Among the group of players that got a short cup of coffee in the NHL this past season is Lucas Wallmark, Valentin Zykov, Andrew Poturalski, and Sergey Tolchinsky, a quartet of players who have varying ceilings and levels of potential impact on the organization moving forward.
We only got a short look at these players down the stretch of the regular season, but we’ll talk about their seasons as a whole, both in Raleigh and Charlotte, and discuss their futures.
Wallmark had a pair of short stints with the big club last season as a first-year pro, and he certainly put his name on the map as a prospect.
The point totals weren't notable over eight games, putting up just a pair of assists, but his two-way play and skating ability came to the forefront in a bottom-six role.
Wallmark’s first AHL season, on the other hand, was incredibly impressive in all areas. He led the Charlotte Checkers with 24 goals, which also set a team rookie record, topping Zac Dalpe who had 23 in the 2010-11 season.
The Swede received AHL rookie of the month honors in January after finding the back of the net seven times in 13 games. In the playoffs, Wallmark was superb, logging six points in five games as Charlotte took an early exit in the first round against the higher-seeded Chicago Wolves.
Looking forward, Wallmark is a top candidate to step into an NHL role next season. With Jay McClement and Derek Ryan remaining unsigned pending unrestricted free agents that will likely test the open market on July 1, a pair of bottom-six center jobs will be open to potential free agent signings, trade acquisitions, and even in-house candidates like Wallmark. The young forward should be a very good third-line center in the NHL sooner rather than later.
A first year player in the Hurricanes organization after being acquired with a draft pick from the Los Angeles Kings for Kris Versteeg at the 2016 deadline, Valentin Zykov had expectations of being an impactful player with the Checkers, and he largely was.
Zykov’s game is all about power. He’s a big player at 6’1”, 225 pounds, which makes him a threat in and around the crease, which is exactly how he netted his first NHL goal in his debut on March 9.
Zykov’s stint in the big league got cut short after a great debut. He got hammered into the boards by Nazem Kadri and suffered a shoulder injury. Upon recovering, he was sent back to Charlotte to aid them in their playoff run.
The Russian winger will likely need some more time in the American League. He hasn't been overly impressive down there, but his potential as an NHL power forward in a middle-six role still seems very promising. A full season without injury would go a long way for him.
One of the top college free agents heading into the spring of 2016, Andrew Poturlaski certainly lived up to the hype as a rookie at the AHL level.
The UNH star was a primary offensive catalyst for the Checkers. He started the year on an absolute tear, leading the team in point production for the better part of the first half of the season.
As the season went on, his numbers started to level out and he finished the AHL campaign with 52 points in 74 games, which was still good enough to lead the team.
His impressive play in the minors earned him his first NHL call-up in March, which was a tough step up for him. In two games, he was a minus-three and posted a 34.69% corsi share.
Barring a big offseason and training camp, it’s hard to envision him being in real contention for a roster spot next season, especially with Ron Francis’ plans to improve the NHL team by looking for help outside of the organization. Beyond next season, his future as an NHLer, at least in Carolina, seems murky for that same reason. His size and style of play may not translate to the NHL, but only time will tell.
After an impressive rookie season on an offensively depleted Checkers team, Sergey Tolchinsky had his fair share of sophomore struggles.
He went from a .5 point per game player to a .39 point per game player from season one to two and had some injury trouble along the way.
Just like his rookie season, he got a two-game stint with the big club and again tallied an assist in the process.
Speed and skill is the name of the game for Tolchinsky, which should continue to make him a viable player in the AHL, despite a down season in regards to his production as a second-year guy.
He will continue to be a call-up option going forward, but if he can improve on his defensive game and focus on being a more reliable two-way player, he will be a far more attractive option for the Hurricanes.