RALEIGH — Fredrik Claesson arrived at Carolina Hurricanes training camp at the last minute, on a tryout deal signed the day camp opened, and had to take his fitness and skating test on the second day of camp with his teammates, the media, and some fans watching.
It was perhaps a rather unusual start to his Hurricanes career, but it’s one he doesn’t mind. After spending all summer wondering where his career would take him, he’s here now, and he hopes to stay in a locker room that he said felt right at home from day 1 - or, more exactly, day 2. “They all started talking to me right away, wanting to show me [around]. I did all the tests and they were cheering me on, so that was kind of nice.”
Claesson, who spent last season with the New York Rangers following three years with the Ottawa Senators, was helped by the number of familiar faces in the Canes’ locker room. The world of NHL players is generally pretty small, and Claesson is far from alone in having connections in almost every room in the league - including the one at PNC Arena. Ryan Dzingel and Max McCormick were teammates of Claesson’s in Ottawa, and he’s one of five Swedes currently in camp, joining Anton Forsberg, Lucas Wallmark, Jesper Sellgren, and the man whose locker stall is next to his, Gustav Forsling.
“After the first day, you feel like you’re in the group after the first practice, so slowly you’re getting there, but it’s pretty easy here,” said Claesson of the bond that’s formed over his three days in camp.
There’s still a feeling-out process ongoing between Claesson and Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour, understandable given they’ve known each other for all of three days. However, Claesson’s perception of his new coach, which sounds awfully familiar, is a clue that Brind’Amour’s coaching reputation is beginning to take root around the league.
“What I’ve picked up from these couple of days is that he’s very firm, [but] he can be a guy that you can talk to about anything,” said Claesson. “As long as you’re working hard and do your best, he can be very appreciative about what you’re doing.”
Claesson knows that he still needs to not only earn a spot on the roster, but also sign a contract, if he wants a job with the Hurricanes. But his first impressions have been good, and he’s certainly motivated to give Brind’Amour and Don Waddell a decision to make. “They’re on the [upswing] now, you can see from last year too,” said Claesson. “They did really well and I feel like, now that I’ve been here a couple days, everyone is so welcoming and [they’re] good guys.”
Notes from Monday’s camp sessions
- I know you’ll hear this a lot, but Erik Haula is fast. He doesn’t look like he missed a beat following his leg injury last season. If he ever gets bumped to the wing and skates with Sebastian Aho, good luck keeping up with them.
- Brind’Amour had a really astute point about the Canes’ speed in talking to us after camp was done for the day that is worth sharing:
I hope we’re fast, but there’s a lot that goes into it. People said we were fast in years past, and we actually weren’t very fast. It’s how you play. You can have a lot of guys that fly around, but if the puck’s not moving and you’re not in the right places, it doesn’t work. And on the flip side, you don’t have to have a bunch of fast skaters to actually play fast. It’s nice to have both, let’s put it that way, and that’s what we’re hoping to have.
- Necas had a beautiful move when they were playing a short-ice 3-on-3 drill late in the second session, stopping and starting on a dime. That said, he seemed to be a half step behind a decent bit, not enough to be concerned but enough to notice.
- I’m still not convinced that Brind’Amour thinks Necas is totally up to speed yet, although the coach did say that he seems “more mature on the ice” this year at camp. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk he makes the opening night roster, although I’d probably put the odds at about 65-70%.
- Dzingel, who is playing right wing next to Aho and Nino Niederreiter, is going to make everyone forget about Micheal Ferland real quick. He’s a considerably better passer than Ferland, and while he’s not going to necessarily serve as a physical deterrent the way Ferland did on his best days, Dzingel has an edge to his game.
- Plus, Dzingel is about the most engaging person in the locker room. I needled him for his Chamber of Commerce-style sales job on Raleigh as a market that he shared on his introductory conference call, and he responded with continued amazement that the league doesn’t realize how great this area is to live in. One wonders when the word’s going to get out, but Dzingel for one is a true believer.
- The Canes game group will practice tomorrow morning before flying to Tampa for the game tomorrow night. With 48 players on the training camp roster, every player should get a shot in one of the next two games, although Brind’Amour tongue-in-cheek cautioned everyone to not expect the Canes’ best lineup on the ice against the Lightning tomorrow night.