contact jersey as camp opens up. I’d expect Nestrasil to reclaim his usual spot on the right side of that line as he’s eased out of yellow and back into red.
In the other group, the de facto first line for the white team consisted of Elias Lindholm centering left winger Jeff Skinner and newcomer Lee Stempniak. Once again, I would expect Skinner and Stempniak to stay together throughout most of camp, but I think the main reason that Lindholm is there stems from the fact that Victor Rask wasn’t quite ready to go at full blast yet.
“Well, where does that leave Lindholm,” you might ask. Well, throughout the summer, head coach Bill Peters (who was not there today, but will rejoin the group upon the conclusion of the World Cup) hinted heavily throughout the summer that he envisions the Swede joining fellow Scandinavians Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen on a line.
Look who has arrived at #CanesCamp from #WCH2016! #Redvolution pic.twitter.com/RIjLJRf0bh— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) September 23, 2016
Aho and Teravainen made it back to Raleigh from the World Cup today after their Finnish squad failed to make it out of the group stage, so look for them to become more involved in camp over the next couple days. That should give us some more clarity on where those two will fit into the lineup.
So, a top nine consisting of some combination of Skinner, Rask, Stempniak, Staal, Nestrasil, Nordstrom, Lindholm, Teravainen, and Aho seems to be pretty set in stone, at least for now. Guys like Viktor Stalberg, Jay McClement, Phil di Giuseppe, Bryan Bickell, Brock McGinn, Julien Gauthier, and Tolchinsky will be battling it out for the remaining forward spots, and a few of them may have their eyes on causing a disturbance within that top nine.
Be sure to stay right here on Canes Country for all the latest updates on where your favorite Hurricanes forward will be playing (or not playing) as training camp and the pre-season unfold over the course of the next couple of weeks.